Guinness Archive: unlocking the potential of an iconic global brand – Eibhlin Roche

Working as an archivist in a business, specifically in a brand environment.

Guinness Archive framework– digitisations, dissemination of information, types of users and their needs, accessibility to information, intellectual property, cataloguing prioritisation and copyright.

Background: was founded on New Year’s Eve 1759, by a young brewer signed a 9000 year lease. It is brewed in 50 countries worldwide and enjoyed in over 150 countries world wide. It uses its heritage to promote itself. Guinness has a well-resourced archive which is well used in marketing. Its the only corporate archive open to the public in Ireland. They have barley grains from Tutankhamen’s tomb.

The interior of the Storehouse is in the shape of a glass of Guinness and the facility attracts 1 million visitors each year. It is the fourth largest brand experience in the world. The Storehouse is a brand experience, not just a heritage experience.

Advertising digitisation project:

Involved materials back to 1929 and covered both print and multimedia materials. The items were digitised for mainly marketing, but a side benefit was archiving and preservation. The project can be queried and marketing teams have created new products from the resulting inspiration. $18 million pounds has been made from products created with inspiration from the archive – 30% of new products, began with an idea from the archive.

Genealogy digitisation project:

Guinness holds 20,000 employee records from the 1880s to 2000s. They are very rich in detail and help fill the gaps resulting from the loss of national records during the Irish Civil War. Often had generation of families working in the brewery. Due to the growth in interest in genealogy, they were receiving an increasing number of requests.”Brewery life – trace your Guinness roots”. In house terminals were made available to researchers to access and more recently the records have been made available online.

Data protection:

The records have some information that could have some personal information. They can not publish any records for people still living, or where they don’t know their time of death and they also do not publish rates of pay or medical information.


The Storehouse is no longer the only place for this data. The aim however, is that a visit to the centre is the start of a brand experience, not just a one off visit. At the Storehouse, they have a digital project where they have terminals to Facebook or Tweet about their experience of it. Each user gets a unique token with an RFID tag, which helps to enhance the user experience. The visitor provides their contact details and in return they receive a much richer experience. Guinness gets visitor data and the user gets a Guinness visitor only wallpaper which they can use as social currency with their friends – a value exchange.


25% of visitors attend the website before they come to the Storehouse and 10% book online. To help increase this latter, they provide additional information to help the visitor make the best choices about their visit. They also have a booking form for genealogical research access.

Guinness Stories:

To mark the 250th anniversary of Guinness and in conjunction with the Irish Government, they resourced residents who had lived on the doorstep of the brewery, to record their stories of their experiences with the brand. The users were able to record and edit it themselves, which considering their average age was in the 70s is quite remarkable.

Visitors to the website are encouraged to add their own stories which then complement the companies own records.

Audio guides are provided free of charge to visitors at the Storehouse, but with the growth of mobile technologies they have now launched a mobile app for iOS, Android and Blackberry in five languages. It provides users with pre-visit, during visit and post-visit content. It also allows them to share their own experiences. The likelihood that visitors will recommend the Storehouse to family and friends is high – making the app sticky helps that process, when visitors go home and share the app, particularly the 360 degree view of the Dublin skyline from the top floor gallery. In future, they will include an augmented reality layer on that view.

Smart Library:

Guinness has local marketing teams in regional areas besides the main team in Dublin. They have used a wide range of tools available for these marketing teams, regardless of their location. Smart Library is available to all marketers or those doing marketing projects on behalf of Guinness. They have uploaded key iconic marketing items and can download low resolution copies for reference. When a high resolution copy is required, they must request it from the archive – thereby ensuring branch protection. All records are well resource with metadata. All marketing campaigns are also uploaded to Smart Library, with metadata, copyright, permissions and more, to enable other marketing teams to reuse or remix the campaign for their own markets.

Guinness 250 Website:

The focus was year long and created a celebration of the past and of the future, built on the foundation of the past. It was aimed at supporting media requests for this important event. As there was no complete published history, the website became a default one, with a wide range of information on a great range of topics about the heritage and development of the organisation. As a result, they were able to digitise a great number of images for inclusion on it. It was password protected and media were given access on confirmation of their credentials. It included both low and high resolution images which could be re-used. Post analysis, they discovered that 2 billion requests had been fulfilled by the site.

Emarketing and Branding:

This form of marketing, is much more immediate and engaging and is requiring a shift in thinking by marketing teams. Dominoes streamed feedback from their customers on billboards in Times Square, both good and bad. They use Facebook to tell stories or did you know, and tell your stories, most often using imaging, to engage with fans of the page. Archive content is being used to spark these entries.

Have a clearly defined mission statement – you have a brand. What is your unique selling point and what are you doing to promote it?

With the decrease in available resources, you need to be project specific, outlining the items which add real value back to the organisation and/or to yours users, so that you can justify the required expenditure.

You need to show the value back to your organisation, using metrics.

Should not operate in silos, but seek collaboration with partners, especially in GLAM sector.

And most of all, have fun with it!