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How Diageo is rewriting the marketing rule book

How Diageo is rewriting the marketing rule book

Diageo's marketing and innovation director Adam Ballesty has thrown out the rule book when it comes to increasing brand awareness for the company's products.

“Marketing used to be about making people want things,” he tells The Australian Financial Review. “Now it’s about making things that people want and I think that’s a really huge point.”

Digital advertising is taking increasing prominence for the drinks industry. In the first half of 2016, media agency digital bookings in alcoholic beverages was up 69% from the first half of 2015.

Last year, Diageo’s Smirnoff brand's campaign for its new natural ingredients RTD launched solely on digital and outdoor.

Diageo's diversified advertising platform includes Vice, Junkee Media, Broadsheet and Pedestrian. In July 2016, it broadcast video from the Splendour in the Grass music festival at Byron Bay over Snapchat. Smirnoff now has a group of DJs called includes The Sound Collective, who perform in clubs.

“I could see one day Smirnoff being a music producer,” said Ballesty. “One of the biggest challenges in marketing to 18- to 35-year-olds is what we call the attention economy. There’s a lot of things taking their interest, and there’s a lot more options than going to the pub and watching the footy on a screen."

TV is still part of the mix, but the advertisement must add "utility" to the viewer's life.  

Hence, spots for Diageo products during MasterChef last year featured the show’s host Matt Preston making drinks using spirits.
“After 8.30 at night, in comes Matt Preston telling you how to make a whisky spritz. Really, really simple. It looks absolutely delicious. We showed the food pairing it went for. That’s adding utility. 

“If I make an ad, not even a campaign, that does not add utility to their life, it will be completely ignored. That is scary.”


A focus on diversity

Last month, Diageo's chief marketing and innovation officer Syl Saller - who oversees all global marketing, design and innovation for the company - told Advertising Association’s LEAD summit in the UK that Diageo aims to use its position as one of the biggest alcohol companies in the world to facilitate change and normalise gender equality.

She believes "in this new era of transparency, consumers care about what brands do beyond their functional benefits. They want brands to help them navigate an unequal world."

She added: “We feel there’s an opportunity for our brands to act as a catalyst for social change; especially in areas where human rights are not respected. We can talk.”

Guinness, for example, launched a Rugby World Cup 2015 ad featuring rugby player Gareth Thomas, discussing his experiences coming out as homosexual in the sports world.

"The results of our World Cup program were beyond our expectations; £8m in incremental sales and we gained share over Heineken, the official sponsor,” she said.

Johnnie Walker's Keep Walkin’ campaign is another powerful example. A series of ads feature different themes - one focuses on refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos, another adapts the lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land and has them sung and spoken by Mexicans.

“When you look at that piece in isolation, you know, you’d say, ‘why are we doing this? Where’s the scotch?’” Saller said. “[But] Johnnie Walker’s purpose is to inspire personal progress. We communicate this purpose through storytelling which we hope inspires people to progress – and makes the brand both topical and relevant.

“We don’t have all the answers. But if you make people go ‘wait a minute, I thought the refugees were just people taking our jobs and creating problems’, and you see the humanity, you get in touch with ‘what do all those life jackets mean?’”

Smirnoff also got involved with International Women’s Day last year with a promotion called Disc Woman. Smirnoff Sound Collective launched a documentary entitled “Tribes: DISCWOMAN” aimed at making electronic dance music more inclusive. 

"Female contribution to EDM was significant but vastly overshadowed by male performers. The initiative supports new female DJs just getting their start," said Saller.

The initiative only cost Diageo £600,000 globally and resulted in the brand receiving 283 million impressions, becoming the most effective earned media program Smirnoff had ever done.