Insights from Ad Land: How Guinness broke into a new category

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Bringing a new product to market and breaking into a new category is no mean feat, even for the world’s most established brands.

In the alcohol sector, the global drinks industry has seen a significant shift towards low and no-alcohol products in recent years, as the rise of wellness culture has driven consumer demand.

Even the heavy hitters of the alcohol industry have had to adopt challenger mindsets to bring their low and no options to market and tap into different audience demographics.

Perhaps the most successful of these launches was Guinness 0.0, and their ‘Holding Out For A Zero’ campaign with AMV BBDO.

In this Insights From Ad Land – where we explore the science that makes the best adverts work – we’re analysing how they leveraged humour, social relevance, behavioural science and brand assets to break into this new category, and how their efforts became the best performing beer ad!

For St Patrick’s Day 2023, Guinness became the highest scoring beer ad in System1’s database – a ranking system for ad effectiveness.

A round of singing Guinness pints belting out Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” was the lighthearted, humorous idea that propelled the brand to a top UK score on the Test Your Ad database, with 4.6 Stars (out of 5), and an exceptional score for Brand Fluency (how recognisable your brand is).

In the same year, Guinness became the best selling beer in UK pubs.

So how did they do it?

Leveraging Brand Assets

Guinness have an instantly recognisable brand and product.

By focusing the ad creative on the product itself, they could leverage this to its full potential. This cleverly created associability between their new zero alc product, and the longstanding quality of a much loved brand, helping to de-risk the new product for consumers who may be sceptical (especially as other zero alc options on the market have been criticised for poor taste and quality in the past).

Not afraid to have fun

The ad creative was a play on the ‘Singing Guinness’ trend on TikTok, which didn’t go viral but did draw attention to the product’s signature foam head, and perfectly positioned the ‘Holding Out For A Zero’ campaign for highly engaging user generated content.

This, combined with the nostalgic, feel-good soundtrack and humorous approach, all positioned the campaign for success. Research shows that ad recall increases the longer people watch, and triggering a positive emotional state makes consumers more receptive to advertising messages.

Leveraging sampling

50,000 free pints of Guinness 0.0 were given out across Ireland over the St Patrick’s weekend as part of the campaign – the brand’s biggest sampling of the range to date.

35% of consumers who try a sample will go on to buy the sampled product in the same supermarket shopping trip – uplift is likely to be similar in pubs and bars.

From a behavioural science perspective, sampling de-risks a new product for customers, which increases sales.

On-trade brand activations

To coincide with sampling events and St Patrick’s Day, 4 pubs rebranded their facade with Guinness 0.0 signage. This put the brand and the new product at the front of consumers’ minds, at the point of sale, during the biggest purchasing moment of the year -and leveraged third party endorsement.

By leveraging existing brand credibility, Guinness were able to build trust in a new product category and overcome any potentially negative preconceptions. By making the ad engaging and fun, and leveraging humour, they achieved talkability and increased brand recall. And by combining the ad campaign with sampling and on-trade activations, they could directly tie the campaign to an uplift in sales.

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