Friday, March 26, 2010

branding Guinness

Today, I invite you to visit the blog of my sister Katja, to enjoy the pictures she took while in Ireland last year. Her short photo essay captures a sense of place beyond typical tourist shots that strip context. We all know those photos; we've probably taken some ourselves. We go somewhere and try to capture the amazing breadth of spirit and place in which we are enveloped, but later when we share our photo with others, very little of the spirit of place transfers. Sometimes, however, magic happens. This magic is in my sister's photos of Ireland, and I think you will agree.

I thought that her starting her post with the runaway Guinness truck sets a humorous introduction! Of course, we're in the rain that makes Ireland so emerald. Of course, we are traveling in a vehicle, looking out of glass (3x--once through the windshield, second through the camera lens, third through our computer screens--and maybe even fourth if you are wearing glasses or other lenses). Since the invention of trains, the way we see as we journey across a landscape changed, as fast moving vehicles allow scanning of the environment in a way that was not previously part of how we see. It allows consuming the landscape as if outside of it.

The photo of the Guinness truck disappearing into the tunnel of trees that arch over some of the roads of rural Ireland really gave me a chuckle. First, it captures some of the quirky humour that the Irish are so famous for, and second, it calls up the idea of chasing the dream at the bottom of that tall glass of Guinness. For sure, what it promises is always illusive. When I was in Belfast a few years back, when I went out early Saturday morning to walk, I could not believe the number of empty alcohol bottles littered all over the sidewalks. It was like something quite wild had happened at night that I had no inkling of. I only saw the leftovers.

And, of course, my sister's photo captures the embeddedness of capitalism in landscape. There is no escape from it, even while in our tourist jaunts we seek some 'natural' place somehow untouched by the consumer culture we leave behind. The success of branding. The Guinness brand name has been imprinted in our minds as Ireland. Who has not visited Ireland, gone to a pub, and ordered a Guinness for an "authentic experience"? Seriously. If there is someone who has visited Ireland and not gone to a pub, I think that would be rare. Why do we equate jovial drinking in cosy places with Ireland? The Guinness corporation has definitely been incredibly successful at branding an experience, not just a beer; of making us believe in the promise of the swirling power and living magic of entering Ireland through drinking their beer.

Sorry, the link above does not go to the Guinness site because of age restrictions. Please visit


northshorewoman said...

I have been trying to hyperlink to the Guiness website, but it keeps returning to my site, most likely because you have to first type in your birthdate to get in. So, to find their branding campaign, visit

Merche Pallarés said...

I went to Katja's link and, true, I found her pictures amazing and VERY depictive of Ireland. That Guinness truck... Too much! Hugs, M.
P.S. I read your previous post on the Palestinian garments. It's too bad I don't have time to go to all your, I'm sure, very interesting links! Once I retire in May, I think I will calmly come back and read them all.

Ari said...

Maybe that Guinness truck is transporting pilsner to the local Mäki-shop in Ireland. Of course you and Katja must have much nostalgy in your minds because of merchant backgrounds in earlier generations.

northshorewoman said...

hello Merche, you will have more stories to write once you retire!

Ari, yes, that merchant history is part of our paternal side, although we did not grow up with it here in Canada. The culture of beer, of course, travelled across the ocean, so that we are familiar with.