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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Raise your glass

When it comes to putting research at the heart of global business decisions, Diageo boasts a “well-rounded, savvy and effective approach”. Karen Foster, global innovation consumer planning director, explains how it works.

The insight function within Diageo is called ‘consumer planning’. We consciously chose the term planning as it is understood in the creative agency world and is a better description of the role that our team play within the business.

Our structure is determined by a principle which we call footprinting. There are planners in all parts of the organisation where consumer and shopper decision-making and marketing creation happen.

“I think that research is at its best when it is used to address real and well-defined learning issues. We have worked hard to create a culture where research is used to inform decisions, not make them for us”

The global consumer planning team has over 100 people. The team is headed by Mark Murray who reports directly to Andy Fennell, our chief marketing officer, and he sits on the global marketing leadership team. We have global consumer planning directors responsible for brand planning, shopper planning and innovation planning. We also have global planners who work with our global category and brand teams and five regional consumer planning directors.

All of our consumer planning directors sit in their respective marketing leadership teams. While our primary interface is with marketing and customer marketing, the team also engages with the Diageo executive, general managers and commercial teams.

The role of the consumer planning team is to ensure that consumer and shopper insights inspire big ideas that drive growth. We believe that our role is to champion insights and ensure that we stay true to those insights in the activities that we develop.

We are constantly looking to experiment and raise our game. We have a small global capability team who have responsibility for seeking out and testing new approaches and agencies, often in partnership with a region. We look for innovation in our approaches in order to deliver deeper consumer and shopper understanding and insight in a timely and cost efficient manner - not for the sake of doing things differently.

I think that research is at its best when it is used to address real and well-defined learning issues. We have worked hard to create a culture where research is used to inform decisions, not make them for us.

In Diageo, we talk a lot about “the least amount of the most powerful research” - meaning that we think carefully about what we need to learn and the best source of that learning. Sometimes that will mean commissioning new research, sometimes it will mean interrogating what we already have, speaking to external experts, looking at case studies or trusting our judgement.

Through our structure, we have ensured that consumer planning is in the right place to inform consumer- and shopper-based decisions and to shape our consumer-driven growth strategy.

We ensure that our people have the leadership capability to drive an agenda and influence senior stakeholders, both of which are critical to making an impact in a large organisation.

Also, how you deliver a message is often as important as the message itself. The consumer planning team understands that thinking creatively about delivery is a critical part of influencing the organisation. This could be creative ways to deliver ‘pre-read’, immersing decision makers in the lives of our consumers and shoppers, using storytelling or visualising our understanding or their implications. It is less about delivering data and more about providing the right stimulus to initiate conversations and decisions.

We are very proud to have been recognised by Research and the Market Research Society with this award. It has created a lot of buzz and excitement internally. It has provided a real boost to the consumer planners that their work and impact is recognised by a respected industry body. We also hope that it will serve to enhance our external reputation further, meaning that we are able to attract the best talent and agencies to work with us to guarantee our success for the future.

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