June 21, 2009

A Toucan Gesture

I'm a great fan of the Guinness brand.

I like to tell my own Guinness story which illustrates the many ways in which my life has played out against a background of black and creamy white. Whenever possible, I kick off new branding projects with a (working) session at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which is one of the most inspiring places I can imagine to begin your own brand story.

Although I had seen some of the great Guinness ads only a few times when they ran at first (I grew up in a house without television), I could recall them in great detail many years later when I lived overseas and was waxing romantic about my home place and my favourite pint.

And I'm a great admirer of Arthur Guinness, an entrepreneur who can teach us a thing or more about doing the right thing for the communities where you do business.

So you would imagine I would be delighted at the latest Guinness campaign, which celebrates 250 years of the brand by inviting fans to 'put their signature next to Arthur's', with each signature triggering a €2.50 donation from Guinness to a local community project.

But something about the gesture leaves me cold.

Even the advertising, which has the fabled toucans flying in from all parts to their favourite pub to sign up, introduces a certain chill factor.

Am I alone in finding the flock of Arthur's feathered friends descending on the city a little freakish (and scarily reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Birds)? I'm all for moving things on but I'm not sure that Gilroy's iconic images can be improved upon.

It strikes me that much of the campaign borrows from Guinness' rich heritage but doesn't give anything substantial back in return. Although it may seem churlish to question a project which will have a positive impact on communities across Ireland, it feels to me as though the heart of St. James' Gate isn't really in these 250 celebrations.

I'm off instead to quietly raise a pint to the generous spirit of Guinness as I know and love it.

Slàinte, Arthur, here's to the next 250 years.

It's Your Round: Any thoughts on how we might better celebrate Arthur's 250th?

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