Oliver Loomes introduced us to Bud Ice Cold, Harp Ice Cold, Guinness Mid-Strength and Guinness Black Lager.
He also ushered in a range of Ready-To-Serve cocktails: the Smirnoff Flavours range, Mojito and Cosmpolitan, pre-mixed Smirnoff & Coke, Captain & Coke and Gordons & Tonic in cans.
Innovation has played a key part in Oliver Loome’s career to date. Now, as Global Brand Director for Guinness, he can utilise his former role as Diageo Ireland’s Marketing & Innovation Director. It gained him considerable experience in the marketing and positioning of Guinness, spirits and lagers when he managed the total island of Ireland brand portfolio, “… all the elements at Diageo Ireland, really,” he tells me.
So he knows that the pub is right at the heart of the Guinness brand, critical and essential to successs.
“We’ve been working in partnership with our customers to drive footfall into pubs,” he says, “In fact Arthur’s Day came out of a brief to build the equity of the Guinness brand and to make the pub an exciting place and have a day to go and toast Arthur.”
Global Guinness sales now form part of his brief.
Guinness is one of three brands in the Diageo portfolio with sales of over £1 billion. It accounts for over 12 per cent of total Diageo sales and helps make beer the second largest category for Diageo after brown spirits.
Oliver now aspires to “accelerate” Guinness’s impact out there.
“This can be done in a number of ways – by accelerating the brand’s footprint geographically – there are still markets out there where Guinness is not present” he reminds me, “or at least not a significant player in that beer market yet.”
Then there’s Guinness’s unique taste which, far from being a disadvantage to new palates, he regards as a bonus in a world of largely homogenous mainstream tastes.
“Guinness looks and tastes different — and that’s it’s strong point,” he explains, preferring to think of the brand as a ‘lovemark’ rather than simply a brand.
Now not that many brands have this ‘lovemark’ so how does Guinness qualify?
“What’s most associated with Ireland?”
Er, that would be Guinness then, the lovemark….
“Guinness, right! And people won’t just buy the brand, they’ll wear the tee-shirt, like Harley Davidson or Coca-Cola.
“If you can get to the point where consumers love what the brand stands for and love its distinctivity, they’ll add to growth.
“I fully intend to continue accelerating the brand’s journey as an iconic distinctive brand that stands out from the crowd.
“Guinness is known for its famous TV advertising. I want to shift that reputation from TV only to ‘Guinness is famous for brilliant marketing’. I would highlight Arthur’s Day as an example of what I mean – that wasn’t about a TV ad, although TV was part of that campaign; it’s a total campaign, a platform to engage consumers, inviting them to participate with the brand, leveraging multi media, not just traditional media but also using mobile, social media like Facebook, youtube etc – all with the brand at the very heart of the idea – a toast to Arthur.”
Draught accounts for some 55 per cent of Guiness sales globally (largely Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe) but there’s also draught availability in the US and Canada as well as in Japan and Korea.
“Africa is pretty much all about Foreign Extra Stout but the Asia-Pacific region sells a reasonable amount of draught too, as does Australia, New Zealand and China.”
With all this “global acceleration” it’s good to know that the Irish on-trade consumer has played a part.
“Arthur’s Day has become a global success. We took a lot of the learnings from Arthur’s Day in Ireland and expanded this into other markets around the world.”
Still in innovative mood, Oliver fully intends broadening out Mid-Strength Guinness too.
But don’t the marketing bods appear somewhat tardy in making this nationally available?
“Mid Strength is something that we’re quietly excited about. But it’s simply not one of those things that goes from zero to being in 10,000 outlets overnight. We’re taking a nurturuing view to Mid and learing more about the product as we go.”
However, if pubs want to have it installed, then that can be arranged, he says.
“GMS is now in 600 outlets in both NI and ROI,” he answers, “Originally distributed through GAA and Golf clubs, it can now be found in other sports clubs across the country with distribution in more traditional pubs and bars occurring over the coming months.
“For the consumer it’s a big change from what they’re used to. It’s only 2.8 per cent ABV and Diageo is aware that this transition needs to be taken carefully.
“We’re trying to work along the same timeline as the consumer here.
“Equally, if we move too slowly, then we’d be undercapitalising on the sales opportunity out there. We intend to get it right for the long term.
“It’s about sustainabilitiy, not treating it as a short-term thing.”
Mid has a significant role to play for footfall in pubs as customers come to appreciate the role that it can play.
“As consumer tastes change, so too can their drinking a pint during the week,” he adds.
Oliver continues to explore the power of innovation and how that can work with the Guinness brand.
“Black Lager is very exciting and has been on test in NI and the US,” he exlains, “We’re starting to see some positive results from these tests.
“We’re continuing to invest in breakthrough innovation and if we crack this it could be a huge opportunity for the brand globally.
“Beer globally is in growth – premium beer is certainly growing – so for me it’s about an acceleration of an existing good trend and getting really ambitious about what we can do with the brand.
“We hope to double the size of the brand over the next four or five years in terms of sales.”
Quite an aspiration, perhaps, but Oliver remains optimistic.
All-in-all, he believes that Guinness has begun enjoying great growth already, expanding its global footprint, building strong marketing programs which build strong global equity.
“It’s about accelerating that, moving the brand onto the next stage.”
And what stage what that be?
"To build it to that ‘lovemark’ status globally," he responds, "That’s what I see as the opportunity."
And off he goes, chasing that lovemark cachet wherever Guinness is sold….