Like the Murphy’s…
This is something that cropped up whilst I was researching the last post about Guinness advertising.
In their British advertising Guinness have sedulously avoided any mention of Irishness. They don’t want the product being associated with the typical Irish fella slowly nursing his pint of the Black Stuff in the corner.
So they’ve tended to opt for sleek, stylish, cool advertising – none more so than the mysterious Man with a Guinness series featuring Rutger Hauer that ran from 1987 to 1994.
Guinness historically has dominated the British stout market. By the early 1990s they held something like 80 per cent of the market, Murphy’s around 10 per cent, and other stouts made up the other 10 per cent.
What’s interesting is the way Murphy’s went about advertising themselves in Britain at this time. They took the polar opposite approach to Guinness, stressed the Irishness of their product, and found it made for a successful campaign.
Murphy’s is brewed to be a lighter, less bitter drink than Guinness. It’s made in Cork rather than Guinness that’s famously made at St James’s Gate in Dublin.
They turned to Bartle Bogle Hegarty for their UK advertising, who found that whilst the Guinness ads were seen by consumers as edgy, fashionable and cool they were also regarded by some as pretentious, elitist and a bit aloof. What’s more, the Guinness ads had little connection with the actual product sold.
They took advantage of this and positioned Murphy’s as the relaxed, warm, easy-to-drink Irish stout, the unpretentious and down-to-earth alternative to the intellectualised Guinness brand.
Their TV advertising featured a chilled-out Irish character facing life’s disappointments with relaxed good-humour: ‘like the Murphy’s’, he’d say, ‘I’m not bitter’. He’s the physical embodiment of the product and the brand values, and we meet him in what are, to English eyes at least, classic Irish venues.
At a big wedding he laments having been the first boy in Cork to have kissed the bride, whilst a band plays The Wild Rover, that most famous of Irish drinking songs. But never mind, he’s not bitter.
And in the pub he’s lost on the horses thanks to O’Brien’s duff advice, but never mind because he’s won on the St Barnabus steeplechase in which the local priests dash to the church.
The Murphy’s ads ran from August 1993 to December 1995. In that time sales went up by nearly 200,000 barrels.
And the Murphy’s share of the stout market grew by the equivalent of £16.9 million.