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Diageo: when it comes to technology, don't fear failure

The grounds are ever-shifting... and so we must we as brands, as agencies. As marketers. So how do you unpick technology, make it work for you and your customers?

An obsessive approach to creativity should not just apply to a brand's above-the-line campaigns but to the way it uses technology, according to Diageo chief digital officer Ben Sutherland, who stressed that advertisers should not be afraid of failure.

"Great creativity talks to customers and consumers," Sutherland said. "Be obsessed about creativity and find time to be more creative – not just in the obvious areas, but in the way that you use technology. If you get obsessed about that and you don’t get frightened of failing, then amazing things happen."

Sutherland was speaking at Media360 in Brighton at a panel session also featuring Iain Preston, executive client services director EMEA, R/GA; Nathan Ansell, marketing director at Marks & Spencer, and Kristof Fahy, chief marketing officer (interim) at Checkatrade.

Planning outcomes
RG/A's Preston highlighted the need for brands to avoid thinking of digital for digital's sake. "I encourage everyone to think hard about your outcomes rather than a predetermined notion of a channel you use or a campaign you launch," he said. "We don't spend enough time getting behind the question to get the outcome you desire."

It was a point echoed by Marks & Spencer's Ansell, who argued that digital should not be operating in isolation from other aspects of offline marketing.

"There's been a lot of talk today about digital specialism," he said. "Of course digital is critically important, but [all marketing] is about understanding how to reach the customer more effectively."

The high-street retailer has "big ambitions" around augmenting its sales via digital, and mobile is key to that. Mobile drives half M&S’s search and traffic. "That's hugely important to us – 70% of our online audience is collecting in-store, so following that customer journey is important. Once they're in there 40% make further purchases. It's actually about being where the customer is."

Strange questions
Meanwhile, Checkatrade is changing from "effectively a directories business to a web-based business", according to Fahy. "But we're still fundamentally doing directories. Asking if we'll ever be digital-first is a weird question. I start with the question 'How do our customers use us?'"

One way that Checkatrade has used technology is using WhatsApp to cut – by half – the time it takes to vet its listed tradespeople. "If you ask them to go and find their pubic liability insurance in their van, then they won't do it," Fahy said. "But ask them to take a picture of it and send it to us then it's done."

Digital plays a key role for drinks giant Diageo. "It challenges us to think differently about how we stick different parts of our business together and how we work with our customers," Sutherland said.

"We're finding we're working much more with how we bring utility to our customers. How we use technology and digital to provide utility for our customer to improve the experience of consumers within bars, clubs and pubs. It's a huge part of how we try and look at the way we distribute our product and the way it influences our route to market."

Digital evolution
But for R/GA's Preston, the term ‘digital-first’ is "shorthand for change".

"What R/GA has always been about is predicting those emerging needs or emerging behaviours," he said. "We reinvent our business cyclically every five to ten years to stay ahead of these changes for our clients.

"Now, we're working with clients and asking: 'What's that next evolutionary change, where audiences are finding new ways they want to behave? How do audiences want to interact and exist? And where does that intersect with your brand?’

"You can't avoid the fact that people just want to use whatever channel and method, on their own terms, to interact with your brand."

The session…

Consumers’ quest for convenience – embrace digital first or risk getting left behind with Iain Preston, executive client services director EMEA, R/GA; Ben Sutherland, Diageo’s chief digital officer; Nathan Ansell, marketing director at Marks & Spencer; and Kristof Fahy, chief marketing officer (interim) at Checkatrade, took place at Media360 in Brighton in May. For more information on R/GA, please go here.


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