A brand dilemma for Guinness

What do you do when you find some user-generated content in which your brand has a starring role that’s being talked about in various places online – a viral effect – yet gives you a bit of a dilemma in how that content portrays your brand?

This is a dilemma facing drinks conglomerate Diageo in the form of this video on YouTube about Guinness (potentially NSFW depending on your workplace: think before clicking):

As reported in BrandRepublic, Diageo said:

Guinness is in no way associated with this video, and approached YouTube to have it removed. We are proud of our brands, and our commitment to responsible marketing, and this is not how we want our brand portrayed.

A bit of a pompous statement in my view, but a predictable traditional reaction.

Judging by many of the comments to the video on YouTube and in the BrandRepublic story, the video is how those watching it like to see the brand portrayed.

Hmm, that’s not to say you’d just accept that view. Some people will regard the video as offensive (at worst) or in poor taste (at best, and no pun intended) which may well influential their perceptions of the Guinness brand. Conceivably, it may affect their purchasing decisions about Guinness.

On the other hand, the video could positively influence that as well (as one tongue-in-cheek Twitterer commented).

So what do you do? Send take-down notices to YouTube, as Diageo has apparently done (and to no effect so far as the video is still there)? Maybe engage with commenters to try and put your point of view across (no evidence of that so far)? Reach out to the video maker (ditto)?

What would you do if you were Diageo’s brand manager for Guinness?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Michael Cooper

    Think I’d like a little more information about the creator of this advert, Deschatz. Could it be that he’s linked to AMV?

    Thinking about it, what better way could a brand famous for its iconic advertising try something a little risque? Put it out there and then deny all knowledge. The result is the same, if not better – incredible exposure for the brand online, further coverage across trade and consumer media with the denial news story and the union of fans who will keep it alive. Of course, Diageo can now judge the reaction from a far and decide if this is a direction they want to go in for future adverts. So what would I do as Diageo’s brand manager? Sit back and enjoy all my hard work!

    Or perhaps I should be giving credit to Deschatz. One fan on a mission.

    Either way, this advert won’t hurt the Guinness brand – an alcoholic drink for over 18s who are mature enough to not only drink responsibly but also enjoy content like this.

  2. Richard Millington

    I know a lot of people have suggested this is a double-stunt. But looking at the creator’s youtube profile, I really don’t think it is.

    The debate on BrandRepublic is fascinating though. My thoughts are that you really can’t stop this. You can send in the clowns (lawyers), but it will just push it more underground, and in this case, even shine a spotlight on it.

    Another point to note, is that is anyone who might be offended by this going to see it? Viral videos are passed on because the other user believes the recipient will want to see it. Will anyone pass on a video they think will offend the recipient?

  3. John T. Mims, APR

    I think that you have to do exactly as Diageo has done. Why? Because they want to create the controversy that will make this ad thrive. Do I really want the ad pulled? Absolutely not. I want YouTube to take down the original so that 50 more pop up in its place.

    I completely agree with Richard: Those that would be offended probably won’t see it. Of course, when they do see it, they will know that Diageo has condemned the ad. No harm, no foul.

    So Diageo gets tons of free advertising, not to mention the free ad that was created for them.

  4. neville

    Richard, I agree: you can’t really stop this. John, the end result for Diageo is free advertising, as you say.

    If I were brand manager, I would definitely reach out to the ad’s creator. He has talent. I’d want to see if we could do something together. Bring in a different perspective to my advertising.

    Great points, everyone, thanks.

  5. Rob Mortimer

    All Diaego need to do is not act rashly and say they don’t endorse it. They get the publicity, without being accused of producing nsfw-work.

    Interesting debate.

  6. Marshall Manson

    Interestingly, it’s five days later, and I’m just catching up on my RSS, so I only now tried to watch the video. YouTube informs that the video has been removed after a copyright challenge from Diageo. (Disclosure: Diageo is a former client of my firm’s.)

    That said, I agree with what’s been argued: No effort to remove the viideo from YouTube is going to be successful. And Neville, I like your idea of reaching out to the creator. This person is a fan, and he (or she) is talented. Why not get them on your team?

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  8. Andrea Vascellari

    Guinness Viral & Brand Management…

    Hat tip to Neville Hobson.
    Guinness issued a statement to Brand Republic which said: “Guinness is in no way associated with this video, and approached YouTube to have it removed. We are proud of our brands, and our commitment to responsible mark…

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