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Marketing nirvana: has Rob Morrison found the perfect brand?


Marketing nirvana: has Rob Morrison found the perfect brand?


Some brands we admire, some we aspire to, some we even envy, but Rob Morrison argues there’s one perfect brand standing head and shoulders above all others.

I think if I asked every reader of Marketing to name the perfect brand, I reckon there would be a pretty short list of different answers. Maybe 30.

Think about it. Which one would you choose? An established player like Coke or Disney? Something wearable like Nike or Adidas? A tech-based name like Apple or Google? An upstart like Uber or Airbnb?

Well, ladies and gents, there’s one name that should be on the top of every single list. Envied above all others.

Let me explain.

I was recently on holiday in Europe and I stumbled across what brand nirvana really looks like. See if you can guess the brand. I’ll give you four hints (no cheating by jumping ahead to the answer).

Hint one: This brand is so desirable it has people of all ages, genders and nationalities buying and wearing its merchandise. Let me just make that crystal clear. Not give-aways. People are reaching into their own pockets and buying everything from shirts and hats to socks and chocolates so they can be brand ambassadors.

Hint two: This brand took a disused factory building and turned it into a major tourist attraction. It doesn’t have to drag people reluctantly around the factory. It sells tickets and people flock to buy them.

Hint three: This brand brilliantly took a desperately negative trait of its product and made it into a core strength. It literally takes up to 10 times longer to buy their product than it does to buy competitor product. In an age of time-poverty and instant gratification, that’s remarkable.

Hint four: This brand has advertising credentials that rival the best of all time – including an endless string of Cannes Lions, the world’s longest running sales promotion, and one of the earliest uses what we now call ‘content’.

Guessed yet? Don’t worry, until two weeks ago I’d have missed it too.

The brand is Guinness.

Yes, its merchandise is in high demand – my favourite was the fluffy slippers shaped like pint glasses.

Its factory tour is the top tourist attraction in Ireland – over 1.5 million visited last year. Yes, its product is available at every bar in Ireland, but you have to wait for it every time – 119.5 seconds to be precise. Finally, yes, ‘Evolution’ won almost every award possible – including the Film Grand Prix at Cannes.

So how did it get there? And what lessons are there for the rest of us? Luckily, I was able to chat to a very senior marketer for Diageo Europe about this very subject.

Firstly, Guinness knows where its gold is buried. The making of the product itself has been fiercely defended. To the point where it really hasn’t changed since Arthur Guinness himself started brewing – four ingredients, nothing wasted. It didn’t experiment with changing the formula the way Coke did. It resisted the temptation to go ‘new and improved’ to follow the whims of the market.

It’s been consistent where it counts – in the experience the customer has with the product.

Secondly, it has been incredibly protective of the brand. Every tourist shop in Dublin features masses of Guinness branded merchandise – but none of it is cheap, tacky crap. The quality of everything has been jealously defended. Even the fluffy slippers.

Finally, it has been innovative where it has permission – particularly in its communications. My favourite story here is a Guinness-ran sales promotion in 1959 which continues to this day.

The company dropped 50,000 sealed bottles into the Atlantic Ocean. The note enclosed promised a limited-edition label for the beachcomber who finds it. A promise that’s still being fulfilled. And the invention of ‘content’ I mentioned earlier? The incomparable David Ogilvy wrote a press ad full of useful content, not brand bragging, under the headline ‘Guinness guide to oysters’. It was 1950.

The perfect brand formula

  • Make the customer experience of your product consistent,
  • fiercely defend the quality of every single brand touch, and
  • innovate in your communications from the very beginning.


Sounds simple, doesn’t it? We all know it’s not. But at least now, when someone asks me “What’s your favourite brand?” I know the answer: “Mine’s a pint of black.”


Further reading

Image copyright: kotenko / 123RF Stock Photo




Rob Morrison

Rob Morrison is acting ECD at Ogilvy Brisbane.

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