Tom Doorley: My goodness, my Guinness
Because I was just about legally entitled to buy alcohol when the alco-turkey that was Guinness Light burst upon an unsuspecting world, I am perhaps more aware than many people that the black stuff from St James's Gate is one hell of a brand.
And this, of course, is the Age of the Brand. From cars to watches, soap to computers, a vast industry creates, nurtures and monitors The Brand. In some cases, like Haagen-Dazs, the brand was created out of thin air and very recently but it feels and looks as if it has heritage. This is the very pinnacle of marketing achievement, the kind of thing that has men with ponytails and women in severe black suits dancing for joy.
And there are other brands, the ones that have been around for decades, maybe even for centuries. These are the brands that really do have heritage. Names like Coca-Cola, Kodak, Aga, Bentley, Michelin and many more have been handed down in a continuous line from the founder or the inventor to the marketing manager whose job depends on keeping sales up.
In other words, a brand that has taken centuries to evolve will inevitably end up in the hands of a few bright sparks who run the marketing department, maybe even the global marketing strategy development department, or whatever they want to call it.
Sometimes the brand wins, sometimes it falls victim to misguided marketing. And that’s precisely what has happened to Ireland’s most famous brand, Guinness. Guinness is so synonymous with Ireland that you could almost say that it’s bigger, in brand terms, than the country.
It’s ancient, by commercial standards, in that the first Arthur set up in business at St James’s Gate in 1759, and it is much loved both by the people who drink the stuff and by those who never touch a drop. Guinness is much more than a brand, it is one of the great drinks of the world, an icon, a symbol of Irish life. Guinness is all this and yet is is ultimately in the hands of the marketing people. And we should be concerned.
You see, the people who market Guinness seem to be obsessed with youth. They worry that young people will not develop a taste for the black stuff, that they will simply carry on drinking Budweiser.
So, what do they do? They take Guinness, the iconic brand, and dumb it down.
Let me explain. In the old days, Guinness drinkers served a kind of apprenticeship during which they drank Smithwick’s (a much maligned but rather bland ale). In the fulness of time, the palate was able to deal with the sheer sensory assault of the taste of Guinness: the lactic acidity, the bitterness, the smokiness, the richness, almost the density of the thing.
It was a stout to conjure with, a taste that had to be acquired slowly and patiently. And, of course, in those innocent days (I went through this phase around 1980) there were less distractions, unless you count Harp and the early outings of Heineken. Guinness was, simply, worth it. And to some extent it was a rite of passage, an embracing of the adult world where pleasures were more complex but more rewarding.
Instant gratification has done much to damage Guinness. Now, let’s nail a lie: all beers evolve over time and the formula never remains the same. Guinness, like all other beers and contrary to what some beer anoraks claim, has been tweaked many times in its history.
In recent years, there has been an attempt to make Guinness bland enough to pass –almost- for a black lager. But now, Guinness has actually launched a black lager. I wish them the best of luck with that and I hope that they will leave Guinness, per se, alone.
Because, you mess with an iconic brand at your extreme peril. Let Guinness remain an acquired taste. And let the rest drink lager. Black or otherwise.
On Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM, Hilary Martyn <email@example.com> wrote:
Do you have the col ready to go?
Galway Retail Park,