BRANDING

Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day: Top 5 Irish Brands

Luck of the Irish? Think again. It took a lot of hard work to build these brands to their iconic places in consumer’s minds.
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout.
Baileys Irish Cream is an Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur.

Baileys Irish Cream is an Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur.

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Feeling Irish this week? Remember to wear green? Well, just for fun I thought I would send out a list of the Top 5 globally recognized Irish brands.

1. Baileys Irish Cream

Baileys Irish Cream is an Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur originally made by Gilbeys of Ireland and presently owned by Diageo.

Popularly used in Irish Coffees and other mixed drinks, Baileys was created by Gilbeys as it searched for a globally marketable product. The process of creating this brand, and the underlying cream, began in 1971. It would take four years to perfect and bring to market but in 1974 the brand was finally launched. Despite attributions to an Andrew Bailey of the R.A. Bailey Company, no such person actually existed. The choice of the name Bailey was based purely on branding and branding alone.

2. Guinness

Guinness is a popular dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is based on the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. A distinctive feature is the burnt flavor which is derived from the use of roasted barley. For many years a portion of the drink was aged to give a sharp lactic flavor, although Guinness has refused to confirm whether this still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption over recent years, is the best-selling alcoholic drink of all time in Ireland.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 in Leixlip, then at the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. On December 31st he signed “up to” a 9,000 year lease for an unused brewery. Ten years later on May 19, 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have originated the stout style of beer. However the first use of the word stout in relation to beer was in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born. Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s.

3. Jameson Irish Whiskey

Jameson is a single-distillery Irish whiskey. The brand is today owned by the French beverage conglomerate Pernod Ricard. Jameson is similar in its adherence to the single distillery principle to the single malt tradition, but Jameson combines malted barley with unmalted or "green" barley. The most famous component within Jameson is the legendary "Pure Pot Still" component unique to Irish whiskey distilling tradition.

When John Jameson, a Scottish-born businessman, acquired the Bow Street Distillery in 1780, it was producing about 30,000 gallons annually. By the turn of the century, it was the second largest producer in Ireland and one of the largest in the world, producing 1,000,000 gallons annually. Dublin, at the time, was the epicenter of world whiskey production. It was the second most popular spirit in the world after rum, and internationally Jameson had, by 1805, become the world's No. 1 whiskey. Today, Jameson is the third largest Single Distillery Whiskey in the world.

Historical events, for a time, set the company back. The temperance movement in Ireland had an enormous impact domestically. Internationally, the Irish war of Independence and subsequent trade war with the British denied Jameson the export markets of the Commonwealth. Shortly thereafter, the introduction of prohibition in the United States imposed further burdens on the export of the now iconic whiskey.

The introduction of basic grain whiskey production using column stills by the Scottish blenders in the mid 1800s enabled them to produce vast amounts of almost neutral flavored components for blending with some malt whiskey. This enabled them to create low cost blends that the Irish, still using the original Pure Pot Still technique could not compete with. The differing opinion of what a true whiskey consisted of culminated in a legal inquiry in 1908. It was a huge turning point in the history of whiskey.

The Scottish blenders won the case and the blend became recognized in law as being whiskey. The Irish, in general, and Jameson, in particular, stubbornly continued with the traditional Pure Pot Still production process for many years and, to this day, a large proportion of Jameson is still composed of Pure Pot Still component. Jameson also produces a special limited edition Pure Pot Still Whiskey, Redbreast, to celebrate the ancient Irish whiskey making craft.

In 1966, John Jameson joined forces with their rivals the Cork Distillers company and John Powers to form the Irish Distillers Group. The new Midleton distillery built by Irish Distillers now produces most of the Irish whiskey sold in Ireland. The new facility adjoins the old one, which is now a tourist attraction.

Interestingly, the bar that sells the most Jameson whiskey annually is located in Minneapolis (USA). In 2008, the Local Irish Pub in Minneapolis sold 671 cases of Jameson, 22 bottles a day.

4. Harp Lager

Harp Lager (Harp Irish Lager since 1997) is a pale lager brand owned by Diageo. Harp Lager was first produced in 1960 by The Great Northern Brewery, Dundalk, as a bottled beer, in response to the trend among drinkers in Britain and Ireland towards continental lager. By 1961, it was brewed under an alliance of the brewing companies, Courage, Barclay & Simonds, Scottish & Newcastle, Bass, Mitchells & Butlers and Guinness. These companies grouped together under the name of the Harp Lager Ltd. consortium. Coming 1964, it was being sold on draught and quickly led in its category for sales. Members of the Harp consortium changed over the years, with Courage and Scottish & Newcastle leaving in 1979, but becoming franchisees.

Dr. Herman Muendar, a distinguished German "Braumeister" was chosen to manage the new venture, being eminently suited to the task, having gained considerable experience supervising and directing the re-building of war damaged breweries in the Ruhr area of Germany. And so Harp Lager was born, with the Brian Boru Harp as its emblem. For many years the memorable slogan "Harp stays sharp" was used in advertisements for the Lager.

In 2005, Harp saw a makeover. Diageo Ireland separated the brand from Guinness and gave it a new look, with new advertisements appearing on TV. Ironically, there is no longer an actual Harp on the design of the new tins and bottles, as that logo belongs to Guinness. U.S. and Canadian sold bottles still bear the Harp logo.

5. Waterford Crystal

The beginnings of glass making in Ireland are lost in the mists of time but there is sufficient archaeological evidence to show that, from the early Iron Age, glass was regarded with respect. Indeed, medieval documents can prove glass making existed in Ireland back in the middle 13th century.

The 2012 New Year's Eve ball dropped in Times Square contained 2,668 Waterford Crystals.

However, the Waterford Crystal story started to blossom in 1783 when two brothers, George and William Penrose, founded their crystal manufacturing business in the busy port of Waterford. They were important developers and the city's principal exporters. The development, they told the Irish Parliament, cost £10,000 – a great deal of money in the 18th century.

They employed 50 to 70 people, led by a fellow Quaker, John Hill, from Stourbridge in England, and succeeded in producing crystal with a purity of color unmatched in Ireland or England. Merchant ships sailed regularly from the port of Waterford with cargoes of crystal bound for Spain, the West Indies, New York, New England and Newfoundland.

But less than 100 years later the initial company failed due to lack of capital and excessive taxation. In what seems a remarkably short time, Waterford Crystal acquired an unequaled reputation that has transcended the intervening centuries.

Another century passed before the enterprise was revived. In 1947, while Europe was still in ruins after the second World War, a small glass factory was set up in Waterford just 11/2 miles from the site of the original glass factory.

Waterford Crystal today has very strong links with its illustrious predecessor. There is today the same dedication to the purity of color, to the same design inspiration and to the same pursuit of highest quality levels possible. The traditional cutting patterns made famous by the artisans of Waterford became the design basis for the growing product range of the new company.

Products which have extended the power of the Waterford brand beyond its core crystal products include Waterford China, Waterford Table & Bed Linens, Waterford Stainless Flatware and Silver Gifts, Waterford Writing Instruments, Waterford Holiday Heirlooms and Waterford Crystal Jewelry.

Waterford Crystal is among the leading brands of premium crystal. Its products – superb handcrafted crystal stemware, giftware and lighting ware – are designed and manufactured to the highest standards.

The brand's reputation among its target market – upscale men and women – in its major markets is such that it has taken the brand to the heights that it now occupies. The target consumers simply regard Waterford Crystal as the best for self and gift purchase.

Recent research has confirmed the standing of Waterford Crystal in both the U.S. and the UK.

In November 2000, Waterford Crystal was named as the top world class brand in the United States by a survey conducted among 30,000 people by the Princeton, New Jersey, based independent market research company, Total Research Corporation. Total Research said that Waterford Crystal was judged by American consumers as the brand with the highest quality out of 19 world class brands in the U.S. market. Other brands in the league table below Waterford include Rolls-Royce Bentley, Bose stereo and speaker systems, Philadelphia cream cheese, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kodak, Heinz ketchup and National Geographic magazine.

In 2002, Waterford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Lismore pattern of crystal. Almost every year since its inception, Lismore has topped the popularity list and has been the biggest selling pattern of crystal in the U.S. and the world. But there are others among the repertoire of Ireland's most famous export that have gained their own following – Alana, Carina, Araglin.

Waterford Crystal has become synonymous for the finest quality of crystal sought after by collectors and connoisseurs around the world. Each piece of Waterford can be recognized by the signature on the base with the word "Waterford," the name of the finest crystal in the world.

Last updated: Mar 15, 2012

MATTHEW SWYERS | Columnist | Founder, The Trademark Company

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a Web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-size businesses. The company is ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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