What Is the Origin of the Guinness Toucan?

origin-guinness-toucan Credit: iStock

The Guinness toucan was introduced in 1935 as an advertising motif for Guinness & Co. It appeared in advertising created by S. H. Benson, a London-based advertising agency.

When Guinness hired S. H. Benson, the company was looking for a new advertising strategy that wasn't explicitly beer focused. After telling John Gilroy, the advertisements' designer, what type of campaign they were looking for, Gilroy came up with the idea to use animal-based imagery in the beer ads.

The toucan was part of the "Zoo" series of Guinness advertisements, which also featured illustrations of a zookeeper, a sea lion, an ostrich, a kangaroo and a tortoise. The toucan motif was finally abandoned in 1982 but has occasionally been seen on limited-edition products of the company.

The campaign featured animals stealing pints of Guinness beer with slogans such as "My goodness — my Guinness!" and "Guinness is good for you, how grand to be a Toucan, Just think what Toucan do."

Most of the Guinness toucan posters and advertisements were drawn by John Gilroy. Dorothy Sayers, another talented contributor, who later pursued a career in poetry and detective writing, contributed at least one sketch and also wrote advertising copy for the campaign.