How Diageo wriggles its way into cultural conversations

In an attempt to drive recognition of its Striding Man across India, last year, Diageo brand Johnnie Walker unveiled a campaign titled #TheTravellingBillboard. The campaign saw a few of India’s renowned travel photographers create billboards with the logo across the nation, sometimes in terrains unknown. The campaign, according to Khushboo Benani, head of content, influencer marketing and brand advocacy at Diageo India, was created to inspire individuals to also take a leap of faith and explore the world - even parts only a few people have visited, or where no billboard has been before. The campaign was further amplified with the aid of 150 social media influencers.

Benani explained that at Diageo, the role of content is to drive brands to be at the forefront of cultural trends and conversations to deliver talkability and become more meaningful to consumers and win hearts. Simply put, brands need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what they are engaging with. She added,

Content needs to help brands be culture and consumer first.

She explained that at Diageo each brand is governed by its own purpose, which is the north star that guides all its advertising and content choices. Committing to lifting women in line with International Women’s Day, last year Diageo India brought together talented artists Priya Malik, Kubbra Sait and Bianca Gomes to co-create a spoken word and music video.

Titled Say it in Black & White, the three women shared their thoughts about a world that was made of sharing. The content was supported by Diageo’s Black & White whisky brand, and plays on its tagline #MadeofSharing.

Living in the age of micro boredom and amid the cluttered space in marketing, Benani explained that it is more crucial to be a part of cultural conversations. According to Benani, these are some pointers she lives by:

  • Be authentic – Put your consumer first and offer them an incomparable brand experience that walks the talk.
  • Win in new media – What and where of consumers engaging with content is constantly changing. Spotting these trends early and being early adopters of platforms can get brands noticed.
  • Work with new media superstars – Today, influencers are emerging from different passion points and platforms and have unprecedented followers. Engaging with these digital superstars can also drive strong talkability for brands.

Standing true to its belief of adding value through conversations, Diageo jumped on an opportunity to work with Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and Tamannah Bhatia through a Signature Masterclass. Sponsored by one of Diageo's brand Signature, the content series has now released three seasons of live interviews with actors. It provides a stage for aspiring storytellers to pitch their stories live and win the chance of turning it into a short film. The campaign drew over 16,000 story pitches thus far, according to Benani. According to Benani, the alcohol beverages company is constantly working on out-of-the-box ideas and concepts to break through the clutter. 

Addressing the new norm

In addition, there are various trends that are emerging now in light of the current pandemic. "Because of the extraordinary circumstances we are in right now, we have seen a lot of ingenuity in the kind of quirky content which is created in-home and how live experiences are being delivered from/in everyone’s living rooms. How these trends will pan out once we start settling into the new normal is definitely something worth keeping an eye on," she added. 

Benani believes that content marketing will also continue to evolve, and to her, new ways of collaborating with creators, platforms, new age media houses is going to be the next frontier. She added that the job of content is to take the brand’s core message and make it more culturally relevant to drive talkability, hence Benani's thumb rules are:

  • Take a stand or 100% entertain
  • Connect to a passion, not stage of life
  • Give consumers a say and drive UGC 
  • Deliver shareability as people trust people over brands
  • Have media thinking that delivers impact in addition to reach

"It is not just going to be about finding the right set of partners but also being able to relinquish a large part of the creative controls to them and finding a sweet spot which works both for the brand and for their feed to deliver brilliant organic reach and engagement," she added.   

Diageo's Benani will be speaking at Marketing's Content 360 conference which is going virtual. The conference will bring together industry leaders to discuss challenges and share insights on future content marketing trends, as well as successful strategies to help tackle the complex marketing landscape. Sign up here!

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