DOES THE luck of the Irish hold in Spain? A loyalty program launched there in 1999 by Irish brewer Guinness boosted consumption of its thick stout in a country where lighter beers such as lagers are favored.
The program – scheduled to run every St. Patrick’s Day and again during the summer, when stout consumption wanes – provides “passports” to Guinness drinkers. In “Brand Image and Loyalty/Frequency,” a session held at the Direct Marketing Association’s recent annual conference, Guinness product manager for Spain Maeve McNulty outlined the steps the importer took to lock in its audience.
The challenge, according to McNulty, was to balance advertising (which increases what she termed a brand’s “notoriety” but doesn’t provide much information about its products) with relationship marketing (which provides a lot of information to a targeted group of consumers without enhancing brand recognition). Her goal was to build a high-visibility program that would have an impact on these customers’ behavior.
Through a series of promotions, such as scratch-off cards, the firm has captured the names and addresses of roughly half its potential market. Of those, 26.5% were considered heavy drinkers of the brand, with roughly another third falling into the regular drinker category.
Before each promotion wave, the company selects 15,000 individuals from its file to receive the passports. Each time a stout drinker orders Guinness at a local pub – the program only applies to on-site consumption – servers stamp the passport. Stamped passports can be exchanged for prizes such as T-shirts.
Three months after its July 1999 effort, Guinness ran a series of telephone surveys. Two groups pulled from its database were asked how committed they were to the brand. The company observed that commitment levels were 9% higher among passport program participants.
The research also revealed that consumption rates, which doubled during the promotion, remained 60% higher once it ended. Many initially tagged as regular drinkers moved into the heavy category – and stayed there.
The program had an effect on how people perceived the brand as well. Participants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “It’s a brand with class, prestige and image.” There was a high level of agreement to these statements among those who took part in the passport promotion.