Guinness Storehouse re-invents 250 year-old brand

6 11 2009

This summer, I spent 12-weeks in Germany for school, but after that I got the chance to backpack through seven countries in Europe.  My last stop before returning to the US, was Dublin, Ireland.  Ever since I was little, I always wanted to go to Ireland for the beautiful countryside, but since I hit college, and got a taste for beer, there became another reason I wanted to go.  When telling people I was going to Dublin (or “Publin” as many Europeans playfully call it), they always said, “Make sure you go to the Guinness Storehouse!”

When I arrived to rainy Dublin, there were many things on my to-do list, but at the top of that list was the Guinness Storehouse.  As I approached the imposing, seven-story brick building in a gritty, industrial part of Dublin, I really didn’t know what to expect except that I would see how the famous “Black Gold” is brewed.  When I stepped inside, I was blown away by the ultra-modern design that awaited me.   As you arrive, you are almost in awe by the sight of the modern glass-and-steel interior which is illuminated by a dramatic combination of natural and artificial light. When you walk in, you climb a short, narrow set of stairs before emerging into a cavernous atrium.  It’s shaped roughly like a pint glass, with a circular pub, the Gravity Bar, at the top that glows white at night (like the suds atop a freshly poured Guinness).  Set into the floor is the contract that Sir Arthur Guinness himself signed for the brewery site — a 9,000-year lease for the price of just 45 Irish punts a year.

Guinness Storehouse

The Storehouse Lease

As I was strolling through the Storehouse, I was realizing something.  This isn’t just your average tourist attraction.  This is the personification of the re-invention of the Guinness brand.  After doing some research, I learned I was right.  The Storehouse was built in the year 2000 to breathe life into the aging brand.  While I was in Dublin, Guinness was celebrating its 250 year anniversary, so it’s no surprise the brand is looked at as old and traditional.  So in an essence, the Storehouse is the physical manifestation of a serious marketing challenge: to reconnect Guinness with younger drinkers in Ireland. While the brand has conquered the world (the stout is brewed in 50 countries and sells an estimated 10 million glasses a day), Guinness started to go a bit flat at home. In the second half of 2001, sales of Guinness in Ireland actually fell by 3%. Why the slip? Because Guinness, like so many other well-loved but old-fashioned products, had come to be perceived as the choice of the senior set. Ireland’s younger crowd were switching to lighter drinks: lagers such as Heineken or trendy cocktails.

After dark, the Storehouse also hosts special events that attract both locals and executives: awards ceremonies, concerts, corporate parties, fashion shows, and gallery openings.  The evening events make the Storehouse a kind of community center.  And by bringing people in their twenties and thirties to the brewery, the events help Guinness connect with the brand’s future.

My free pint in the Gravity Bar

My free pint in the Gravity Bar

In my opinion, the Guinness Storehouse sets the bar for brand experiences.  I feel like Guinness has definitely accomplished their task of re-energizing their brand with Dubliners and tourists alike.  When I was at various pubs in Dublin, everyone (man, woman, young, old, whatever) had a Guinness in their hand.  And I have to admit, since being back in the States, I’ve ordered Guinness a few times and every time thought back on my time at the Storehouse.

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