Guinness: straplines, strength and goodness

THERE’S NO DOUBT that when it comes to advertising, Guinness do it right. When I say do it right, I mean nailing it, having just the right amount of emotional impact to make lasting memories – for example, whilst recently at the Guinness Storehouse, I watched the Sapeurs advert (at end of this post) that was shown on a massive 180 degree screen – the storytelling and the entire advert not only had me mesmerised, but left me with goosebumps. It’s an advert I won’t forget. Nailed without any ifs, buts or what ifs.

Whilst the modern Guinness adverts takes us on unforgettable journeys, in this post, I’m going to keep it retro by revisiting two memorable straplines (and the ads that went with them) that began in the 1930s.

Guinness for Strength

Featuring a fit and healthy looking man effortlessly lifting a girder with the look of this is a stroll through the countryside. There’s no sign of strain, back-bending or beads of sweat. I even took a closer look to see if there was an empty can of spinach and a skinny lady called Olive nearby, but there wasn’t. Guinness and Guinness alone was responsible for his incredible strength.

In another ad, there’s a man pulling a horse in a cart… yes, the horse is taking it easy whilst the man pulls it effortlessly along. All credit goes to downing a Guinness… no Guinness, no strength.

These ads are fun, and more importantly, helped me understand why I was told to drink Guinness during my early 20s. My mum insisted that I drank Guinness because I was too skinny. I’ve only just found out that, up until the 1950s, after giving birth, Irish mothers were given Guinness to boost their levels of iron. Doctors also thought Guinness had medicinal properties that were good for you. My mum didn’t want a son who looked like a weed, but like the man carrying that girder.

My Goodness My Guinness

Featuring a toucan with the slogan My Goodness My Guinness. In one particular ad (see slideshow at end of this post), based on the amount of Guinness bottles the toucan is carrying in its mouth, we can come to a two possible assumptions:

Assumption #1: Toucan is a regular Guinness drinker, simple as that.

Assumption #2: Toucan runs an alcohol delivery type service (a bit like Deliveroo) and is busy getting the good stuff out to thirsty Guinness drinkers.

Advertising featuring the toucan began is 1935, but originally the toucan was meant to be a pelican. The change from a pelican to a toucan happened because of the words of poet Dorothy L. Sayers:

If he can say you can, Guinness is Good for You, How grand to be a Toucan, Just think what Toucan can do.

Did they or didn’t they?

Living in an age where advertising more regulated, Guinness cannot depict or make the statements for strength or good for you. I do wonder, during the time of the cartoon ads, how literally people took on board some of the straplines: before a hard day’s work, did they have a couple slices of toast, a boiled egg and a bottle of Guinness? And what about at lunchtime, was it a case of a bread, cheese, an apple, a bottle of Guinness then back to operating a dangerous piece of machinery wearing hardly any PPE?

I do hope that at the time of these ads, they were seen as just fun with a teeny-weeny piece of seriousness in the good for you and for strength statements.

These retro cartoon ads were fabulous, and there’s a little bit of me that want them to return. In addition to the straplines good for you, for strength, my goodness my Guinness, I’d like to suggest Guinness for non conversationalists, featuring a group of people deep in concentration on their mobile phones, only moving their heads to take a gulp of Guinness. I’m not a marketeer, but for now, my work is done. A message for the Guinness marketing department… Twitter is the best place to get in contact with me.


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