Guinness stands stout in the face of adversity

March 2020

As the COVID-19 epidemic grips the world, marketers are taking a cautious approach to their communications – being perceived as making light of the situation could result in irreparable brand damage.

However, history has taught us that those who continue to invest during periods of downturn (ideally in long-term brand-building activities), are the ones who benefit most when things come good again. But we appreciate this is easier said than done; particularly with unprecedented levels of volatility, uncertainty and anxiety right now.

With mass gatherings being cancelled en masse across the globe, it was no surprise that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations followed suit. Guinness, a brand synonymous with Ireland, has been inextricably linked to St. Patrick’s Day festivities since forever. This makes it an undeniable authority on the subject, and the 90 second film released by the brand last week was nothing short of a masterstroke.

Every marketer who is grappling with finding the right tone of voice for communicating during this difficult period needs to watch it. But how did Guinness reach beyond the pub and into people’s hearts while other marketers are scaling back their operations?

Using our 3 C’s framework, we tested the effectiveness of “We’ll March Again”:

  • Captivate: Does it attract and retain attention, and engage in an emotional way?
  • Connect: Is the brand instantly recognisable?
  • Compel: Does it leave people with a lasting impression about the brand?

Captivate

“We’ll March Again” elicited an intensely positive emotional response from viewers, offering an empathetic tone which acknowledged the current state of affairs yet provided a hopeful and optimistic outlook for the future.

Despite the bleak subject matter the video was still thoroughly enjoyed. The calming and reassuring tone of voice – combined with the galvanising message around unity, resilience and human spirit – helped viewers find respite from their own difficulties.

While Guinness didn’t explicitly reference COVID-19, viewers were very well aware of the context and implication. Although a small portion expressed concern over promoting any socialisation, the majority appreciated the uplifting and inspirational nature of the video, finding both the message and charitable donation highly commendable.

Connect

Guinness is indelibly linked to the dark, rich colour of its flagship beer, so deploying the product frequently throughout the video meant the brand remained front-of-mind.

In addition, Guinness’ highly organic involvement in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations informed viewers about both the occasion and the brand’s long history supporting it, further entwining the two.

The use of distinctively Irish music, accents, and prominently featuring the brand’s iconic harp logo cemented the synonymous connection with Guinness.

Compel

Referencing a ubiquitous issue like COVID-19 could have easily overshadowed the message and caused significant backlash. However, the emotional link painted Guinness as ‘caring’ and ‘inspiring’, while authentic Irish associations fleshed out Guinness’ long-standing heritage – both coming through almost four times stronger than any virus-related mentions.

With Guinness putting aside commercial priorities and instead focussing on our primal need for connection and community, nobody subsequently questioned the newsworthiness or personal relevance of the video – truly making every viewer feel like they were a part of Guinness’ family.

Conclusion

Guinness’ call-to-arms inspired people to rise above the crisis currently engulfing the world and remind themselves of what is truly important. Not only did it touch viewers in a deeply personal and moving way, but more importantly it left a lasting impression about Guinness – one which will predispose people to the brand long after this epidemic has passed us.

Making such a strong social statement during a period of extreme hardship is riddled with risks, but the fact that viewers interpreted the video as highly genuine and sincere speaks volumes to how Guinness was able to successfully navigate this delicate topic.

“We’ll March Again” is one of the most effective pieces of video content we’ve ever tested, and the fact that it was produced on a shoe-string budget is a timely reminder for marketers that effectiveness is a function of a great idea – not extravagant production values.

Guinness - Advertising Testing - Covid St Patrick's Day Ad

This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.

We were supported by leading market research technology platform Cint to collect data from respondents in the US.

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