How Guinness use video to drive growth

This is the latest of a series of posts on Marketing Week Live (MWL). This time I look at the learning from a session called "Where does video sit in the future of digital marketing?" Digital video is clearly an important medium for brands to harness, with US adults spending one hour and 16 minutes per day watching digital video 2015, up from 21 minutes in 2011, according to eMarketer.

In particular, I share insights from the panellist who really grabbed my attention: Stephen O'Kelly, Marketing Director of Guinness Europe for Diageo.

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1. Ditch "the digital ghetto"

The first thing to mention about this MWL session is that the title was all wrong, as it talks about video's role in "digital marketing". This puts digital into a ghetto all by itself. Stephen's approach on the Guinness brand is much smarter by considering digital as one channel to help execute a brand strategy. "We don’t have a specific ‘digital person’ – digital is part of everyone’s role," he says in this interview with He also righty points out the importance of focusing on objectives and only then considering the best way to deliver against these objectives: "We’re focused on an outcome, from a consumer behaviour or attitude-change point of view."

2. "Stand for something to stand out"

This quote from Stephen is one of the best of the whole conference. When it comes to video or any form of marketing, effectiveness depends on clearly defining your brand positioning. "You need to be authentic, clear and consistent and define your brand's distinctive point of view," he commented at the conference. Stephen's view, that I strongly believe in, is that the role of brand strategy is as important as ever in today's digital age. 

A good example of clear positioning paying off is the marketing campaign Guinness ran during the Rugby World Cup last year. The beer was banned the 13 stadiums hosting the tournament, with only official sponsor Heineken available, as part of their £20 mill sponsorship package. The Guinness campaign brought to life the brand idea, "Made of More", by focusing on the inner strength needed to win in rugby. The video told the story of Gareth Thomas, one of the first famous rugby players to come out and declare he was gay. The ad was was viewed by 22m people online, according to this report. And the brand was the 2nd most Tweeted about brand during the tournament, twice the level achieved by Heineken, according to DigitasLBi here. Stephen explained that this helped Guinness be one the brands most linked to RWC in Yougov research.


3. Show them the money

Stephen shares our belief at the brandgym that digital media needs to "show them the money" by demonstrating business benefits. "A big factor in attracting investment is to demonstrate measurement and evaluation. The more we can measure success in the digital channel of campaigns, the more it will attract investment,"  he observes here. Stephen and his team seem to have made a good start at showing Diageo the money. The 4% growth in UK sales during the six months ending 31 December were driven by "strong Rugby World Cup activation", according to this report.

4. Deliver "quality @ speed"

Guinness is famous for creating "cinematic" quality films, with the brand's Surfer ad being named in one poll as the all-time favourite commercial. As Stephen says, "There’s such a high bar from Guinness–people expect intelligence and wit and to be provoked." The challenge for the brand is to maintain the quality of content whilst being able to react quickly. "We've changed our approach to deliver brilliant content on a real-time basis," Stephen explains here. An example is the ad below that celebrates the shock victory of Japan over South Africa in RWC. This requires more investment in people, as opposed to media spend, to have top talent on tap to deliver what we call "quality @ speed". 

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In conclusion, Stephen and the team on Guinness show that the key to effectiveness in video, as in all marketing, is having a clear and compelling brand story that is then executed with excellence to drive distinctiveness. And all this with a clear set of brand and business objectives defined up front.

Now, all this talk of beer has made me thirsty. I'm off for a pint…