In 2015, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was voted the No. 1 tourist attraction in all of Europe at the World Travel Awards—winning over other popular attractions such as Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower.
It’s located at the Guinness Brewery at St. James’s Gate (Irish: Grúdlann Gheata Naomh Séamuis), which was founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness. The iconic Irish brand is today owned by Diageo, formed by the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan in 1997.
Guinness brand manager Colette Coughlan, who leads its advertising, brand and PR campaigns, positions the Guinness Storehouse as a “must-see” attraction with both tourists visiting Ireland as well as the Irish population.
brandchannel had the opportunity to speak with Coughlan about marketing the “Home of Guinness” as both a brand experience and as a leading global tourist destination.
brandchannel: How do you define the Guinness brand—and how has it changed over the past five years?
Colette Coughlan: Guinness is an iconic brand. We brew beer that can be enjoyed by everyone. The depth and flavour of Guinness is extraordinary. Our beers are very distinctive with a unique brewing process and a noted two-pour serve for our Guinness Draught. At its core, Guinness is all about beer and people and igniting great conversations. It’s a world famous brand sold in 150 countries and brewed in 40 countries.
The past five years have seen a surge in creative brewing and radical new beer styles. Currently the beer category is exciting, aspirational and appeals to both genders. It’s an exciting time with a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, which is an integral part of the Guinness DNA and has always been at our heart, starting with our founder, Arthur Guinness.
For the first time in our history, we’ve opened the doors to our 100-year-old pilot brewery, the hub of our experimental brewing, called The Open Gate Brewery. Here we are introducing the world to our brewers in their home of experimentation and innovation. The Open Gate Brewery is the driver behind beer experimentation, craftsmanship, innovation and creativity. It’s a global destination for beer enthusiasts who are eager to discover and experience a deeper connection to beer innovation, in a truly authentic environment.
bc: How do you bring the Guinness brand’s history, DNA and values to life and make them relevant and interesting to people today?
Coughlan: The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s number one visitor attraction and positioned in the market as the “Home of Guinness.” Everything we do here is unique and authentic to the Guinness brand. We are the physical manifestation of the brand and bring the brand values of power, goodness and communion to life through an engaging and immersive experience. When we opened in 2000 we welcomed 500,000 visitors through our doors and we have seen those numbers grow to 1.6 million annually.
When visitors enter the seven-story building, they can follow the unique step-by-step brewing process and get an insight into Arthur Guinness himself. They can learn how to pour the perfect pint, explore the comprehensive Guinness Archives and delve into the records and advertising from 1759 through the present. And, of course, they can enjoy the best views of Dublin city from our Gravity bar, which boast 360-degree panoramic views of the city below.
Quality is part of our DNA. It’s hugely important to us in everything we do from the Guinness beers to our people, the experience, customer service and food. Arthur Guinness believed in the quality of his beer so strongly that he had the amazing vision to sign a 9,000-year lease at St. James’s Gate. We live this legacy every day. We also put great effort in our recruitment process, our training, culture and values. Our people are passionate about every visitor by providing the warm Irish welcome and ensuring visitors feel at home getting to know the Guinness brand.
bc: How do you attract your target audience and then extend the experience after they’ve visited the Guinness Storehouse?
Coughlan: While we are certainly a brand attraction, we are also a tourist attraction and pay close attention to consumer trends in the tourism industry and target key markets based on projected growth. We look closely at our visitor figures and look for growth areas. We invest in advertising, social media, PR and media relations to attract visitors each year.
For a number of years now, our marketing has been focused in the US, UK, Canada and Europe, and we have seen growth in these markets this year. While the brand roots are in Dublin, Guinness is truly a global brand. We are rooted in beer and culture around the world. We are constantly responding to consumers all the time with new beers such as Guinness Africa Special and Rye Pale Ale in the US.
Who said you can’t hang a Guinness off a tree? Pick up your Christmas gifts at the Home of Guinness Flagship Store. pic.twitter.com/DP8LD9iiSw
— GUINNESS STOREHOUSE (@homeofguinness) December 5, 2016
bc: What role do mobile, social and digital platforms play in creating an engaging brand experience at the Guinness Storehouse?
Coughlan: Our digital presence is very important to the success of the brand. Our visitors connect through social media to share their experiences at the Guinness Storehouse. In fact, the most Facebook check-ins in Ireland in 2015 happened at the Guinness Storehouse. Our visitors like sharing their emotions and their experience as they are actually going around the attraction.
Our brand story hasn’t had to change through the years, which makes us truly authentic. What has changed is how visitors share their experience online. Part of our success is our commitment to constantly innovate to deliver an excellent visitor experience.
Last year we were the first tourism business to use leap motion technology as a way of bringing visitor stories online. We built a large Instagram wall on the fourth floor designed to encourage, collate and display user-generated content using the hashtag #StorehouseStory or @homeofguinness. Visitors can navigate the gallery of images to see their own photo.
Did you know…the perfect pint wasn’t the only thing that required skill and craft in the brewery? pic.twitter.com/9Y2S7pXKVW
— GUINNESS STOREHOUSE (@homeofguinness) September 28, 2016
bc: Looking forward, do you see real-time experiences playing a large part of building your brand story?
Coughlan: The entire tour is interactive and multi-sensorial from touching the ingredients, to smelling and tasting the beer. The most interactive and hands-on part of the tour is without doubt, our Guinness Academy. This is a bespoke Guinness bar where our visitors learn to pour their own pint of Guinness. For many visitors, learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness is a unique experience and something that connects them physically and emotionally with the brand.
The Guinness Storehouse as a real-time experience plays a key role in the Guinness brand story. In the era of multimedia technology people are craving real and authentic experiences where they can connect with friends in a meaningful way. At the Guinness Storehouse, we provide a space where visitors can enjoy the beer, converse with friends and create lovely memories.