BACKGROUNDIn 2008, Guinness dropped to #7 of the top 10 import brands (down from #6 the year prior), while imports were facing a challenge in the US due to pricing and the weak economy.
As 2009 marked its 250th anniversary, Guinness sought to celebrate with its target consumers, while also causing brand reappraisal to recruit the next generation of Guinness drinkers. Guinness recognized its perception as being less dynamic in the premium beer category and wished to increase its relevancy.
Guinness, an Irish brand, is closely associated with St. Patrick’s Day, and more Guinness pints are purchased on March 17 than any other day of the year. However, competitor brands without authentic Irish credentials continue to infringe on this territory (Bud Light’s green bottles, POS by Heineken and Corona, etc.).
The time was ripe for Guinness to employ insight and strategy, not luck of the Irish, to reclaim ownership of St. Patrick’s Day.
In 2008, Taylor conceived Proposition 3-17, a Guinness-led drive to make St. Patrick's Day a national holiday, with a primary goal of motivating consumer participation in the program by having them lend signatures to a virtual petition that would be delivered to the steps of Congress. The success of the through-the-line campaign led to its renewal in 2009, but this time without the benefit of above-the-line support. No problem -- only solutions -- and so Taylor set its sights on supporting the brand's marketing goal: present the classic Irish brew to a more youthful demographic (21-29 year old males) and re-establish itself during a key consumption period that has become cluttered with competition.
Current events top of mind, Taylor saw President Obama’s “Era of Change” platform as an opportunity to re-launch the program and con-temporize the brand. Through a full-page USA Today advertisement written as an open letter to the President, Guinness asked “O’Bama” to stimulate America’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day by reimplementing Proposition 3-17. The program also instituted a “Bar Tab Bailout Plan” to stimulate consumers’ celebration on-premise without financial concern.
Since this was conceived as a participatory platform for the brand and driving signatures was vital, Taylor's Brand Counsel Group developed an engaging Social Media strategy. For starters, Taylor sought out the most passionate Guinness brand adorers with strong social media presence to further the program’s message with their followers, in their own voice. “The Guinness 250” ran the gamut from craft beer bloggers to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan with a penchant for photographing a Guinness bar coaster in unusual locations, all whom asked their readers in an authentic and engaging manner to join the cause by signing the petition.
Taylor's efforts extended to consumer-generated media, where demographically relevant blogs can generate extremely favorable content free of the editorial balance required of traditional media. This 'consumer first' approach in conjunction with traditional media efforts led to significant brand exposure and palpable buzz during the critical St. Patrick's Day time frame.
Because Guinness is such a beloved brand, social networks were another logical place to generate petition signatures. Taylor developed a Facebook fan page to encourage conversation and engagement around Proposition 3-17, and a widget was introduced so fans could compete to collect signatures among their friends. Additionally, Taylor worked with the brand to create a series of videos, hosted on YouTube to develop a deeper and more relevant connection between the brand and consumers.
Finally, Taylor worked closely with the brand to craft a strategic communications plan that was consistent across all channels, leading to a stronger, more unified call to action for consumers. This included delivery of key messages regarding the quality of the product across mainstream media outlets such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Today Show, MSNBC's Morning Joe and USA Today.
THE RESULTSAn unprecedented 18% increase in Guinness sales (volume) was realized the week of St. Patrick’s Day in comparison to the year prior, when there was advertising support to the campaign.
The ‘direct to consumer’ and social media centered approach resulted in #Guinness becoming a Twitter Trending Topic on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). The Facebook app received 23,745 unique visitors with a signature conversion of 46%; recruited 7,900+ fans and an approximate 20% opt-in rate to Guinness’ 1759 Society.
Media coverage was generated in each of the top 15 Guinness markets; 103.8 MM traditional impressions and 178.5 MM uvpm were garnered.
Additionally, the program won numerous industry awards, including the Silver Anvil Award for “Marketing and Consumer Products – Alcoholic Beverages,” Cannes PR Lion Award for “Best PR Led Integrated Campaign” and SABRE Award for best program in the “Beer, Wine and Spirits” category.