Diageo: ‘Over reliance on process gets in the way of innovation’

MWL 2012: Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful business, but marketers need to stop over complicating the process with “semiotics” and PowerPoint presentations and “step into the unknown and take risks when it comes to their brands”, according to Diageo’s innovation chief.

syl saller

Speaking at Marketing Live in London today (27 June), Diageo’s global innovation director, Syl Saller, said that it was important for marketers to adopt an “absolute determination” to achieve a bold vision for their brands.

“The work that you do should urge you go for a 10 out of 10. You’re going to get more threes than you normally would in doing things this way, but it’s better than aiming for a safe six. Safe sixes do not make great new products.”

“An over reliance on process gets in the way of the dream. Don’t start with a brand. It’s about feeling and doing not just writing about it. Think big, start small, then scale or fail fast.”

Saller argued that the “basics” of innovation haven’t changed since Diageo’s flagship brand Johnnie Walker was founded in the 1820s, saying that “sometimes you need to stop discussing new brands in the boardroom and get it out there in bars for people to try.”

“What really kept us from stepping boldly into this space earlier was the risk that was in our heads and maybe looking stupid, or someone telling us that our recommendation wasn’t accepted. That’s not so bad and when you realise that’s the worst that can happen you get a whole lot braver.”

Separately, Diageo, which owns brands such as Guinness, Baileys and Pimms, recently announced plans to direct more of its marketing at women, after admitting that its activity has previously focused too much on men.

Saller says: “We’ve been in a place that said market to men and you’ll get the women, but if you market to men you’ll lose the women. Guess What? It’s all made up and we’ve held onto to it so tightly that now that we’ve smashed it, we’re seeing the benefits.”

Watch Syl Saller’s talk in its entirety below

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