Guinness puts wider demographic on tap

Last year, they climbed into the ring. This year, they're taking off the gloves....

Last year, they climbed into the ring. This year, they’re taking off the gloves.

Guinness Canada, marketer of the world’s best known stout, has quadrupled its marketing budget and come out swinging in an effort to increase the venerable brand’s appeal to a younger audience.

While the dark and creamy draught has developed a following among well-educated, thirtysomething, white-collar professionals of Irish ancestry, Sean Moffitt, marketing director with Guinness Canada, says the company is hoping that a new, high-profile advertising campaign will help attract a younger, wider audience of 23- to 30-year-old urban hipsters.

‘They’ve tried it, but our challenge is to get them to fall in love with the brand,’ says Moffitt. ‘To get them thinking about it in the summer or at home.’

Encompassing television, cinema, radio, billboard and transit advertising, the new campaign launched this month with ‘Spring,’ a TV and cinema commercial created by Guinness’ U.S. agency, New York-based Weiss Stagliano & Partners.

The ethereal spot, which makes no reference to the brew’s Irish heritage, takes the viewer into the mind’s eye of a young man waiting for his pint to settle. As a commuter train hurtles along a track, petals floating all about, the passengers begin singing parts of ‘Carmina Burana’ – the opera that was used in the film Excalibur. The tagline ‘Guinness. Pure Genius.’ was added by Toronto agency Due North Communications.

Despite the visually stunning debut, the commercial will air only in light rotation for the first four weeks of the six- to eight-month campaign.

‘A 26-year-old urban professional doesn’t spend much time at home,’ explains Karim Jalbout, brand manager for Guinness Canada. ‘We want to hit consumers where they live, work and play.’

As a result, much of the budget is being allotted to out-of-home and radio advertising that borrows the positive emotions associated with things such as getting a front-row-centre seat or hearing a favourite song.

In support of the advertising are a host of grassroots activities, such as samplings, streetcar parties – Guinness has wrapped a number of streetcars in Toronto’s downtown core and plans to rent some of them for bar crawls – and sponsorship of concerts in intimate venues such as Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern.

In Quebec, where Moffitt says drinkers are less familiar with the brand and more open to trying new things, Guinness has adopted the tag ‘Fun Noir’ – a great time.

All in all, the efforts being expended go well beyond last year’s ‘Numbers’ campaign – which relied largely on posters and print ads to educate consumers about some of the brew’s lesser-known trivia.

But while Moffitt says the ‘Pure Genius’ campaign will make Guinness the biggest spender in the import category over the next six to eight months, one analyst doubts it will have much of an impact on changing people’s perceptions that Guinness is heavy and therefore not conducive to activities such as dancing. (According to Guinness, that perception is a myth. A pint of draught Guinness contains fewer calories – 196 – than a pint of lager, which typically has about 240-250.)

‘Guinness is a stout, which right away categorizes it a little to the left or right [of mainstream],’ says David Hartley, a beer analyst with Toronto-based First Associates Investments. ‘You can throw a lot of dollars at it and probably do a little better, but is it worth the return? I’d suspect over the long-term, no.’