How Diageo’s digital strategy came to life

Home How Diageo’s digital strategy came to life

Diageo is one of the main global players in the market for liquors such as whisky, vodka and gin. Its portfolio includes brands such as Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff. A year ago the company wanted to start making better use of digital and social media. In this article you will read all about their first steps in this process of change. Because that’s what this is about: a path of change. Brand managers had to quit certain routines, which is not always evident.

It all started with an inspiration day, which opened a culture that is open to change

Step 1 in their path was a full day dedicated to inspiring the brand managers. All European brand managers were present. On the one hand this entailed inspiration via captivating presentations, but on the other hand these people could share their experiences with social media with each other. At that moment a new philosophy was determined to manage their brands differently.

To sum it up, this is what it came down to:
– Diageo brands slowly have to swap to a dialogue with the consumer.
– All advertising actions that are realised need to result in a positive conversation about the brand. These conversations have to originate from the correct people (positive consumers and experts) because they are motivated to do so, and the topics they talk about will support the brand’s philosophy.
– They have to observe, facilitate and participate in conversations for all brands.

On this day it was revealed quickly that most brand managers had no correct view of the existing conversations about their brands. It is important in this context to start reasoning from conversations, not from social networks. Conversations can also take place offline, and those are important for the brand too.

The next step: observing conversations

This conclusion led to the decision to map the conversation in a structured way. Specifically that means that Diageo wished to understand 3 dimensions:
Conversations about the category: to what extent is there a lot of talking about liquor, what is the nature of these conversations (topic, sentiment…)?
Conversations about the brands: to what extent are there more or less, more positive or more negative conversations about Diageo versus the competitors?
Details on the consumer behind the conversation: what is the fans’ profile, which type of consumer talks about which brand, what is the impact of these conversations?

Thanks to the Conversation Mapping method, Diageo managed to obtain a clear image of these 3 aspects. We reveal part of the output here. In this mapping, the conversations on category level are compared for 2 dimensions:
Sentiment: to what extent are conversations on this category positive, neutral or negative?
Impact: to what extent do these conversations manage to influence other consumers’ opinions?

This analysis showed that liquors are in the ‘bonding’ corner. Most conversations there are very positive, but they barely have an impact on the consumer’s choice behaviour. The brand’s target is to get in the top right corner, the ‘ballad’ corner: positive conversations that have an impact. Evidently it is better to be in the bonding corner than in the ‘barking’ corner (bottom left: negative conversations without an impact) or in the ‘bashing’ corner (top left: negative conversations with plenty of impact).

Furthermore, Diageo managed to determine the profile of each brand’s fans. This clearly revealed that the brand’s fans’ profile often differed from the socio-demographic profile they had set themselves as target for their brand. The conclusion was clear: there were a lot of conversations, they were positive, but there is a huge and unused potential, considering the low impact of the current conversations. They saw the potential and decided that Diageo had to become the leader.

Some structural decisions

Based on this clarifying analysis, some structural decisions were taken. We have listed some of them here:
– From now on every marketing plan HAS to include digital media. Since there is a huge unused potential, every brand manager has to reorient his plans to it.
– From now on the media partner is briefed differently. Normally the media were selected based on the brand’s predefined socio-demographic profile. From now on Diageo uses the brand fan’s profile. This profile is used to create the media planning.

At first glance both seem simple, but both have an important impact on the organization. From now on the media mix and choice are done in a totally different way, compared to before, which is not simple.

First results

The first results after taking these decisions are inspiring hope. Two of them stand out:
– By including an increasing amount of digital media in the communication, the campaigns on average reached 10-15% more people and different people than the classical media campaigns. For them, clearly, it’s an AND story, not an OR story. Adding social media turns out to be extremely complementary to the traditional channels.
– By targeting the brand fans, the number of Facebook fans has increased with 500% in a few months time, which is rather spectacular.

In the meantime they have managed to include digital media in all marketing plans, which was the initial target.

Diageo’s 5 lessons from this change

Diageo is facing a change process. The first results inspire hope. Key is the new mentality amongst brand managers. Based on this change path, they have 5 important conclusions they wish to share with you.

  1. The discussion should not be tactical. It’s not about a Facebook page or a Twitter account, but about encouraging positive conversations about your brand.
  2. Conversation management is done in 3 steps: start with observing in order to obtain a clear view of the existing conversations. Facilitating and participating only happens after that.
  3. You need new success indicators: volume, sentiment and impact of conversations must be added to the existing sales and brand indicators.
  4. You must show a real interest in your fans. These people love your brands, so as a company you need to treat that with respect. Being sincerely interested in these people is at the basis of success.
  5. Everything starts with the creation of a culture that is open to change. At Diageo, the first inspiration day attended by all European brand managers was crucial in order to obtain a momentum.

More details can be read in this presentation:

View more presentations from steven van belleghem