February 16, 2006

guinness blog

Guinness has a blog. Not perfect, not groundbreaking, but not bad for a corporate brand job, taking their first baby steps. I've seen worse.

The good news is, the marketing team decided to do it themselves, not hire the job out to an ad agency. Otherwise I'm sure the results would have been utterly disasterous.

The thing is, they don't have the same luxury that most new bloggers have i.e. making their mistakes when very few people still know who they are. So kudos to them for having a go.

I guess the next issue is, as marketers, what are they REALLY trying to achieve here? Serious question.

[Thanks to Rachel for the link.]

Posted by hugh macleod at February 16, 2006 5:53 PM | TrackBack
Comments

This is a first: a blog that actively excludes folks from its blog. No 'America', 'United States of America' or 'USA' listed among the countries. Strike one. (Perhaps some folks would disagree.) I tried to enter the site as a 96 year old from Papua New Guinea, and received the message "Sorry, we are unable to allow you access to our website due to regulations in your country of access." Strike two. Same for a 20 year old from Austria, and a 25 year old from Norway. You're outta here!

If they only want Brits and the Irish to visit the site, then why on earth have a(n incomplete) list of other countries? Very bizarre.

Posted by: Stuart at February 16, 2006 6:43 PM

I'll agree with Stuart's comments and add, it will make me think twice about ordering a Guiness next time I'm out and about.

Posted by: Paul W. Swansen at February 16, 2006 6:45 PM

If you pick a country like 'Algeria' or 'Cambodia' before you enter the blog, it gives you message that due to some law or other it can't let you access the content and then redirects you to Yahoo!

Posted by: Bjorn at February 16, 2006 6:51 PM

Oh I see people have already commented on that. Whoops.

Posted by: Bjorn at February 16, 2006 6:52 PM

Welcome to the wonderful world of company lawyers ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 16, 2006 6:52 PM

Oh dearie me - all four legs sawn off before the gates have opened. Back to the drawing borad.

Posted by: Patrick Dodds at February 16, 2006 7:08 PM

Simply i say to them : go to hell with your reverse psychology

Posted by: AGRADA at February 16, 2006 9:05 PM

I am a 50 year old from Australia,We bathe in the stuff and they booted me...ok we do tell the odd irish joke but jeeeez

Posted by: lance d boyle at February 16, 2006 9:36 PM

The gateway is something that is done on all of the company's sites. The subject is age restricted, so it is asked that all visitors are over the legal purchase age. Also in many countries it is not possible to advertise alcohol, so those countries are screened as well. Finally, the is the blog of the GB team, hence those restrictions. As Hugh says, welcome to company legal and marketing guidelines. It's a start - I wish them luck.

Posted by: Rachel at February 16, 2006 9:54 PM

Given how strictly regulated the spirits industry is, I'd say this is a bold move, and a move in the right direction.

Pour me another.

Posted by: David Burn at February 16, 2006 9:58 PM

First, I must add my voice to all the previous comments about the stupidity of the access page.

That said, I'd like to try and address Hugh's question. What is Guinness (or any company that launches a blog) trying to accomplish?

My answer is that they are trying to PARTICIPATE in the conversation that is inherent to marketing and the Internet.

Let me give you a worst case example of where the blog might come in handy.

Someone EVIL tampers with some of the black gold they sell (full disclosure, yes, I like to drink Guinness). The news breaks via blogs first.

The natural response of bloggers is; let's go see what the company has to say about the crisis.

Where do they go first?

To Guinness's blog. Not to some canned news story or a press release in pr speak but straight to the source.

Because a well-built and maintained blog is a VOICE of a company that can hopefully speak in a human way or, in other words, engage in a conversation.

But being the VOICE is only half the equation.

The EARS are equally important.

Right now, if they were smart, they should be posting on their blog about the comments on Hugh's post about the access page and their response to it.

Do they really understand the power of the blog? If you read the background information on their blog, I'd like to believe that they do.

But will they act on it?

Will they PARTICIPATE?

That is what I want to know.


Posted by: Eric Mattson at February 16, 2006 9:58 PM

Of course you can always subvert the lawyers and pretend to come from England, and be old. That's what the youngsters in my house do all the time for poorly programmed stuff like this. It's not even really a hack to get in :-).

Eric's right though, are they listening?

Posted by: ninefish at February 17, 2006 1:10 AM

apparently, you can't be a 40 year old from andorra and enter their blog either. not that i'm a 40 year old andorran, but it does happen to be true. as far as "actively" preventing americans from entering, i'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the programming of this isn't done. i'll give them a week. if it is intentional, i do find that a bit offensive, especially considering how i've always plugged guinness. meh. boddington's is yummy too.

Posted by: drexel at February 17, 2006 3:26 AM

I have to agree with drexel, and everything else stated.

Guinness is my beer of choice. But boycott Americans?
Maybe it was unintentional (did anyone find an email address for them?) Maybe I'm being self-centered (I did mention I'm American, right? )in expecting to be on that silly list of all the other countries in the world. But maybe I should just boycott the tastiest beer in the bar.

sigh.

Posted by: n at February 17, 2006 5:56 AM

"Given how strictly regulated the spirits industry is, I'd say this is a bold move, and a move in the right direction. "

I agree with Dave Burn.

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 17, 2006 9:28 AM

Ok, I went looking for an email address. The only one on the blog that I can find is for their general consumer help line.

The reason they give is:

"The problem is that we get so much correspondence that we just don’t have time to read it all and respond. Well, to be more honest, we don’t have time to do that AND do our day jobs. (Indeed some of letters are people asking us what our ‘day jobs’ actually involve!)."

My response...hire more people. If you're not willing to participate in the conversation via email, you're shooting yourself in the foot at the starting line.

A blog is not just another place to post marketing announcements.

Also, while I appreciate the honesty of:

"We’re afraid we don’t check comments on Saturdays and Sunday, as much as we love working on GUINNESS®, we don’t work at the weekend!"

I'm not sure that it is realistic in the connected 24/7 world that we live in. How much effort does it take to approve comments (and/or respond to email) when you've got a whole marketing team to split it up among?

C'mon Guinness. I love the beer but I want more from the blog.

Eric

P.S. In case you're curious, Technorati says roughly 75 blog posts per day mention Guinness.

Posted by: Eric Mattson at February 17, 2006 11:31 AM

Hello! Lou here from the Guinness brand team in Great Britain. I’m one of the people writing the Guinness blog (which we are trying out to see if we can create some kind of real conversation with people into Guinness in our market). It’s early days for us but I’m pleased that the blog has been picked up by people like yourselves and am really interested to see your comments and views you have.

I totally understand your feelings on the ‘gateway page’ and can see how it’s annoying for you that if you say you're from a country other than the UK then you cannot see the blog. We want to explain the reasons why:

1) We HAVE to have this sort of gateway page to ensure we are marketing GUINNESS® responsibly. We have a strict marketing code we adhere to and lots of countries have different policies and laws regarding the legal age at which people can view materials to do with alcoholic products and how alcohol brands can and cannot market their goods. For this reason we are legally bound to ask people where they are from (in case it’s a country that doesn't allow alcohol marketing) and how old they are (to ensure they are of legal purchase). So that's the reason for having a gateway page in the first place.

2) Lots of people from countries outside of the UK are asking why they can’t access the blog. There are two answers to this. Obviously Guinness is one great brand that's widely loved in about 150 countries. But the drinkers in those countries are all different so what the various marketing teams get up to differs also. What's on this blog is specifically about our GB plans - hence the focus on those drinkers. There are legal issues with us making content the GB team have written available to other countries. We are looking at what can be changed but this may take a while so bear with us.

Secondly and to be really honest we really didn’t think anyone from outside the UK would be interested in what we had to say. BUT, now that we have seen that there is interest from people outside of the UK we are going to talk to our legal team and work out if there’s a way to open the blog up so everyone can see it (at least people in countries where marketing alcohol is not prohibited). This may take us a little while so please bear with us – we’ll keep you posted. We've already told our colleagues around the world to get thinking about this.

We are listening to you and learning as we go so thanks again for all the comments.

Posted by: Lou at February 17, 2006 1:58 PM

what do you mean with
"Obviously Guinness is one great brand that's widely loved in about 150 countries. But the drinkers in those countries are all different so what the various marketing teams get up to differs also." regarding the blog? Does an Australian blogger likes bathing in Guiness (so someone did confess above) and we Germans like to sleep in Guiness tanks? Hence you have to differentiate with whom you speak? With Germans tankish and with Aussies bathish?

Posted by: Robert Basic at February 17, 2006 3:43 PM

If that flood of negative comments doesn't represent a disastrous start, then I guess the other sites must be truly bad.

And Hugh, did you not think to mention that Rachael who provided the link works for Guinness? I have no problem with that but I'm not sure how many people would have found that fact out by clicking on the link you provided

Posted by: john at February 17, 2006 5:11 PM

P.S. Personally I think that the absence of an RSS feed is disastrous in any corporate blog purporting to "wanting to create some kind of real conversation"

Posted by: john at February 17, 2006 5:21 PM

oooh i must say this string of comments has been the highlight of my morning. i'm an american and i'm well over the legal drinking age. Drinking guinness is LEGAL in my country. I should be perfectly free to read any blog in the world that I like. I understand making sure someone's 18 first, but making sure they're not american just validates the stereotype even if that's NOT the intention, and is a really bad move in my opinion. if they're THAT concerned with what's right, why are they getting the world drunk for a living anyway? it's all just twisted around and goofy. blog or don't.

Posted by: drexel at February 17, 2006 5:43 PM

Beer Blogging as Marketing Disruption? Talk about "negative marketing disruption".

tbd
"blogging quartered guinness sales in less than SIX months"

Posted by: tec at February 17, 2006 6:11 PM

John, the lack of RSS might just be an oversight, which is easily remedied...

Baby steps etc.

Secondly, the other comments were about the front "access" page, which ahd a lot more to do with (A) corporate lawyers and (B) the legal minefield that is internation liquor laws... both which IMHO they addressed upfront in this comment section, and with candor.

Your "disastrous" choice of words might just be a wee bit of commenter "stick it to the man" melodrama.

So tell me, besides remembering to put in the RSS feed (fair point), what would you have done differently if you were them?

[Disclosure: i have no connections with Guinness or Diageo]

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 17, 2006 6:21 PM

Not sure, why there are restructions !!

I dont see Hugh's--Wine Blog have nay restrictions !

Posted by: pete at February 17, 2006 6:39 PM

The wine blog has different lawyers than Guinness ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 17, 2006 6:55 PM

Given the restrictions, maybe blogging isn't for this particular part of the drinks industry? The medium doesn't respond well to rules and censorship - comments, disagreement, free access - those are the interesting parts.

Posted by: Patrick Dodds at February 17, 2006 7:10 PM

I think I'll just pretend to be welsh. Then I'll go to the pub and have a black & tan.

Posted by: beth at February 17, 2006 7:29 PM

My disastrous comment was just a tease as well you know - but I do think that bad publicity is BAD publicity and the access issue is a very old website usability issue that really should have been avoided.

Other than that I would have focussed on the passion which was highlighted as a reason for the blog (and I think we agree it's the best reason) rather than allow a tone of corporate marketing-speak permeate many of the postings. As you have rightly said so many times, this is not advertising or web-based press releases.

I don't know if you agree, but in this world of proliferating blogs I think that as well as operating in a category of the blogosphere that the blogger can effectively colonise, it is increasingly important to come out of the traps with the right tone lest one gets the reaction that led to my comment. That means no to the agency designed site for sure, but I think it also requires constant internal criticism of what's going to appear (ie being sure of the answer to your question "what are they trying to achieve") and a rigorous usability assessment. There are enough good blogs and usability lessons out there for a company to look around and see the pitfalls. Though, as you say, it is early days.


Posted by: john at February 17, 2006 8:57 PM

I have never been accused of wanting to stick it to the man - my business school professors would be shocked! I just have highly developed critical senses which I try to focus in a constructive way - I'm not saying "that's crap" I'm saying "change that and it will be better" - well at least that's the conversation in my head - how it comes across top others is perhaps a moot point!

Posted by: john at February 17, 2006 9:03 PM

Lou,

First, bravo for listening and responding to our comments.

Second, it might be useful to point out to your lawyers that anyone intelligent enough to use a computer can probably figure out how to game the system and get access to the blog.

Welcome to the blogosphere.

Take care,
Eric

Posted by: Eric Mattson at February 17, 2006 11:37 PM

Hmm...error 404 - ie - page doesn't exist - once I entered my details. Crap.

Posted by: Dennis Howlett at February 18, 2006 1:49 AM

Actually - this frigging sucks. It now only wants UK folk - Error 404 again. i don't care what Guinness says about legal responsibility - you can't drink a web page. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Better stil - fire tha lawyers.

Posted by: Dennis Howlett at February 18, 2006 1:55 AM

Pathetic. Have they forgotten what the first w in www means?

Posted by: John at February 18, 2006 2:05 AM

These people are brain dead. "Secondly and to be really honest we really didn’t think anyone from outside the UK would be interested in what we had to say. BUT, now that we have seen that there is interest from people outside of the UK we are going to talk to our legal team and work out if there’s a way to open the blog up so everyone can see it (at least people in countries where marketing alcohol is not prohibited). This may take us a little while so please bear with us – we’ll keep you posted. We've already told our colleagues around the world to get thinking about this."

Is their brand so stale they've forgotten about test marketing? Have they done no demographics on the people who live outside the UK - I'm in Spain and we have Irish bars for chrissakes.

Don't they understand that asking a person's age is probably the dumbest form of gatekeeping? It's almost in a par with US entry visa questions (are you a Nazi - sure. Been convicted of pandering - why not etc etc)

Are they planning on putting up hangover cures or v*i*a*g*r*a ads for those who reckon that 6 pints of Guinness is a good starter in the legover stakes? What do they do about TV avertising prior ot the 9pm watershed - "If you are less than 18, shut your eyes?" Noooooo.

I can see the next step - where you from - Spain - you get it in Spanish - like Apple does the same stupid thing. Haven't these companies heard about ex-pat living and the value of that community?

As I said before - FIRE THE LAWYERS.

Posted by: Dennis Howlett at February 18, 2006 2:08 AM

if alcohol = blogs about alcohol,
and laws = arbitrary decisions,
then it must therefore be true that i am a hooker with a bad crack addiction.

Posted by: drexel at February 18, 2006 4:25 AM

If you have to select either 'England', 'Scotland' or 'Wales' - what do you select if you were Irish?

Posted by: Spitshine at February 18, 2006 9:53 AM

Doh. Why did I have to tell it to remember me? Now I'll have to go look for that cookie and delete it so I can start over and lie. I mean I'm American and 22, so it's only a half lie, right?

It's kinda funny that the "Sorry" page redirects to Yahoo, but if you click on the link it goes to Google. I guess they were trying to be fair to each site. But now I'm just nit picking because I'm jealous that I can't view the blog.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2006 10:17 AM

Hugh,

I'm wondering how you know they "decided to do it themselves"?

I'd be surprised if they didn't get some outside help to build it, but I wonder who advised them on strategy?

From all these negative comments, it seems that going it alone could be even more disastrous for them. I'll admit that not all agencies get it (nor do all in-house teams or freelance consultants), but the right one would have anticipated this reaction and advised them appropriately.

Posted by: Niall Cook at February 18, 2006 5:16 PM

By the way, why does your blog not let me post a comment if I enter my Hill & Knowlton blog URL?

Posted by: Niall Cook at February 18, 2006 5:18 PM

Seems to block my email address too (ncook at hillandknowlton dot com)

Posted by: Niall Cook at February 18, 2006 5:20 PM

Don't know, Niall.. didn't blacklist you, as far as I know ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 18, 2006 5:58 PM

Phew. For a minute there I thought you had an anti-agency filter going ;-)

Posted by: Niall Cook at February 18, 2006 11:08 PM

Like your comment, Dennis Howlett. Besides, if the lawyers are so well paid and Guinness is rather big, then they should know that there are sufficiently similar legal systems in most of the common law jurisdictions. Australia and New Zealand, for instance, are similar to the UK when it comes to drinking laws. So much for global brands.
   I just fed in England, since I hold dual nationality and my passport hails from there. Figure it covers me.

Posted by: Jack Yan at February 20, 2006 12:36 PM