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Join the Guinness Party of Canada

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Here's how we Created a Thriving Online Community before Facebook.

The Guinness Party of Canada was designed to unite the brand’s marketing efforts to create an effective Online CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database of Guinness adorers; and to dramatically increase Canadian brand awareness, acceptance, and sales beyond the traditional three week lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day.

Background

Our innovative, national, virtual-meets-real world, two year program combined digital, Social PR, experiential, promo, and traditional TV and Radio advertising. It delivered a large and active community of brand adorers, and record-breaking sales. It won IPRA (International Public Relations Association) Golden World Awards for Most Creative and Best Marketing Programs in the World. Most importantly, Guinness Canada was awarded The Diageo Golden Harp for greatest sales increase in the world!

The Challenge

Make Guinness a Canadian Favourite Year Round

Guinness is an iconic beer brand, loved the world over. Yet, sales in Canada traditionally peaked in the three week lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day. The brand lacked mainstream relevance, interest and sales beyond the March time frame. To break this pattern, the global marketing team challenged Canada to issue a call to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday. This would be no small feat, especially since a Canadian beer brand had campaigned for an extra-long weekend the summer before.

The Solution

Make St. Patrick’s Day a National Holiday

Our research unveiled an opportunity to leverage the province of Newfoundland and it's existing St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Our breakthrough idea was to found our own political party, the Guinness Party of Canada, with the call to, “Make St. Patricks Day a National Holiday. Newfoundland gets it, so should the rest of us!”

To begin, we launched a Guinness Party of Canada website where Canadians could join the party, fill out a survey (to gather valuable consumer research and facilitate future communication), enter a personal profile, and most importantly, log their support to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.

It was only upon completion of these tasks that they got to download their very own official Guinness Party of Canada Membership Card, for free.

We launched our new grassroots movement in January to great fanfare and massive media coverage. Although our social movement took flight long before the advent of Facebook, more than 90,000 Canadians joined the Party and supported our call to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday in less than three months. Guinness sales soared months before St. Patrick’s Day, and a national, database of adorers was born.

Taking It to the Streets

To make our virtual party real we deployed an army of picketing pints to hit the streets and bars across Canada. Canadians signed up for the Party on the spot, and our national movement gained momentum. We next took our cause to an entirely new level, and scored major political points when Pat O’Brien, a Liberal Party Member of Parliament, helped take our message directly to his colleagues. The Honourable Member, of proud Irish origin himself, volunteered to host a Guinness Party for parliamentarians on Parliament Hill, in the Senate offices. It was attended by all four political parties and launched our platform, “Make St. Patrick’s Day a National Holiday. Newfoundland gets it, so should the rest of us!” Mr. O’Brien then made history introducing his own Private Member’s Bill to make St. Patrick’s Day a National Holiday in Parliament! His motion is noted in the official Government of Canada records, and is now part of Canadian history.

Elect a Minister of Good Times

We switched things up in Year Two when the Guinness Party of Canada launched a nation-wide search for Canada’s first-ever Minister of Good Times. Our search successfully built on momentum and media interest generated in Year One, grew our Guinness community, and drove beer sales even higher. Our interactive, online and on-premise cross-Canada search saw hundreds of Canadians throw their hats in the ring to become Canada’s Minister of Good Times. To win the job, they had to write and upload their platform at guinnessvote.ca. Three finalists were selected to present their platform in person before a high profile judging panel at a packed-out Montreal media event on St. Patrick’s Day 2004. The winner’s reward? Bragging rights and a free trip to Montreal. In total, more than 135,000 Canadians became card-carrying members of the Guinness Party of Canada, and supported our call to make St. Patrick’s Day a National Holiday.

The Result

135K+

GPOC Members

46%

Sales Increase between April and June

In two short years, long before Facebook, the Guinness Party of Canada built massive brand awareness, loyalty, sales, and:

  • Year Two sales increased 12% year-over-year, which far exceeds beer industry benchmarks (average 2-3% at best)
  • Guinness Canada won Diageo’s Golden Harp Award for greatest Guinness sales increase in the world
  • The Guinness Party of Canada was named a Diageo Global Best Practice, and our concept was adapted for several markets around the world, including the United States

Sadly, The Honourable Pat O’Brien’s Private Member’s Bill died when the Liberal Party was defeated in the next election, but the spirit we spread across the country remains strong to this day. People still proudly proffer their membership cards and wear Guinness Party of Canada T-shirts and paraphernalia on St. Patrick’s Day; and the CRM program lives on.

Several provinces have since introduced days off in and around the March time frame, to give Canadians a much-needed break. We are SO proud these new holidays were inspired by the community we created, and our call to make St. Patrick’s a National Holiday!

Cheers and Sláinte!

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