Guinness black lager: another bizzare brand extension

I fear that Guinness Black Lager has "brand ego trip" written all over it. Brand ego trips are extensions that are driven by the brand owner's needs, rather then the needs of the consumer.

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Guinness' brand strength it that it is associated with a single, core product. This is the case with most great beer brands around the world. The challenge for the brand's owner, Diegeo, is that a lot of young blokes (and some older ones like me) just don't like the product. Its dark, black, bitter and has a highly distinctive creamy head. Almost food-like Some people love it. Others hate it.

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Option 1: Try to fix weaknesses with extensions

Guinness Black Lager is an attempt to solve the issue of taste via an extension. Is has a darker colour then normal lager, and a slightly bitter taste. 4.5% alcohol is actually less than a lot of premium lagers.

Guinness Black will struggle:

– Competitive pressure: the lager market is incredibly competitive. You have big, mainstream brands with media and distribution muscle, like Carling and Stella. Then you have a whole host of "PPL's" that Guinness Black will go head-to-head with: premium packaged lagers like Corona, Budweiser Budwar, Peroni and Tiger.

– Lack of added value: Brian Duffy the global brand director has the right principle when he says "We are bringing something to lager as opposed to taking something from Guinness". However, I struggle to see how a darker, more bitter lager is really anything lager drinkers will want. They drink lager because its lighter and less bitter!

Going back in time to 1979 Guinness had another attempt to fight lager with Guinness Light: 3.8
percent alcohol and less calories. Two years later, the
product was withdrawn.

Option 2: Amplify strengths of the core

Fortunately for Guinness, the Black Lager is an exception not the rule in their marketing. They have done a great job of trying to grow the core product with a host of marketing ideas:

– Guinness Extra Cold: they were the first brand to do this, chilling the beer in bars and pubs to make it more drinkable. This added incremental volume

– Draught in cans: innovating with a "widget" to re-create the experience of draught Guinness at home

– TV Comms: one of my fave ads of all time is Guinness is "The Swimmer" that turned a weakness (takes time to pour) into something to celebrate ("good things come to those who wait").

– Sponsorship: great link up with rugby in the UK, which is strongly linked to Guinness. Another great ad was used to promote this link up. I love the way the players morph into
the particles of beer inside the glass. And another great end-line that
ties product sausage and emotional sizzle together: "Seconds from
greatness". You can click below if you're on the blog:

In conclusion, and to paraphrase JFK, with extensions you need to "Ask not the new market can do for your brand, but what your brand can do for the market". Guinness Black is, for me, one of those new launches where this principle has not been followed.