Guinness Blonde launches in the US next month

Guinness Blonde launches in the US next month

Diageo revealed its hand this week over its latest bid to boost declining Guinness sales in the US.

Guinness Blonde American Lager is the first in a series of brews the drinks giant is releasing in an effort to revitalise the faltering brand: Sales of Guinness in North America fell by 8% in Diageo's fiscal-2014.

The 'Discovery' project appears to be an effort to tap into the US's never-ending thirst for craft beer, with the press release talking of “celebrating Guinness' artistry”. The week before, Diageo's CEO Ivan Menezes admitted the brand had suffered from the exploding US craft sector.

But, how will this latest innovation fare?

To me, Blonde Lager feels like a step too far away from the core brand and a rather desperate move. After all, Guinness is a stout – about as far removed as you can get from a 'blonde' lager. Guinness Black Lager - the last high-profile variant - has been a failure in the US, or “disappointing” as Menezes said, but at least it was still black.

It's not the first time either that Diageo has changed Guinness' colour. Guinness Gold, a lager launched in 1988, bombed after execs admitted the variant undermined Guinness’s brand equity as “a rich, black beer", according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

We live in different times now. But, by their very nature, craft beer drinkers are a snobby lot who can spot a marketing wheeze a mile off.

Or, perhaps, as the likes of MillerCoors argue, most consumers really aren't that fussy - if you build a good liquid, they will come. Plus, it will be interesting to see what else is in the pipeline as part of the “Discovery” series. There is still no doubting the power of the brand's name.

Menezes said last week he “fully expects” Guinness to perform better in the next year in the US.  

But if he is wrong, what next for the (former) “black stuff” stateside?