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The Diageo Way of Brand Building

Andy Gibson
Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Learning outcomes

  • The three key principles of Diageo’s marketing strategy: understand your consumer, what your brand stands for, and executing on your strategy and positioning.
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Executive Bio

Andy Gibson

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Andy began his career at Diageo in 1999 where he was primed in the Diageo Way of Brand Building and led various different spirit brands across different continents. In 2011, he joined Carlton United Breweries, the leading beer company in Australia, as Chief Marketing Officer where he led the revival of the VB brand. In 2013, Andy joined Bacardi as CMO where he managed the global brand portfolio including Bacardi, Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire generating revenue of over $4bn. In 2015, Andy joined Walgreens Boots Alliance, the $26bn revenue global pharmacy, where he led the Global Brands Portfolio.Read more

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Interview Transcript

Andy, a good place to start would be for you to provide some context to the state of the marketing landscape, when you joined Diageo, in 1999.

I stared at Diageo in January 1999 and it was an interesting time for Diageo, in that the business, primarily, had only been formed for one year. The business was, really, a merger of two very big businesses, that approached marketing in a very different way. So you had a whole new business of people and a function of marketeers who, actually, talked about, thought about, described marketing, with different language, with different tools, with different methodologies. The wisdom of the executive, at the time, was that we had to get one language. We had to develop a way that Diageo approached marketing, attracted consumers and grew its brands.

So there was an enormous transition, over the next 18 months, from really, a United Nations of marketing people, into a one way, which was called the Diageo Way of Brand Building. That became the way of talking about brands, of talking about, even more importantly, consumers, of understanding, globally, where brands were, how they were position and therefore, how we should move brands into a more global positioning, whilst driving performance.

It was an amazing learning period. I argue that I actually got my MBA in Marketing, through the Diageo Way of Brand Building. It was a real combination of learning and then practicing skills, on the job. Which I believe, is crucial for anyone coming into the marketing world, today.

What were the key principles in that Diageo way of marketing?

So these key principles, actually, form my key principles of marketing which, I’m sure, make sense. It was my formative years. First of all, understand your consumer. Who is your consumer? I’m not talking about all females, 25 to 85. That’s being everything to no one. I’m talking about, really get clear on who is the most commercially, high-potential target, that you could choose, that your brand can, authentically, weave its way into their lives and play a role.

So the first thing was, understand your target consumer. The second things was, understanding what your brand currently stands for, in their hearts and mind. How emotionally do they feel about your brand and then, functionally, how do they use your brand? What could your brand to, to actually help them, inspire them, encourage them to live the life they want to live, whilst using it? When you connect those two things together, what you have is a brand that’s starting to be clearly positioned, in a consumer’s mind.

The Diageo Way of Brand Building had a very clear set of tools and criteria, as to what great looked like and it pushed us all to get great happening.

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