A “widget” is not a a “thingy” or a “thingamajig”

Have you ever drank a Guinness from a can?

If not, you’ve probably never used a widget and you probably think of the term as a hypothetical manufactured article that is the subject of case studies described by your business school professors.

The floating "widget" found in Guinness beer cans

The floating “widget” found in Guinness beer cans

However, if you are familiar with Guinness breweries—the 245-year-old Dublin, Ireland-based brewery that makes Guinness stout and several other delicious beers—you’d know that a widget is an actual device found in Guinness beer cans. Indeed, the widget is a small plastic sphere patented by Guinness that gives its beers their characteristically creamy head.

Since our Writing for Marketing course requires us to write about the history of the product or company that is the subject of our marketing research plan, I’m going to tell you about some of the highlights of the widget’s history.

First developed in 1969 by a couple of Guinness researchers, the widget wasn’t actually used in a can of Guinness beer  until 1989 because of the technical challenges of making the device. In fact, it was in 1984—a whole 15 years later—that two other Guinness researchers picked up the research again.

They figured out how to insert the device into a can during the filling process so that, when the can was opened, it would create a creamy head. However, the researchers hit a snag because the quality of the head was reduced by pasteurization. This problem was solved by rapidly inverting the can when the lid was on.

Curiously, the completed widget’s first name was “Project Dynamite.” The name was changed after customs and excise delays were caused by suspicious customs officers. The new name, “insert,” inspired Guinness operators to find a more romantic name and they, in turn, started calling the drably named beer inserts “widgets.”

A more advanced widget was released in 1997 called a “Smoothifier,” but somehow this label never caught on with anyone.


NOTE: Readers, this blog is part of a lesson for my marketing students. I’ll explain how it’s being used later.

About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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