Diageo Taps Data For Rapid, Cross-Platform Learning

Global distiller Diageo is known for marketing innovation on behalf of brands like Smirnoff, Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, and Guinness.  In its quest to drive consumer engagement, the company has set up a program to rapidly iterate across digital platforms, including smartphones, tablets, and Facebook. Part of its approach involves standardization of data collection among agencies and channels.

The London-based company is now in the midst of a marketing transition of sorts. It has begun to reach out to women as seriously as men, to target bilingual drinkers in the U.S. and elsewhere, and to look to developing markets for strategic acquisitions and marketing campaigns.

Kathy Parker, SVP marketing innovation, recently spoke with AdExchanger about the company’s digital platforms and its data strategy. In her words she’s in charge of “global, difficult-to-orchestrate marketing innovation projects.”

How does Diageo leverage the data spun off by its marketing campaigns? 

Diageo is a big company for measurement.  We measure everything that moves.  Specifically in my area I have three people who look after data as a competitive advantage… being able to compare campaigns across the entire digital ecosystem.  Historically that wasn’t available.

You’ve got a comparison within brand, within campaign, within country. You can see which markets are doing things more right than others – things that you can pick up and push across the business really quickly.

Does that include evaluating sales response? 

Yes, sales response, engagement levels. We try to farm that out really fast.  We have also developed a tool called “Fast Forward,” using small video interviews of no more than four minutes. We’re constantly scouring everything that’s in Diageo to get it out across the company as fast as possible. If there is something amazing going on in Thailand on Johnnie Walker in terms of driving levels of engagement, you make sure all of Diageo knows about that quickly.  That builds knowledge much faster, it teaches people to measure.

You generate a lot of data, but the basic level is that the data needs to be clean and needs to have good governance. But there’s so much more that can be done with analytics if you do it right.

How do data-driven insights factor into your creative development?

How quickly can you make changes on an hourly basis, daily basis, if you set yourself up correctly?  That’s important. Having the ability to analyze is one thing, but actually saying we want to do that in the first place is really critical.  So for us, [that means] putting in place the digital data dashboard, where we have the tools to measure engagement levels across the whole digital ecosystem around the world.

It’s all comparable, as opposed to the agencies measuring their own campaigns. If you do a campaign on Facebook, that agency will measure it on Facebook.  A different agency will measure a different campaign on Facebook, and they’re using completely different metrics.  So how do you ever compare that?

That’s one of the big things that we’ve said. For Diageo, you can totally compare across everything. If you talk to the category directors, like on whiskey, the category director would have four different agencies measuring four pieces which are the same, and the others have no idea if it’s good or bad because it’s not comparative.  That’s one of the big things. Put the pieces in place so that you’ve got the dashboard and then have a consistency in how you do that.

So in every agency relationship, they’re plugging into Diageo’s global measurement standard?

Exactly.  That’s made a big difference.  That allows us to pull out fantastic performers because it’s not all about internal PR for your brilliant campaign.  It’s actually very clear when the engagement rates for certain markets on certain campaigns are four times higher.  You know they’re doing something right so let’s shine the spotlight on them and make sure everybody knows.

With regard to online media buying, anything you can say on programmatic or audience buying?

Our media buying is primarily done through Carat, so they would come to us and say we want to experiment with this.  I think anything that drives better in-the-moment ad targeting is a good thing to do.  We’ll do lots through our own databases.  I think that type of relationship for buying media would be done through the local markets.

One year ago, Diageo CMO Andy Fennell said agencies should do more to reach people on “semi-smart” phones, the millions of devices with no-frills web browsing ability that are common in the developing world. What is Diageo’s mobile strategy today?

Absolutely, in markets like Africa, the normal phones would still be massive.  But actually, I think smartphones will outstrip sales of personal computers this year.  We’re seeing a shift, even in the markets like Africa.  Also what we’re seeing amongst our more affluent consumers is that ownership of smart phones in our key markets is over 50 percent.  We’re seeing ownership of smart phones significantly leap forward.

When we think about digital, we don’t only think about the PC. How does something work for the tablet?  Completely different.  How does it work on a smartphone and how does it work on a non-smartphone?  All for one digital campaign. Over the last year there’s been quite a big shift, even making sure at a very basic level that our websites work on mobile, look great and show up brilliantly.  You might think it is a no brainer, but if you have been focused on development for PC there is a big shift there.

[When] you develop a digital campaign, what does that mean?  Making sure people have really thought through all the devices and how we show up on those, that’s a massive thing.  I’m sure you see it all the time — campaigns which people think are great, you pick up a device and you go, this is ridiculous. It’s slow, you’re putting in too much content, which slows it down. If you’re not able to access it in three seconds then you’ll lose your consumer.  All of that stuff, which actually might work perfectly on a PC, is just matching luggage which you just cannot do.

Sounds like the opposite of what we hear about 360-degree communication and mirroring a campaign idea for every platform.  Do you think that concept is tired?  

I think you have to tailor an experience for every platform… If you start out with the ambition to give a brilliant experience wherever you access [a campaign], that is what we’re trying to do. As opposed to little Russian dolls, all exactly the same. A “digital campaign” is just too generic a statement to make.  What is your iPad campaign? What is your smartphone campaign? What is your PC campaign?

Should the decoupling that happened between media and creative agencies a couple decades ago be reversed? Should the two live together?

There’s a lot of pressure on the media agencies to totally understand the bundle, and I think we could get better at that because there is so much fragmentation now and we are looking to them for much greater expertise across a much broader cross-section of media. There is a significant pressure on them to reinvent themselves.  That’s what they need to do and we should help and encourage them to do that, as opposed to putting the media and the creative back together.

Certainly when we brief big campaigns, the media team would be in there at the outset.  So as we brief a cross-functional creative team that would include all of your disciplines in the room at the same time — packaging design company, media buying agency, creative agency, below-the-line agency — a lot of the input that would go in pre that meeting would actually be around your target, where they are, what they’re doing.

Would you update us on Diageo’s Facebook relationship?

When we created the partnership with Facebook, we wanted our marketers to be better, fish where the fish are. They conducted boot camps all around the world for us. We have a trip out to them every year in Silicon Valley where we’re talking about…what we need to do better.  So I think we work really well in partnership with them.

What’s also great for us is, because of the whole responsible drinking and making sure that it’s all [reaching users] above legal drinking age, they own that equally with us.  And we impose those rules strictly on ourselves so that we regulate and drive responsibility. It’s important for us to be totally clean.

-Zach Rodgers


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