This St. Patrick's Day, Irish eyes may be smiling, but Guinness fans can pose however they want - as long as they have foam on their faces - in the beer's Guinness Grin promotion on Facebook.
An estimated 13 million pints of the iconic Irish brew are served each St. Patrick's Day, according to Guinness' figures. And while loyal Guinness drinkers have been uploading their photos and posting comments to Guinness' wall since the promotion launched late last week, some critics say the brand could have easily made the campaign more social and driven even further engagement.
The campaign asks fans to upload photos of themselves with a Guinness Grin - which is what Guinness says happens "when you take your first sip of Guinness and end up with froth on your top lip and the tip of your nose" - and to vote on their favorites in its Grin Gallery. (As of March 16, about 100 Guinness Grins had been uploaded.)
The winner will become "the official face of the Guinness Grin for 2010," and the winning grin will appear on a banner outside the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin as well as in the entry for "Guinness Grin" in Wikipedia. For legal reasons, Guinness says the prize is open to residents of Germany, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Ireland and the U.S. (except California). It was created by Red Urban, a digital agency in London.
Consumers can most easily find the application under the "Guinness Grin" tab on the brand's Facebook fan page. There is also a minute-long video that humorously explains the do's and don'ts of wearing a Guinness Grin and exhorts Guinness drinkers to "wear it with pride."
"This is our first time operating a Facebook application for Guinness Global, but we're hoping that this is something we can do more of in the future," says Matthew Timmons, assistant brand manager at Guinness' parent company, Diageo. As a result, Timmons says the company was not sure how many entries to expect.
The Guinness page has about 72,000 fans (although a Guinness GB Facebook page for fans in Great Britain has nearly 284,000). All promotion for Guinness Grin will take place on Facebook, Timmons says. The brand does not have a Twitter handle.
Mike Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media - a social marketing company that helps brands manage Facebook campaigns - believes the Grin campaign could be more social.
He notes the application is good-looking and brand-appropriate - as is much of the company's advertising in other media - but the campaign is not inherently social in and of itself.
"There's no interfacing with the Facebook platform," Lazerow said. "You can't select your photos from a Facebook photo gallery. You have to upload the photo. Nothing is published to the News Feed. There's no social discovery or viral growth. And because of that, you're not going to see geometric growth."
He says the promotion could be improved by adding an option to publish updates to the News Feed as well as an option for participants to invite friends to add photos as well. The application does have a "bookmark and share" option, but the technology is rather old, Lazerow said.
What's more, the Guiness Grin app is not particularly easy to find via searches in Facebook or Google, says social media consultant Patrick O'Malley. "If the group was easier to find, people could take photos with camera phones and upload them to the Internet, and it could be passed faster and easier by word of mouth," he says.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.