Guinness is good for you (Mark Nagurski)

Guinness Drew’s Note:  As I try to do every Friday, I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from yet another interesting thought leader who shares his insights via the blogosphere. So without further ado…Mark Nagurski.  Enjoy!

What Guinness can teach us about creating a brand.

At the risk of death-by-cliché, as an Irishman I enjoy the odd tipple from time to time at my local pub, and often my libation of choice is one of Ireland’s greatest inventions – Guinness.

As a brand, Guinness punches well above its weight. The iconic black and white pint, the distinctive taste and the classic advertising are as much a part of ‘brand Ireland’ as shamrocks, leprechauns and Riverdance.

This is despite the sour-faced contortions regularly seen as the first drops of the bitter malt hit an uninitiated palate. In other words, some people don’t like it much at all.

So what, considering the love it or loathe it taste, makes the Guinness brand one of the world’s best loved – and what can we learn from it?

1. Guinness is visually distinctive. There are very few products as instantly recognisable as a pint of Guinness – it’s the ‘black stuff’ after all. Guinness use this visual identity in every aspect of their instantly recognisable marketing efforts. (Put your birthday in to prove you’re legal to view the page and it will take you there.) Are your brand and communications as visually distinctive?

2. Guinness is unmistakable.
Guinness is not easily compared to any other brand of beer. Guinness is different. Which, of course, is good news for Guinness as people aren’t passionate about sameness. People are passionate about products and services that are distinctive. How easily could yours be compared with the competition?

3. Guinness is part of a larger community and brand – brand Ireland. Walk into any souvenir shop in Ireland and you’ll see as many black and white Guinness t-shirts, mugs and caps as green and white ‘Ireland’ ones. Association with Ireland allows Guinness to piggyback on the positive brand equity of an entire nation and engenders more than a few feelings of ownership in the brand amongst us natives – it’s our brand. Could you do the same with your town, city or state? What about being associated with an event, time of year or activity?

4. Guinness has a great back-story, folklore and heritage. Where you’ve come from (and how you’ve come from it) helps to tell the story of who you are. In Guinness’ case it’s a story stretching from Arthur Guinness in the 18th century, via the ‘Guinness is Good for You’ advertisements of the twenties and thirties, and onto the present day.

Weave in a bit of blarney, a few red herrings (not literally), a good dose of humour plus the occasional old wives’ tale and you have the Guinness story, and brand, in one. And they knowingly play up to it.

Of course, your brand may not be 250 years in the making; but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a story worth talking about.

5. Guinness plays to authenticity and quality. So long as they’re cold, most beers are much the same in most bars. Not so Guinness. Guinness has turned their brewing process into a half science, half leprechaun dust, seasoned and serious craft. They also spend €50 million a year visiting over 11,000 licensed premises to test the quality of the product and instruct the nation’s barmen and women in the fine art of the perfect pour (it takes 119.5 seconds by the way).

The detail and carefully honed impression of craftsmanship encourages a ‘connoisseur’ mentality amongst fans: the perfect glass, the prefect colour, the perfect head, the perfect pint. And, as anyone will tell you, there’s nothing like a pint of Guinness in a real Irish bar (in Ireland of course – Guinness doesn’t like to travel).

More than anything, Guinness has become an experience where the ritual of serving, the story and the feel of the brand are as important as the beer itself. In fact, once initiated you’ll no doubt recognise a gorgeous pint as if it were your first born child, will occasionally speak at length on the importance of the 45-degree pouring angle and will certainly look scornfully at any ill-trained barman who neglects the two-step pouring process.

But where, exactly, will you find that perfect pint of Guinness?

I’ll let you know when I’ve finished looking.

Mark Nagurski  is Guinness-drinker, marketer, blogger and freelance writer – the order of which depends largely on the day of the week. Based in Ireland, he is passionate about small business and has worked in the trenches as a marketing consultant and sales manager for over a decade. You’ll find Mark’s daily marketing related rantings, tips and advice at    

Every Friday is "grab the mic" day.  Want to grab the mic and be a guest blogger on Drew’s Marketing Minute?  Shoot me an e-mail.

6 comments on “Guinness is good for you (Mark Nagurski)

  1. Zane Safrit says:

    Nice story, well-written. After reading it, I’ll make it a guinness.

  2. Krishna De says:

    Good to make the connection between what we can learn from Guinness about branding. There are lots of learnings we can take.

    Would also be interesting to turn the table to and look at what you would not apply to your business as learnings from Guinness.

    Having been an SVP of the business I know there are also lots of learnings you can take from them as an employer brand in terms of attraction and retention of talent.

    The brand has been built by hundreds of thousands of employees over the year and lets not forget the huge investment that they make in advertising, marketing and customer service. Their success is certainly not down to chance but deliberate action.

    Thanks Drew for bring us your Friday guest bloggers.

  3. Karin H. says:


    The story on Guinness I remember most (don’t like it myself, my partner does!) is roughly 10 – 15 years ago a (new?) Director at Guinness decided that the name was known enough and reduced the marketing budget tremendously.

    The sales dropped tremendously too!

    Lesson: when you have a well known brand – you still have to make sure you tell everyone about it 😉

    Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  4. Zane,

    Thanks for that and I hope you enjoy your pint. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can handle any more beer-based ‘research’ for a while.


  5. Krishna,

    I like your point about Guinness as an employer brand – something often overlooked as a positive effect of a having strong brand. A virtuous circle – great people make great brands which attract more great people.

    BTW – I’ll look forward to introducing myself at PodCamp Ireland in September.


  6. Karin,

    I certainly agree (and with Krishna’s point above) – Guinness are extremely active in promoting their brand through advertising, POS promotion and sponsorship.

    Where I think Guinness are strong is that their marketing builds the brand through consistent themes, visual identity etc… It’s not just knowing the name, it’s identifying the brand and being reminded of why you love it.

    Which, as you said, takes works.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Guinness and other alcohol brands respond to tightening regs on when, where and how they advertise. Will less advertising hurt some brands more than others?


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