Drinks giant Diageo is re-assessing what it understands about how its brands are consumed and using the insights gained to deliver a new marketing approach based around experiential.

Ben Sutherland, chief digital officer at Diageo, addressed this topic at the recent Mediatel Future of Brands conference, where he explained how “we’re just trying to think very differently about how we bring to life our brands.”

Baileys is a case in point: the liqueur brand was “pretty much tanking” in 2014/15, according to Sutherland, but, perhaps counter-intuitively, that gave it some breathing space. (For more, read WARC’s report: How Diageo is rethinking the customer experience.)

“I think what it did was allow a bit of a relaxation on some of the rules around the brand,” he said. “Because underperforming brands actually probably get less focus than the high performing ones.”

One reason for that lower level of performance might have been the over-confidence of the marketing team in what they understood about the brand, with too much focus on the product itself and not enough on the consumption experience.

“We thought we knew where the experience was, we thought we knew where the occasion that our product was being consumed was,” Sutherland admitted.

It took that downward trend to force a re-evaluation. And for a CPG brand, a focus on the experience is vital, he explained, “because we are fundamentally disintermediated from both the purchase and the consumption of these products”.

The received wisdom that brand managers often operate on is rapidly superseded by ever-changing cultural trends around food and drink.

“It made us completely re-evaluate and flip the model,” Sutherland said. “We have much more thinking about content in context of the environment and the media channels that we wanted the brand to come to life in.”

In the course of that process, he added, “we sort of stumbled onto a purpose around Baileys being a co-conspirator in pleasure”.

That evolved over a couple of years and shifted the brand towards new categories, around treating and pleasurable experiences, which in turn forced a rethink of the channels it used to go to market – the deployment of pop-up treat bars around Christmas being an example.

“We know that ultimately, if consumers experience our products in a really positive and amazing way, then they’re going to buy more of our products,” said Sutherland.

Sourced from WARC