Only Watney’s could be so bold

Can you see spot what drew us to the tatty old postcard of Main Street, Haworth, West Yorkshire, from the 1960s, reproduced above?

That’s right – it’s the adver­tise­ment for Watney’s, neat­ly cam­ou­flaged against the brick wall to the left, above a yel­low enam­el sign adver­tis­ing St Bruno tobac­co.

This par­tic­u­lar Watney’s ad cam­paign ran from as ear­ly as 1937, as explained by Ron Pat­tin­son here, along with details of why this design was so suc­cess­ful. Ron also pro­vides a love­ly image of the poster which we’ve tak­en the lib­er­ty of nick­ing:

What we want is Watneys
SOURCE: Shut Up About Bar­clay Perkins.

The real­ly inter­est­ing thing about the post­card, though, is that this poster should have appeared in York­shire, 200 miles from the brewery’s home in Lon­don.

In the 1960s, Watney’s grew and took over region­al brew­eries around the UK. It took over Bev­er­ley Broth­ers of Wake­field in 1967 and began invest­ing in Webster’s of Hal­i­fax at around the same time, tak­ing it over com­plete­ly in 1972.

So the poster in the post­card is a sym­bol of the arrival of nation­al brands, and of the homogeni­sa­tion of beer that trig­gered the found­ing of the Cam­paign for Real Ale in the 1970s.

But it’s not all one-sided: if you look close­ly, you might be able to pick out a small enam­el sign adver­tis­ing Tetley’s next to the Watney’s poster. That, too, would become a nation­al brand, tak­ing a taste of York­shire to the rest of the coun­try.

Guinness: a nice, interesting drink for nice, interesting women, 1977–79

In 1977–78, grappling with falling sales and quality problems, Guinness commissioned yet another marketing strategy in the hope of turning things around. One idea was to appeal to young women.

We’ve just fin­ished scan­ning and cat­a­logu­ing the col­lec­tion of Guin­ness mate­r­i­al we wrote about a few times last year. These mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy doc­u­ments (there are sev­er­al) are full of fas­ci­nat­ing details, not least in the anno­ta­tions in pen­cil by (we assumed from con­text) Alan Cox­on, the head brew­er at Park Roy­al to whom these doc­u­ments belonged.

Here’s what the 1977–78 doc­u­ment says under ‘Strat­e­gy & Objec­tives – Women’:

i) To recruit to more reg­u­lar drink­ing the younger female drinker who iden­ti­fies with the assur­ance, matu­ri­ty and inde­pen­dence asso­ci­at­ed with Guin­ness for women.

ii) To reduce defec­tion from Guin­ness by rein­forc­ing the loy­al­ty of exist­ing fre­quent and less fre­quent users.

The sec­ond group were like­ly to be ‘old­er and poor­er’, the kind of peo­ple who’d tra­di­tion­al­ly drunk Guin­ness, but the oth­er group were a new tar­get:

[Younger], social­ly active and bet­ter off. Guin­ness may already be a part of their drink­ing reper­toire, though remote. These are like­ly to be C1 C2 women aged 25 to 44.

Here, though, Alan Cox­on had some thoughts of his own, neat­ly marked in the mar­gin:

I just do not believe in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of this. It is not a young woman’s drink, sure­ly. If we get it right it will have the wrong image for young women & sure­ly we can­not expect them to like it!!

The pro­posed cre­ative approach for appeal­ing to young women was inter­est­ing, too, based on ‘the cor­rect blend­ing of four key ele­ments’:

i) The user-image of a self-assured woman who is inde­pen­dent, socia­ble and healthy; equal­ly at ease in both a man’s and woman’s world.

ii) The prod­uct as a unique, attrac­tive, long drink, nat­ur­al and enjoy­able.

iii) The mood as one of relaxed and socia­ble enjoy­ment.

iv) The qual­i­ty and style of the adver­tis­ing as attrac­tive, cred­i­ble and con­tem­po­rary (rather than fash­ion­able or trendy).

The brand posi­tion reached as a result of this cre­ative approach should be:

Guin­ness is the drink for the self-assured woman.”

Final­ly, there were sug­ges­tions on how to reach women. With tele­vi­sion reserved for male-ori­en­tat­ed adverts, the idea was to place ads tar­get­ing women in mag­a­zines – ‘their per­son­al medi­um’.

How did all this go? For­tu­nate­ly, we have some handy fol­low-up infor­ma­tion, from the next year’s mar­ket­ing plan, cov­er­ing 1978–79. It sug­gests that dou­ble-page spreads did run in women’s mag­a­zines (we’d love to track some of these down) and that they were felt to be suc­cess­ful enough to con­tin­ue with.

An amus­ing punch­line, though, is a restate­ment of the mar­ket­ing objec­tive:

The pri­ma­ry task of the adver­tis­ing is to change atti­tudes about the kind of woman who drinks Guin­ness: to over­sim­pli­fy, ‘Guin­ness is a nice, inter­est­ing drink which is drunk by nice, inter­est­ing women.’

UPDATE 08/03/2019: Jon Urch, who works for Guin­ness, sent us a copy of one of the ads, which we’ve now added as the main image above.

Price as substitute for quality in unfamiliar territory

In the absence of infor­ma­tion, peo­ple tend to take a price of the unfa­mil­iar prod­uct as a sig­nal of its qual­i­ty, so high prices do not dimin­ish the quan­ti­ty demand­ed very much. When infor­ma­tion is pro­vid­ed, the sig­nalling con­tent of the price dimin­ish­es. As a result, demand becomes more elas­tic. In par­tic­u­lar, informed con­sumers see no rea­son to pay more for the new prod­uct giv­en that it has the same ingre­di­ents as the famil­iar one. The effect of the infor­ma­tion is thus to encour­age more peo­ple to switch from the sub­sti­tute prod­uct to the tar­get one at low prices, and vice ver­sa at high prices.”

That’s an extract from an aca­d­e­m­ic paper (PDF) on the behav­iour of pur­chasers of med­ical prod­ucts in Zam­bia, but you’ll encounter ver­sions of this argu­ment every­where from self-help books on how to sell! sell! sell! to arti­cles in the busi­ness press.

The con­clu­sion often drawn is that, per­haps counter-intu­itive­ly, if you price your prod­uct high­er than the com­pe­ti­tion, many con­sumers will assume yours is bet­ter and worth the extra mon­ey.

Con­verse­ly, if your prod­uct is too cheap, it might seem sus­pi­cious: “Hmm. What’s wrong with it?”

Does all of this also apply to beer?

Twen­ty years ago, we were cer­tain­ly aware of the aura that sur­round­ed Pre­mi­um Lager, and Pete Brown has writ­ten mem­o­rably about the dam­age Stel­la Artois did to its brand by reduc­ing the price.

But drinkers these days have lots more infor­ma­tion to go on, from beer style to ABV, from hop vari­eties to brew­ing loca­tion. All or any of these might over­ride price in the deci­sion mak­ing process.

And, of course the actu­al rela­tion­ship between price and qual­i­ty in beer is com­plex: there are lots of bad expen­sive pints out there, and some real­ly good ones that are rel­a­tive­ly cheap.

Our sus­pi­cion is that price might be a proxy for qual­i­ty in sit­u­a­tions where none of the brands are famil­iar, and the only oth­er infor­ma­tion is price; or (as this paper sug­gests) where the choice is between broad­ly sim­i­lar prod­ucts under the same brand name: Carls­berg, or Carslberg Export?

With all this in mind we find our­selves once again think­ing about the Drap­ers Arms, where not only is brand­ing held at arm’s length but also the price struc­ture is flat. As a result, we’ve prob­a­bly tried a greater vari­ety of beer there than any­where else, even allow­ing for the fact this is where we do most of our drink­ing by default.

GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times

The set of Guinness papers we’ve been sorting through for their owner includes a fairly complete two-decade run of Guinness Time, the in-house magazine for the brewery at Park Royal.

While the con­tents is on the whole fair­ly dull (egg and spoon races, meet the toi­let atten­dants, and so on) the cov­ers are works of art, redo­lent of the peri­ods in which they were pro­duced.

Those pre­sent­ed below are all from the 1950s and so there are a cou­ple of ref­er­ences to TV, the hot trend of the day.

Guinness Time Summer 1956 -- a topiary seal.
Sum­mer 1956. Illus­tra­tor: Tom Eck­er­s­ley.
A man uses a giant bottle of Guinness as a telescope.
Autumn 1956. Illus­tra­tor: John Gilroy.

Con­tin­ue read­ingGALLERY: Guin­ness Time in the 1950s – design of the times”

Guinness Confidential, 1977: Economic Crisis, Quality Problems, Image Issues

In 1977 Guinness commissioned consultant Alan Hedges to look into why sales of the bottled version of the stout were dropping off. His research revealed changes in the beer, and changes in society.

Hedges is, it turns out, some­thing of a leg­end in the world of mar­ket research hav­ing writ­ten an impor­tant book called Test­ed to Destruc­tion, pub­lished in 1974.

We guess from the odd con­tex­tu­al clue that he got the Guin­ness gig because he had worked for S.H. Ben­son, an adver­tis­ing firm that held the Guin­ness account in the 1960s.

He may well still be around – he was active in the indus­try in the past decade or two – so maybe he’ll pop up to tell us more if he ever stum­bles across this post. (That’s one rea­son we like to put things like this out into the world.)

This par­tic­u­lar item is yet anoth­er doc­u­ment from the col­lec­tion of Guin­ness paper­work we’re cur­rent­ly sort­ing through on behalf of its own­er. We’re not going to share the whole thing, just high­light some of the most inter­est­ing parts.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Guin­ness Con­fi­den­tial, 1977: Eco­nom­ic Cri­sis, Qual­i­ty Prob­lems, Image Issues”