The black stuff is hitting dark times, Guinness sales are on the wane, with a 10% drop in volume and 5% drop in value in the past 12 months.  They are blaming the contracting beer market for this drop despite there being only a 4.5% drop in volume and an actual 1.3% increase in value overall in the market over the same period.   The “made of more” campaign which was launched a few months ago and is costing them £33 million is not one of their more memorable branding efforts, and will be forgotten weeks after it stops running.  They are now replacing their bar fonts with a new design with something which looks like a straight sided cylinder with a Guinness logo on it and the middle cut out.  In fact, put a Strongbow logo at the top and it would look more in place with the golden centre.

They believe that “the new design will bolster its position as the most distinctive and iconic beer on the bar”.  This will never happen as long as they produce a relatively bland beer, and offer an extra cold version which removes any lingering taste instantly.  Distinctiveness means something different, something better and there is much better out there within its sector of the beer market.  The brand has a top three position within beers sold in the UK and a pump in 74% of the UK’s pubs.  A significant number of drinkers are lifelong followers of the beer and will always be so.  The “made of more” campaign is not needed to keep them, but it also doesn’t have the impact to bring in the lucrative 25-40 years old market.  The £33 million spent would have been better spent on developing a beer with some interest, something different.  A lot of smaller breweries have developed superior brews for a fraction of a percentage of the cost of this campaign, and with the clout they have within the distribution networks getting it out to the pumps would be no problem.

It is easier to get your message across if you keep it simple and this Christmas it is the spirit companies which have got this spot on.  First Jack Daniels “Happy Holidays Barrel Tree”. Classy production values, straight to its intended point via the imagery, a good choice of music  and avoiding schmaltz, it just works.  The second is Southern Comfort “Beach : Whatever’s Comfortable”, again skipping gimmicks, just an middle aged average guy walking down the beach with the product only being named in the last 10 seconds.  The rare groove soundtrack keeps you hooked with the subtle humour while wondering what it is for.

Both adverts feel no need to intrude with a unnecessary voice over, unlike the the Guinness ad which worked so much better with better choice of music and no talking (seen via a home brew re-edit on the internet).  Jack Daniels is aiming straight for the heart of the Christmas market, Southern Comfort is totally ignoring the festive season, but both just work.  Maybe the Irish company should take note and be more precise when targeting their market, scatter guns will always miss more than they hit.  The two spirit adverts will be largely forgotten in 6 months, I don’t deny that, but they hit the target when it matters, and don’t pretend to be anything grandiose unlike others.

Let’s move onto to the pub, and there is the good and bad this week. My work takes me once a month down to head office near a town called Attleborough, 15 miles from Norwich.  I’ve stayed at the Breckland Lodge each time and the pub there has the ability to destroy any ale as I’ve mentioned before.  It was the pouring of my tipple there, bottled Worthington White Shield which took the biscuit, the beer was not cool enough and poured straight into a vertical glass, ensuring a 5in head on 2in of beer.  When I later asked for a head on my pint of Adnams Southwold they poured ¼ pint away and topped it up without adding a sprinkler, the head lasted about the time it took to get back to my table.  The beer was not up to standard either.  Basic skills simply not being taught.

However, I must recommend a visit to the Old Gate in Hebden Bridge, lovely decor, a fantastic well kept range of beers both keg and cask from the UK, and a good selection of world beers.  The beer selection is up there with any pub in the area, no mean feat.  The food doesn’t look too shabby either.  I’ll do a fuller review when I get the chance to have more than one pint there, 3 year olds are not conducive to a comprehensive taste test.