The tradition of enjoying Guinness on St Patrick’s Day dates back to 1759 and doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. With millions racing to the bar for a cold pint each year on 17th March, Print and Design experts Solopress analyse the brand’s top 5 Paddy’s Day marketing campaigns.
A Brand-Building Powerhouse
Starting from humble beginnings and quickly becoming irrefutably linked to St Patrick’s Day, Guinness is now recognised as one of the most successful alcohol brands worldwide. Renowned for its creative marketing approach, the company has launched a series of compelling campaigns over the years, each one creating more urgency around getting our hands on that first St Paddy’s Day pint.
Boasting a large global footprint, brewed in 49 countries and available in over 150, Guinness has firmly established itself as the go-to beverage for anyone looking to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. In fact, the dry Irish stout is served 819% more often on St Patrick’s Day than any other day of the year, with an average of 13million pints served globally. But what has made their marketing strategies so impactful over the years?
According to Mark Sandys, who heads the Beer, Baileys and Smirnoff business unit at Diageo, the brand has an unwavering focus on “power, goodness and communion,” leveraging a variety of digital techniques from TV advertising to social media campaigns to engage in meaningful storytelling that resonates with the target audience. Often uplifting and inspirational in tone, some of Guinness’ most iconic St Patrick’s Day campaigns including their St Patrick’s Day Message response to the pandemic, demonstrate the human aspect of the brand that helps them cut through the noise in their competitive marketplace.
Guinness’ Top 5 St Patrick’s Day Campaigns
1. #AToastTo – 2021
The timely, comforting #AToastTo campaign deployed in the USA, celebrated the hard work of all front-line workers and attempted to raise spirits during the pandemic. The campaign incorporated a poignant TV commercial, live bagpipes concerts, limited-edition merchandise and social media activation encouraging audiences to focus on the silver lining and share what they were toasting to using the #AToastTo hashtag.
In addition, the TV commercial featured the Guinness Brewers Bread project, an initiative that supports the making of bread from the company’s Open Gate Brewery grain supply which is then donated to the Maryland Food Bank. As part of their COVID-19 relief support, Guinness also donated 25,000 loaves of bread, demonstrating their commitment to charitable acts.
2. #StacheForCharity – 2018
A common theme among Guinness’ strategic campaigns is the notion of uniting as a community and supporting one another on St Patrick’s Day.
Another heartfelt campaign tied to charitable giving is the American #StacheForCharity campaign. The multichannel strategy sought to bring communities together in raising funds for the Guinness Gives Back Fund, which supports US nonprofit organisations such as veteran-led Team Rubicon. Guinness called for user-generated content in the form of images of their supporters with a Guinness foam moustache using the hashtag #StacheForCharity, with the incentive of the brand donating $1 for every post.
Campaigns like this promote positive band values while empowering customers to be a part of the fund-raising campaign. The combination of positive brand associations and customer engagement create a feel-good factor that has contributed to Guinness’ continual success.
3. Guinness x Carhartt: The River – 2020
Once again, shining the spotlight on significant cultural events that make communities feel seen with their 2020 Guinness x Carhartt collaboration, Guinness hit the mark with their advertisement ‘The River’.
Guinness and American apparel company Carhartt joined forces to pay tribute to the plumbers from the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 that dye the Chicago River green for St Patrick’s Day each year and have done so since 1962. With powerful storytelling backed by a rich heritage of St Patrick’s Day traditions, Guinness honour hard-working, resilient men and women within the community and seek to inspire optimism during challenging times.
4. Guinness x Nick Offerman – 2020
Opting for a comedic approach in 2020, Guinness US enlisted Parcs and Recreation actor Nick Offerman, who would participate in an Instagram takeover, counting down to the long-awaited 17th March. Offerman, who claims St Paddy’s Day is his favourite of the year, was set to deliver an entertaining stream of trivia, food pairings and tips including “how to pour a pint of Guinness”.
With witty video content taking centre stage in this campaign, Guinness were able to show a more tongue-in-cheek side in 2020, providing their audiences with cheeky snippet videos that created further hype around the annual St Paddy’s celebration.
5. The Largest St Patrick’s Day Party So Far – 2012
Encouraging audiences to join “Largest St Patrick’s Day Party So Far” via website sign-ups, Guinness launched a compelling Facebook campaign in the hope of breaking the world record in the Guinness Book of Records for largest numbers for a party. The strategy incorporated an interactive infographic that logged every “attendee’s” sign up in real-time and compared the top 5 countries by the number of attendees. The campaign also branded St Patrick’s Day “The Friendliest Day of the Year”, capturing the warm Irish spirit. Guinness also sent out over 17,000 pieces of branded St Patrick’s Day merchandise to fans as part of the promotion, to further enhance the celebrations.
For 259 years, Guinness has found ground-breaking ways to maintain its global brand equity and have successfully adapted to the ever-evolving landscape of the pandemic with their emotive marketing campaigns. As master storytellers, Guinness aren’t afraid to break the mould and are able to craft rich, compelling narratives that celebrate Irish heritage, hard-working people and the act of uniting for a common purpose, as evidenced in their powerful #AToastTo advertisement. Embracing the unique qualities of their brand whilst delivering campaigns that are often reactive in nature, Guinness are a force to be reckoned with in the marketing world. Other brands could learn a great deal from their unique and creative approach.