Guinness: The art of brand storytelling


My uncle PJ lives in a rural village in Ireland and when he’s in his local pub he sits at the bar and nods ever so slightly at the barman, Liam. No words. Just a faint lift of the head. If you blinked, you’d miss it. But Liam doesn’t miss it. He knows what PJ wants. He ritually pours a Guinness, pint obviously, with the famous 2 part pour, (you have to leave it to settle a minute in between pours, you have to leave it settle!) He then stares at his pint, eyes it up for a few seconds, licks his lips and takes a sup. He does this every time without fail. I’ve seen him do it for years. He loves Guinness…

Building advocates out of non adopters

How does a local brand from a small country resonate around the world? How does a brand become inherently part of a nation’s DNA? How does a brand instil pride in it’s country people even though not everyone wants to drink it? Is it heritage? The history it represents? Guinness is arguably Ireland’s most famous export. I don’t drink Guinness with the exception of a token pint on Paddy’s Day. For me, it’s a man’s drink, a meal in a glass, it’s too heavy and I don’t like the taste. But I love Guinness. I love what it represents, it’s deeply routed into our culture. I’m a Guinness advocate and I don’t even drink it. I love the brand, not the product. Walk through the city centre in Dublin any morning, any day of the week and you’ll experience the smell of Dublin, barley roasting in the Guinness Brewery at St James’s Gate, where Guinness has been for over 250 years. You can smell it all over the city. It defines the city.

The Pursuit of More
Guinness’s latest ad ‘The Pursuit of More’ is a masterpiece of emotive storytelling, beautiful cinematography and brings the viewers inside St James’s Gate, giving us a raw and romantic insiders view of the world behind the craft.
With famous Irish actor Killian Murphy as the VO, he evocatively tells the story of the heritage of the brand “We’ve travelled to nearly every corner of the earth, commissioned our own fleet of ships and even built our own railway. Because we believed in the beer we brewed and we wanted everyone to taste it.”
The relationships that Guinness have built:“Guinness has always been about beer and people. We have bonds with Irish farmers than span generations.”
The craft: “Everyday we roast our own barley to a black state of perfection.”
Our ancestry: “And we’re proud to say that many of us have entered these gates in the footsteps of our parents and grandparents.”
A nod to the past and passion for the future: “We’re only 255 years into a 9,000 year lease. And we have a lot more beer to make.”

Guinness has always been about storytelling and true character. The brand has such loyal advocates as it positions itself at the heart of what makes society tick, relationships. Storytelling. Two men sitting at the bar, sharing stories over a pint. In recent years, Guinness’s positioning has been “Made of More”, that Guinness is made of stronger substance (not alcohol!) than just the ingredients, the same goes for those who drink it. They are made of more. In 2012 they initially launched a high production Made of More brand film that got mixed reviews. Yes it was a beautiful film piece but it didn’t resonate with anyone.

They rethought their strategy and brought it back to what they do best, storytelling. Positioning Guinness at the centre. This  really resonated in the US market when Guinness revealed the brand’s true character in a number of stories about friendship and hope. Made of More is Guinness revealing to society what they think is important in life  “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” Hats off to them, a bold move for an alcohol brand to think they have such a say in human behaviours. But we really can see Guinness’s true character. Made of More.

Guinness has always produced iconic advertising. Here are my favourite Guinness ads.
The Surfer. Good things come to those who wait
There’s no time like Guinness Time
Guinness 250 anniversary ad: To Martha!

Gemma Tedford
Director of Brand Projects


  1. Caroline Morrissey

    Dear Gemma,
    I am a keen reader of Truly Deeply newsletters and felt compelled to write when I saw this article. In fact, I’m not quite sure where this will stop, but I am definitely compelled. Call it Irish passion! Although not a huge drinker of Guinness either, I can’t really manage more than a half at a time, I too am a Guinness brand lover. And although I too consider this connection much more than brand deep, I’d go as far as to say it’s a little bit genetic, Guinness has given my family some magic. Being Irish and having a very hot/cold relationship with the beloved homeland, I will never question my feelings on Irish heritage….Guinness in my opinion would be an inherent part of this. This idea was reinforced these last few weeks, from Queensland.

    As storytelling is in the air….here it is. (Actually this is for me more than you!)

    Having made the God forsaken decision (In pursuit of more…irony!) to return to Ireland with Aussie hubby and two kids in toe, at the height of the boom, we still to this day fervently argue the ‘woulds’ and ‘would nots’ of that decision. In 2005, we returned; in 2006 built the dream house (hubby’s carrot for leaving his homeland), and later in the year my third baby arrived. Bliss!

    Until the bust! Quicker than a pint of Guinness settling, Hubby’s job was gone. Within a year we had used up our savings and were considered ‘under the bread line’ and given government assistance. Not so bliss! With this new and uncomfortable status, I was allowed to go back to college – as a mature student and for free! – and having come from a marketing background, I selected to study a degree in Tourism Marketing.

    One of my modules was Experience Branding…..I choose Guinness as a case study!

    So at this stage and with two years of no real work, my formerly high-achieving husband was not so blissful. So he decided he’d had enough, got himself a job back in Queensland and took-on the challenge of convincing me that we should move again. I held out….although knowing that the love was over between me and Ireland, I wanted to finish my degree. So we agreed he would go, and, I would follow later with the kids. I was intent in finishing my study. So I got myself a Slovakian Au pair, and introduced her to my mayhem.

    God love her! One of my long standing memories, is this poor Slovakian Au Pair wrangling with my two unruly toddlers on the escalators on Guinness Storehouse. Meanwhile, I had set up an appointment with the Storehouse Marketing Manager and I was practically intoxicated with the words he was sharing with me. I ignored what I was seeing over his shoulder, two blonde children riding up and down the moving stairs; I ignored the screams of delight while one of them managed to escape, and all I really heard were his velvety Guinnessey words of branding and marketing and experiences. I think I fell in love with him!

    I was awarded a distinction in my honours degree.

    So two years after the move, settled in Queensland, kids in school, house sorted, work sorted – even for me – and everything sweet as they say. Until my husband is diagnosed with cancer. So he’s ok, I hasten to add. He had a very tough year but the throat cancer is clear. He has lost 35 kilos because he couldn’t swallow and psychologically….well who knows. He says I made him laugh and he’s ok. He needed to be tube feeding for two separate time periods during treatment, and slowly now he’s recovering. His throat was burned to a cinder with the radiation, and now six months later he still has to be selective in what he can swallow. Hot/cold, consistency, spiciness, everything has to be taken slowly. But guess what he can drink? You got it…..Guinness! So much of the pleasure of eating has been taken from him, but he can have a Guinness!. It’s not too bubbly, it’s not too cold, it has thickness, it has nutrition. A meal in a glass as you put it, it’s definitely more! Especially for him. And especially for me.
    So yes it has been a balm to my heated hate from my homeland, and a balm for my husband’s poor throat.

    I hope you like my story…actually, I think Guinness has also provided me with some therapy!!
    I love your newsletter and wish..wish..

    Best regards

    Caroline Morrissey

  2. Caroline, thank you so much for your comment. It has made my day! We really love getting such a personal reaction to our blog and I think it speaks volumes about what Guinness means to so many people who live in Ireland or abroad. Honestly when I saw the Pursuit of More ad, I felt homesick! Guinness is engrained in our heritage. I’m really happy to hear your husband is recovering from what must have been a terrible time for your family, and if he can get some nutrition, satisfaction, relaxation and some normality from the black stuff, and some therapy for you, then it definitely is Made of More. You should tell Guinness your story, who knows you might get a free crate! 🙂

    A lot of people in the industry talk about Apple’s advocates. Seeing a girl crying in the street last month when she didn’t get the new iPhone made me feel bad about today’s society. Yes Apple have huge fan advocacy but for me it’s more of an obsession to be constantly entertained. People’s connection with Guinness has more substance, because it’s all about catching up over a pint. People need to get a life, go to the pub and catch up with mates in person. Maybe it’s the Irish in me, but that’s probably another blog post! 🙂


  3. The ironic thing is that in my humble opinion (by the way I worked with Guinness for 3 years at St.James Gate) the explosion of craft beers recently is what I feel has motivated the change of direction for the Guinness adverts.

    If you look carefully at the advert they are trying to look and behave like a craft beer.

    It is a fantastic brand and this boy likes the taste of it too!!

    Great blog – well done ..

    Greg Canty – Fuzion Marketing & PR

  4. Thanks for your comment Greg.
    While they are not a craft brewery by any means, they have always spoken about the ‘craft of brewing’.

    This is an interesting one from them as the very notion of ‘craft beer’ is the complete opposite to the monster manufacturing machine that is Diageo, there’d be outcry if they tried to present a craft beer to the market. But bringing the people behind the beer out and profiling them as part of the ‘People & Beer’ story is definitely a subtle way of bringing the ideals of craft beer to Guinness.

    Considering that the majority of the varieties Guinness has brought to market over the years have all but failed, with the exception of Mid-Strength perhaps, I think is testament to the fact that punters drink Guinness because they want Guinness and not any fancy variety.


  5. Wonderfully written post Gemma, I feel like I know your uncle PJ…I have one or two uncles like that myself!

    Like you, I have tried many times over many years to like Guinness due in no small part to my husbands enthusiasm for a creamy pint and to no avail, its just not my taste. And yet while on honeymoon in St Lucia a few years ago, we wandered into a pub packed with locals, every one of them drinking Guinness and I instantly felt welcome. We were treated like royalty when we announced our nationality and I managed a half in between jerk chicken, coconuts and mangos!Tasted different to our Guinness but Guinness all the same.

    Caroline I loved your story and wish your husband a speedy recovery.Despite sitting in Dublin as I write this, I feel some of your homesickness by proxy. I think its for the people you love who are from the place you love rather than Ireland being a utopian place to live.

    For me, Guinness means the smell of hops on a wet day traipsing around town, the delight my husband, his dad and brothers share in supping pints together, the ad music “Tiiiiiiiiiiime is on our side” and of course the Christmas ad “Even at the home of the black stuff, they dream of white one”.

    Brilliant blog I look foward to the next one

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