Q&A: Guinness global strategy and communications director Grainne Wafer

Diageo last week unveiled a revamp of its Guinness Storehouse visitor attraction aimed at creating an "immersive digital brand experience" at Ireland's most-visited tourist attraction.

Guinness: founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759
Guinness: founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759

Devised by Tribal DDB, the Dublin exhibition now boasts the world's largest high-definition interactive screen. Among other features, users can now create and leave a personalised message on the screen, share it online and connect with friends and the Guinness brand on Facebook.

Marketing caught up with Grainne Wafer, one the senior global marketers on the Guinness brand, to discuss changes to the Storehouse, its consumer profile and the brand health of the stout in the face of numerous challenges.

On...the Storehouse changes

Wafer: "The Storehouse is a fantastic way for people to experience and engage with the Guinness brand. But what we are really trying to do with the new modifications is make it as rewarding, enjoyable, engaging and as participative as possible. That’s true with everything we try to do on the Guinness brand in terms of marketing.

"Also, we have a fantastic pool of people who absolutely love the brand and come in through the doors of the Storehouse every single day. Keeping that conversation alive and going, recognising the sort of people who come to the Storehouse are adventurous and seeking new experiences so this is really about facilitating them to be able to share some of those experiences while travelling."

On...working with Facebook

"We’ve been working with Facebook for the last couple of years. The benefits are manifold, it’s helped us understand more about how to work into Facebook, how to create content that people love, how to have a credible tone of voice and brand position and add value within that space."

On...Guinness' ‘Made of More’ brand positioning

"We've arrived at it over the last six months and we've started to roll it out globally. It's the first time we have a full global positioning on Guinness, so it's very exciting from that perspective. 

"One of the reasons why we’ve been able to achieve that is that as a positioning it works very well in driving the proposition of the brand – a beer that is made of more – but also it’s what our drinkers are about – people who are made of more. 

"It's a very big positioning statement that spans the full scale of the brand globally. It's early stages but we're heartened by the quality of work coming through across the globe and the local resonance that people apply to it as well. The challenge when you are rolling out a new global positioning is you want it to have real global scale, power and impact but actually you want it to have that local magic as well.

"Downstairs we have a new monument (right) that tells the story of why Guinness is beer that’s made of more, from the early days of Arthur founding the brewery and taking bold choices, and how Guinness has always sought out those moments or opportunities throughout our 250-year history. We’ve done a digital piece on that by filming it and rolling that out as well."

On...taking marketing risks

"Guinness has always been a brand that has taken risks, whether that’s being on air the very first night of TV advertising back in the fifties or through amazing ads like 'Surfer'.

"We’ve always as a brand sought for that creatively challenging and creatively inspiring place. We are such a distinctive beer so our marketing has to be equally distinctive, it has to have that flair, that magic and that creativity to make it stand apart. It's what we expect and it’s what our consumers expect. It’s a pretty high benchmark that we work to."

On...Arthur’s Day - success or marketing wheeze?

"For us, Arthur's Day is fantastic celebration of all that is great about Guinness and our drinkers coming together. Whether that's raising a toast to Arthur, whether that's via the check-in mechanic, which drives contributions to the Arthur Guinness Fund - it’s all linked to the philanthropic legacy of building that for the future, bringing people together one off experiences.

"From our perspective it is a massive global programme, it’s celebrated by two million consumers in 55 countries and gets bigger every year. We see it as being a huge part of our plans in the future. The overwhelming feedback every time we do research is that consumers really love it."

On...the impending Irish alcohol sponsorship ban due in 2020

"In terms of the government, they are constantly looking at and monitoring the alcohol industry and we engage with them. We believe we have a positive and active role to play in society and that’s the position we continue to maintain and we present that view to our stakeholders as the talks go on."

On...the brand health of Guinness

"Guinness is in growth, it's a healthy growing vibrant brand globally. We are very happy with our performance. You see places that are offering faster growth and in these places we are accelerating like Africa and Asia. In Europe we've launched into many markets where Guinness did not have a big presence like Italy and France.

"We have a unique position, the challenges that we face is that people around the world absolutely love the brand, they’ll come to the Storehouse and buy the T-shirt. We see our challenge as convincing people who wear the T-Shirt to drink the product. We have huge amount of latent love that we are trying to convert into product sales. That’s our brand challenge in a nutshell."

On...attracting younger consumers

"Over the last 20 years we've been actively looking to the future and thinking about how we bring in the next generation of Guinness drinkers. There is a maturity to the people who come into Guinness, we do find that people tend to come in to the brand in their mid-twenties. That’s the area we focus on - guys and girls who are at their first job stage, who are progressing a bit more.

"The core of our strategy is to bring in the next generation. When you look at programmes like Arthur's Day and the profile of people at the Storehouse I think what you see is that the stereotype might be and older guy, but the reality is very much different."