Diageo forms premium arm in strategy switch

Diageo GB is to overhaul its marketing strategy by using celebrity endorsement and opinion-formers to promote its portfolio of premium brands.

Diageo has established The Reserve Brands Group (RBG), which includes drinks such as Johnnie Walker Gold and Blue, Ciroc Vodka and Tanqueray No Ten, as an internal division to handle the first stage of marketing activity for the drinks

The RBG will enable Diageo to behave more like a small business and operate more effectively within the luxury goods market.

Word-of-mouth endorsement will form the basis for the marketing strategy, because Diageo is concerned that a more conventional above-the-line approach to communications would counteract the brands' elite image.

The drinks giant has appointed communications consultancy Exposure to handle marketing for the brands. It will also create a specific positioning for each of the individual drinks.

Society events will be targeted to introduce the brands to celebrities and trendsetters. RBG products will only be sold in London's top 100 bars and restaurants. Diageo plans to encourage consumers to ask for RBG spirits by name, with an on-trade programme introducing bartenders to brand-name cocktails.

RBG has planned initiatives to highlight the personalities of the brands.

It will place Ciroc, a vodka made of grapes, at events such as London Fashion Week, where it will be served at the UK launch of style magazine Cheap Date on February 16.

Ciroc will also have a presence at London department store Liberty's party to celebrate Fashion Week.

Cabaret-style events will feature in activities for Johnnie Walker Gold, with Johnnie Walker Blue tie-ups focusing on the theme of rarity.

Diageo will highlight the botanical element of Tanqueray No Ten gin through association with relevant outdoor events.

The initiatives follow Diageo's portfolio approach to marketing used in its sampling events for brands including Smirnoff Blue, Johnnie Walker Black and J&B (Marketing, December 11 2003). The events encourage consumers to re-evaluate their perceptions of the brands.

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