Guinness – Tone Of Choice

by Darren Clare

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‘Bold. Distinctive. Full of character.’

The words chosen by Guinness to describe its bittersweet black beer are just as appropriate to the brand itself, which has cultivated an inimitable tone of voice over more than 250 years. History sometimes restricts brands, but the rich, poetic tone of Guinness’s communications still goes down smoothly, though the copy has matured over time.

Begun in 1935, the ‘My goodness, my Guinness’ campaign helped to establish Guinness’s distinctive sense of humour. Based on a simple ‘zoo-keeper and animal’ concept, each poster showed at least one black Guinness pint, making the image instantly recognisable. Our favourite is the Toucan advert, which shows a bird with two pints, and the copy: ‘If he can say as you can / Guinness is good for you / How grand to be a Toucan / Just think what Toucan do.’

In 1959, slogans like ‘Guinness for strength’ were still going strong. But times were changing, so the brand took advantage of the rise of photography to produce a new style of posters. An artfully shot photograph of an attractive young man and woman enjoying a Guinness might now seem commonplace, but showing female drinkers was unusual at the time, and widened the drink’s appeal to a new demographic. The pint looks particularly good photographed in black and white, and the copy – ‘Guinness is grand’ – is typically crisp.

Jump forwards to June 2006 and Guinness was winning awards for its TV adverts. The entertaining ‘Noitulove’ – backwards for ‘Evolution’ – advert won the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions Advertising Festival, by showing the devolution of three men, who, at the height of evolution, are enjoying a pint of Guinness.

Over the past 80 years the Guinness brand has adapted according to technology and trends – people going clubbing can now buy bottled Guinness to avoid sloshing their pints on the dance floor. Guinness’s tone of voice has also adapted, but the brand has retained its whimsical sense of humour and sharp one-liners – ‘My goodness, my Guinness’ is now ‘Made of more’.

And, central to the brand’s success, is its enduring ability to treat customers as people who are a cut above the norm – who are ‘stronger’, ‘grander’ or simply ‘made of more’ than their contemporaries. That’s how, in the words of the current Guinness website, ‘a unique Irish stout became, with a little magic, one of the World’s best-loved beers.’


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