As the famous advertisements used to say, ‘Guinness is good for you’. Whilst the claim, dating from a British advertisement from 1929 was a dubious one – modern anecdotes usually point to a Pint of Guinness containing about as much fat as a Roast Dinner – it was the opening shot of the brand’s classic advertisement period.
Advertisements for Guinness for the 1930s and 40s featured a set of zoo animals – most famous amongst them was the Pelican – drawn by advertising legend John Gilroy. Played out in print and cartoons, the typical advertisement involved the Guinness addicted animals cheating zoo-keepers out of their pints. The campaign is still fondly remembered, though the use of cartoon animals in adult drinks marketting is now prohibited. The advertising of this period directly resulted in much of the Guinness brand’s international success. But above Gilroy’s animal high-jinx, Guinness is associated with a logo with significantly greater staying power as a cultural and national symbol: the Guinness harp.
The first Guinness harp was printed onto the oval label of a bottle of Guinness in 1862. It wasn’t registered as a trademark until 1876, almost 125 years after the construction of the St. James’s Gate Brewery. Probably designed after the 14th Century Trinity College Harp (also known as Brian Boru’s Harp), arguably one of the few business logos you’d be able to name with a real cultural connection to its homeland. As a Guinness logo, the harp faces right, whereas when used as a national symbol for Ireland – on the country’s coat of arms and also on the reverse of the 1 Euro coin – it faces left, almost as if Guinness were having some inebriating effect on the instrument!
In a modern context, Guinness remains well-known for its exciting and innovative advertising campaigns. But as a significant, Irish company logos, the Guinness harp links the product to its nation, regardless of whether it’s good for you or now..