The Guinness + APP - My Damascus moment.
The Guinness+ App was launched late in 2013. Diageo like many of their marketing efforts made a bit of a mess in the implementation. The intention was solid but the action was poorly executed.
It wasn't all Diageo's fault - in fact the fault lay mostly with each outlets inability to push a "brilliant" promotion.
When I first heard of the App and the planned promotion, I liked it. On the morning when it was launched, when I physically saw how the Guinness APP actually worked, I fucking loved it!
I called one of our key staff, Stephen Vallier. I told him that he was to get as many customers in the pub to download the APP and to give out as many of the permitted pints as possible. I told him that the APP reported in real time how many pints were redeemed in each outlet and displayed this to the world! For a guy like Stephane Vallier this was enough motivation. Within an hour he had ads on the screens and had trained all staff in the downloading process. My team were as motivated as the Wells Fargo staff opening up dodgy accounts but there was nothing sinister about giving our free pints of the black stuff!
This was manna from heaven for me. Here was a respected APP from a huge company and we was going to be able to show the world just how busy we were on the quiet nights that the APP was giving out free pints. That we were the busiest "pound for pound" pub in the country.
Each night our staff led by the "Always Be Closing" Stephane, would drag people to the best WiFi spots and force the app onto the customers phones. Most customers could not believe the effort we went to give away a free pint and they loved us for it. And we loved them because each night we could check the stats and every night we were winning our imaginary race to the top of Guinness mountain.
Each night I would pan around the map of Dublin, Cork and Galway and rate ourselves against all other pubs who had the same APP and promotion from Guinness/Diageo. I could not believe that not one single pub was even close to 20% of our numbers. Why was this? How could an industry which had had such a terrible 7 year period now be so poor at selling.
The App was changed in 2014 so that the pints redeemed were no longer shown to everyone on the map. This was contradictory to the original Diageo marketing plan which was to show customers where the "craic" was happening. I felt sorry for Diageo because the intention was solid. Could it be that people are just not drinking Guinness or that Guinness drinkers could not use smart phones. Neither of these were the truth.
The truth lay in one of my golden rules. A mediocre product with brilliant distribution will almost always outsell a brilliant product with mediocre distribution. The Guinness+ App was brilliant but it failed because the weakest link was the outlet. It reminded me of another brilliant product in early 90s Murphys Pint Bottle Draught Stout which was launched with an amazing campaign but failed due to each outlets inability to store enough of the bottles cold. Why do you think we add ice to our pints of bottled Bulmers?
The Guinness+ App was overall a success but during that spell where I was able to see how poorly other outlets performed was my Damascus moment. From that moment on I decided that waiting for promotions from breweries was a waste of time. Their promotions were aimed at the lowest common denominator. It was time to do it for ourselves!