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.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bambini

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the masculinity of beer to the fascination of Bass.

Dea Latis, an indus­try group ded­i­cat­ed to pro­mot­ing beer to women, and chal­leng­ing the idea that beer is a male pre­serve. It com­mis­sioned a study from YouGov into women’s atti­tudes to beer which is sum­marised here, with a link to the full report:

Beer Som­me­li­er and Dea Latis direc­tor Annabel Smith said: “We know that the beer cat­e­go­ry has seen mas­sive progress in the last decade – you only need to look at the wide vari­ety of styles and flavours which weren’t avail­able wide­ly in the UK ten years ago. Yet it appears the female con­sumer either hasn’t come on the same jour­ney, or the beer indus­try just isn’t address­ing their female audi­ence ade­quate­ly. Overt­ly mas­cu­line adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion of beer has been large­ly absent from media chan­nels for a num­ber of years but there is a lot of his­to­ry to unrav­el. Women still per­ceive beer brand­ing is tar­get­ed at men.”

We’ve already linked to this once this week but why not a sec­ond time? It’s a sub­stan­tial bit of work, after all.

There’s some inter­est­ing com­men­tary on this, too, from Kirst Walk­er, who says: “If we want more women in the beer club, we have to sweep up the crap from the floors and admit that flow­ers are nice and it pays not to smell of horse piss. How’s that for a man­i­festo?”


Bass Pale Ale mirror, Plymouth.

Ian Thur­man, AKA @thewickingman, was born and brought up in Bur­ton-upon-Trent and has a lin­ger­ing affec­tion for Bass. He has writ­ten a long reflec­tion on this famous beer’s rise and fall accom­pa­nied by a crowd-sourced direc­to­ry of pubs where it is always avail­able:

It’s dif­fi­cult for me to be unemo­tion­al about Draught Bass. It was part of grow­ing up in Bur­ton. But what are the facts.

The EU AB InBev careers’ web­site accu­rate­ly describes the rel­a­tive impor­tance of their brands to the com­pa­ny.

The UK has a strong port­fo­lio of AB InBev brands. This includes, glob­al brands, Stel­la Artois and Bud­weis­er, inter­na­tion­al brands, Beck’s, Leffe and Hoe­gaar­den, as well as local brands, includ­ing Bod­ding­tons and Bass.”

We’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the re-emer­gence of the Cult of Bass as a sym­bol of a cer­tain con­ser­v­a­tive atti­tude to pubs and beer. You might regard this arti­cle as its man­i­festo.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bam­bi­ni”

GALLERY: Women Working in Pubs and Breweries, from the Archives

It’s International Women’s Day which seems like a good reason to share this collection of pictures of women working in breweries and pub we’ve been bookmarking in old brewery magazines.

There’s an edi­to­r­i­al choice being made here, of course: to find these pic­tures of cool women doing cool stuff we had to wade through a lot of pho­tos of sec­re­taries sit­ting on men’s laps, booth babes, hop queens, cheese maid­ens, and biki­ni com­pe­ti­tions. Don’t think from what you see below that Whit­bread, Watney’s or any of these oth­er firms were bas­tions of fem­i­nism.

You’ll also note that the pic­tures back up what we said in the post we wrote on women in British beer a few years ago: there’s not much evi­dence of female brew­ers in the post-war peri­od, women being gen­er­al­ly con­fined to admin­is­tra­tive func­tions, bot­tling lines and lab­o­ra­to­ries. In fact, why not start in the lab?

Con­tin­ue read­ingGALLERY: Women Work­ing in Pubs and Brew­eries, from the Archives”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 June 2017: Rating, Flyposting, Logging

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from flyposting to secret manoeuvring.

First, the big sto­ry of the week: for Good Beer Hunt­ing Dave Eisen­berg has fer­ret­ed out the news that Rate­beer, the web­site where seri­ous beer geeks log scores and notes for the beers they drink, is now part­ly owned by AB-InBev:

Through its so-called ‘glob­al dis­rup­tive growth group’ ZX Ven­tures, Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired a minor­i­ty stake in Rate­Beer, one of the most pop­u­lar and rep­utable beer rat­ings and resource web­sites in the world… But the deal isn’t exact­ly new. In fact, it closed this past Octo­ber fol­low­ing eight months of talks.

That last bit is the weird wrin­kle here. Usu­al­ly, takeovers or part­ner­ships, or what­ev­er you want to call them, are announced imme­di­ate­ly, but this was kept qui­et (to para­phrase GBH’s report) so that the part­ners could prove that Rate­Beer wouldn’t be changed by the arrange­ment. Read­ing between the lines what that means is that they were wor­ried about sud­den­ly los­ing half the mem­ber­ship overnight, which might still hap­pen.

(GBH has con­nec­tions with AB-InBev which are set out in a dis­clo­sure state­ment mid­way through the arti­cle. Judge for your­self whether you think this has skewed the report­ing; we think point­ed­ly not.)


Biscuit beers on a blackboard.

Barm at I Might Have a Glass of Refresh­ing Beer (AKA @robsterowski) attend­ed the Edin­burgh Craft Beer Fes­ti­val and used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on ‘wacky’ beers and craft beer cul­ture:

Do you remem­ber a cou­ple of years ago, when cup­cake shops were pop­ping up left, right and cen­tre, pur­vey­ing sick­ly sweet icing (sor­ry, ‘frost­ing’) atop a tiny sponge cake base? Despite being most­ly white sug­ar and refined flour, and unut­ter­ably dis­gust­ing to boot, they found ready cheer­lead­ers among food media that nor­mal­ly pray duti­ful­ly to the idols of local ingre­di­ents and fresh pro­duce… This appears to be the phase that ‘craft’ brew­ers are now pass­ing through.

It’s inter­est­ing that some peo­ple seem to have read this post as a slam of a fes­ti­val – ‘Why go to events you know you’re going to hate?’ – but, despite the author’s gen­er­al ten­den­cy to speak his mind, this struck us as quite an objec­tive, ulti­mate­ly pos­i­tive account: ‘I did enjoy myself, much to my sur­prise. More to the point, the pun­ters who’d forked out to get in seemed to be hav­ing a good time too.’


BrewDog bottles in a supermarket.

Suzy AKA The Pub Geek is not impressed by BrewDog’s lat­est crowd mar­ket­ing cam­paign:

They’re ask­ing their ‘Equi­ty Punks’ to fly­post across a coun­try which car­ries a poten­tial £80 fine (high­er for Scot­tish ‘punks’) leg­is­lat­ed by the High­ways Act 1980. Not only do Brew­dog want  the ‘Equi­ty Punks’ doing unpaid labour for the cause but they’re poten­tial­ly break­ing the law and they have actu­al­ly paid for this priv­i­lege.


Detail from an old brewing log.

Brew­er and beer writer Mitch Steele, late of Stone Brew­ing, is wor­ried about the decline of the leather-bound hard copy brew­ing log and what that means for the lega­cy of the craft beer era:

I sus­pect there are a lot of craft brew­ers over the years who have fol­lowed a sim­i­lar pat­tern. They have grad­u­at­ed from hand­writ­ten brew logs, that are filed and stored in a box some­where, to spread­sheets, or maybe even to more com­plex equip­ment sup­pli­er auto­mat­ed data­bas­es or ERP sys­tems. But in 100 years, who is going to be able to find any of it if they want to doc­u­ment how beers were brewed dur­ing our cur­rent times? Espe­cial­ly if brew­eries con­tin­ue to grow quick­ly or get sold or close shop… I’m won­der­ing right now if a con­cert­ed effort could be made by the indus­try to pre­serve some brew­ing logs from ear­ly craft brew­ers in a safe place, like a library or a muse­um, where researchers in the future could go back and learn about the tech­niques and ingre­di­ents being used today.


Mild taste-off: multiple milds in plastic beakers.

Ryan Moses, AKA The Beer Coun­sel­lor, has tak­en a month to organ­ise his thoughts on the takeover of Wicked Weed by AB-InBev before reach­ing any con­clu­sions. Acknowl­edg­ing the full range of argu­ments he has nonethe­less con­clud­ed that buy­ing local is best thing con­sumers can do in this sit­u­a­tion:

Let your love of craft beer inform your buy­ing deci­sions of what and where you buy.  If you have local brew­eries near you, fre­quent them.  Buy their beer, their growlers, and their swag.  If you go to a local brew­ery and their beer isn’t as good as you had hoped, don’t frag them on social media. Send a per­son­al email or let­ter to the owner/brewer express­ing your con­cerns in a thought­ful and respect­ful man­ner. We must be the ones who con­trol craft beer. Not the face­less con­glom­er­ates who could just as eas­i­ly be sell­ing ball bear­ings rather than beer.

Coun­ter­point: Michael Agnew at A Per­fect Pint argues (using the strongest of strong lan­guage) that crit­ics have a right, if not a duty, to ‘be mean’:

The crit­i­cism of my cri­tique is often that I’m not giv­ing brew­ers a chance. I’m too quick to name the prob­lems. These brew­ers are young and pas­sion­ate. They have dreams. I’m step­ping on these dreams when all they need is time to work things out. It’s a dif­fi­cult step to go from brew­ing ten gal­lons at a time to brew­ing ten bar­rels. Rather than pub­licly call­ing them out, I should go in and talk to them… In what oth­er indus­try do we say this?

We’re prob­a­bly more Agnew than Moses here but we think blog­ger and some­time blog com­menter Dave S has this right:


A screengrab of the Braciatrix blog.

And, final­ly, a rec­om­men­da­tion for a blog to watch rather than a point­er to spe­cif­ic post: at Bra­ci­a­trix Christi­na Wade is con­sid­er­ing ‘the his­to­ry of beer through the women who brewed, con­sumed, sold, and some­times, opposed it’. So far it’s prov­ing to be some­thing quite fresh. Take a look.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 13 Feb 2016

From Licensed Victuallers to Budweiser here’s all the beer-related reading that’s caught our attention in the past seven days.

→ For the Morn­ing Adver­tis­er Phil Mel­lows has writ­ten a fan­tas­tic piece answer­ing a ques­tion that we’ve asked in the past: what on earth hap­pened to the once mighty Licensed Vict­uallers’ Asso­ci­a­tions?

We were the cham­pi­ons of licensees, we fought bat­tles with brew­ers and we were always on the end of the tele­phone if mem­bers need­ed help or guid­ance,” says for­mer Nor­wich and Nor­folk LVA chair­man Mike Lorenz. “But five or six years ago, mem­ber­ship start­ed falling away dra­mat­i­cal­ly and events were poor­ly attend­ed. Today, organ­i­sa­tions like the BII (British Insti­tute of Innkeep­ing) can offer more ben­e­fits. LVAs are not need­ed.”

→ For US mag­a­zine All About Beer Heather Van­de­nen­gel writes about ‘The Real­i­ty of Being a Woman in the Beer Indus­try’. It’s a good read because the inter­vie­wees are not the Usu­al Sus­pects – pro­duc­tion brew­er Ire­na Bierzynski’s com­ments are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing – but wouldn’t it be good to read more arti­cles about women in beer that aren’t point­ed­ly about Women in Beer?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 13 Feb 2016”