Diageo gaffe threatens to scupper Guinness's reputation
GUINNESS has long been synonymous with two things: marketing and philanthropy. Last week, the brewer's parent showed it is losing its touch when it comes to marketing but still retains some philanthropic instincts.
Diageo got almost no credit when it gave away 10 acres of land inside Kilkenny city. The donation came as Diageo prepares to close the 300-year-old Smithwicks Brewery and is a noble gesture that could give Kilkenny a boost in the years ahead.
Unfortunately for Diageo, the donation was overshadowed by a bizarre row at an awards ceremony in Scotland. Diageo executives made a complete fool of their company by threatening at the last moment to pull its sponsorship of the ceremony if an independent brewer called BrewDog was given a prize. The organisers caved in and another brewery was given the trophy -- with BrewDog's name already engraved on it.
The next morning, Diageo apologised, grudgingly, the awards organisers grovelled and the story made its way around the world. BrewDog, a tech-savvy micro-brewery with a way with words, dismissed its much larger rival as a company with "no soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a warthog". What warthogs think of this slur is not recorded.
The sorry storm in a beer bottle is a reminder that companies can spend centuries building up a solid reputation and then come close to losing it all in a few minutes.