MW: You have talked about this being the ‘golden age of brand building’. What do you mean by that?
AF: I am excited by the new opportunities for brand building changes in the world present. Part of that is technology and how fantastic it is we [marketers]can talk to people on all these different devices – long form, short form, different kinds of messaging.
It’s also about the pace of evolution in popular culture and where those changes come from. For years, popular culture emanated from the US and then throughout the rest of the world but now it starts there and everywhere else too. Fashion, music, art can begin anywhere – Kpop, for example. I find that exciting and I find the whole blurring of what counts as content exciting too. It is an era of opportunity and we [marketers] should be excited by it.
AF: Some of the ways we [Diageo] approach marketing haven’t changed at all – flair, agility and execution, for example – they haven’t changed but the way we describe brands has. We used to talk about benefits now we talk about purpose. We used to talk about advertising now we talk about content.
The world is changing more rapidly and that has implications on marketing. Human being are wonderful creatures that like products and aspire to buy brands and the fundamentals of their purchase decisions haven’t changed. I have a desire, I look for ways to fulfil that desire.
Sometimes commentators over intellectualise change. Our job as marketers is to keep things simple – we sell really nice things to people who are looking for really nice things.
There is a lot of psychobabble about. Someone told me once there are more books on social networking than there are on dieting and they [books on social media] are mostly rubbish.
MW: On social media, do you think more needs to be done to prove ROI?
AF: You can only judge these things in aggregate, in the round. You put a bunch of things into the market and see if you get a response. Isolating the specific impact of one dimension is really difficult and it’s fool’s gold. We [Diageo] know there a lot of people on social networks talking about our brands and we want to talk to them, we want to participate in that conversation.
We also know we need to invest to reach them. We believe social networks, particularly Facebook, in our mix is a good thing. But can anyone analyse one element to two decimal places? I am sceptical. Whether it is TV or social media, you measure what you can and the rest is a leap. You are judged by preference and whether they buy you. We use search marketing because we want people to find out about us, we use social media because if they are talking about us we would like to join in.
MW: You firmly believe marketing is a revenue generator and companies need to invest to grow. Should all companies, large and small, follow this lead?
AF: We [Diageo] call it investment not spending for a reason. Investment not cost. If you invest in the right things you get a return. It’s not about scale it’s a philosophy. But you do need to get a return, if you are a small company in particular. In a large company you are able to spread the risk, which helps.
Whether people invest is down to whether they believe they will get a return and we [Diageo] only invest in things where we believe we will get a return. It’s quite hard headed. We are obsessed by securing a return but we believe if we do our marketing well we will get a return.
MW: Is marketing lacking influence in companies because marketers don’t speak the language of the boardroom?
AF: There is a lot more jargon in the world of marketing than there needs to be and I think marketers benefit from using the language of business. When I speak, I would hope that I don’t speak much marketing jargon. I would like to slapped for every piece of marketing jargon I use because it doesn’t help. We [marketers] should use the language of human beings and we should use the language of business. The more we use the language that people understand the more we can persuade people.
MW: In the UK, there has been numerous calls for a ban or further restrictions on alcohol advertising from health groups. What is your response to this?
AF:We need to tackle alcohol harm but population approaches don’t work. We [Diageo] do believe we should be regulated and we do believe we should operate within a tight code but population wide interventions will not work against the issue at hand.