Tennent’s Lager is more than a beer – it is a part of Scottish culture

60 Years of SLTN: The brand that’s really a way of life

By Dave Hunter

If there’s one drinks brand in Scotland that needs little introduction it’s Tennent’s Lager.

The Wellpark giant occupies a unique position in the Scottish psyche, able to somehow be both a beloved drink as well as an inextricable part of the country’s culture. 

In the on-trade, it’s a pillar, perhaps THE pillar, with comparatively few venues not pouring pints of the iconic Glasgow beer. 

One well respected operator once told SLTN that he made the cardinal mistake of not stocking Tennent’s Lager when he took over an established pub. The result? Half of the pub’s regular customers turned around and walked out. It wasn’t long before the Big Red T was back in place on the bar top. 

Hugh Tennent, the lager’s founder, couldn’t have known the mark he would make on the Scottish beer landscape when he returned from a trip to Bavaria in 1855, determined to create a Scottish lager inspired by the pilsners he’d sampled on his travels. 

More than a century and a half later and the lager inspires such passion that a dedicated Facebook group passionately records and shares the standard of Tennent’s Lager pints across Scotland and fans happily tag the brand on social media to show off their Tennent’s memorabilia. 

“Tennent’s continues to be the top performer in the Scottish on-trade, and really is a must-have tap on the bar,” said Kenny Gray, on-trade sales director for Scotland and Northern Ireland at Tennent’s owner C&C Group. 

“Outselling the rest of the top 10 best-selling lagers combined, Tennent’s is Scotland’s undisputed favourite beer.

“Following the brand’s update last year, we’ll be extending that new look and feel into the on-trade in 2024. We’ll be bringing the OOOFT! campaign to life in outlet and we’ll have lots of material to support customers through the key on-trade occasions throughout the year.”

According to the brand team at Wellpark, the continued success of the lager is down to two key but far from straightforward factors: the easy-drinking nature of the beer itself, and the way the brand communicates with its fanbase. 

Speaking to SLTN, senior brand manager Hazel Alexander said not only is Tennent’s Lager ‘an amazing quality lager’ in its own right, but the brand’s famous sense of humour has helped it connect to people in every corner of Scotland. 

“Tennent’s has continued to be really relatable to consumers,” she said. 

“There’s been a plethora of different advertising campaigns and communications over the last couple of decades and they’ve always had a very Tennent’s-like tone of voice; something that’s relatable and there’s humour in it.”

That might seem straightforward. It’s anything but. 

In fact, the team behind the famous T puts a lot of effort into the brand’s ‘everyman’ persona. 

Take the brand’s most recent campaign, ‘OOOFT’, as an example. 

While developing the campaign, the team spoke to a wide range of beer drinkers from across Scotland, from new consumers to what Hazel described as the brand’s ‘heartland’ of long-term beer fans, to understand not just their perceptions of Tennent’s but the wider beer category as well. Concepts were then thoroughly tested with these groups to see which ideas resonated loudest, before the wider public was treated to the first sight of the campaign. 

Then there’s the brand’s long-standing links to Scottish sport, with Tennent’s tied both to the Scottish national football team and Scottish Rugby Union. 

This year Tennent’s marks 50 years of partnering with the Scottish football team – a relationship the brand will be celebrating as Scotland travels to Germany for the Euros. 

“We’ve got real pride in our brand and, likewise, if you look at the Scottish national team, there’s a lot of pride there and going into the Euros there’s a really positive feeling towards the team,” said Hazel. 

“There’s a lot of excitement as to what comes next for Tennent’s and the Scottish national team. 

For Scotland’s pubs, the tournament could be ‘the biggest on-trade moment of the year’, according to Kenny Gray.  

“It should be a massive opportunity for the trade to be driving footfall and getting people excited,” he said. 

As well as extensive marketing activity in pubs and the off-trade, Tennent’s will be running a major digital campaign ahead of the Euros as it gives fans the chance to win a multitude of football prizes as well as plenty of beer to enjoy while they’re watching. The presentation of that contest online, and the tone of the whole endeavour, is vintage Tennent’s. 

In fact, Hazel said that online has become ‘critical’ to the way the brand engages with its fans.  

“I think the strength of Tennent’s is that it has always been sort of conversational, open,” she said.

“And we’re never going on a hard sell. It’s always about telling a story or engaging people or exciting people and giving them something rather than us going ‘hey, here’s a lager!’ It’s much more than that.

“You just go onto Instagram or Facebook and you look at the comments and the way people react and interact with the brand. There’s not a lot of brands that enjoy that sort of relationship with people. 

“It’s pretty unique.”