Diageo’s Andrew Geoghegan’s five tips for surviving the planning season

The end of the year often sparks marketers to look ahead, but to ensure they come up with future plans that lead to growth they need to make sure they are getting the best out of their teams.


It’s the busiest time of our year. Like for many of you, our Christmas selling period is critical and sets the tone for what we have to deliver in our second half.

It is also the time when we are in the thick of looking to the future. Our overall business and our individual brands each set about thinking about the new year and the road ahead. While most people are thinking about how to survive Christmas, I’m thinking of how to survive what I like to call ‘the planning season’. Here are my top five tips for those in a similar position over the coming weeks.

1. Recognise people’s different thinking styles. In this busy time, my brain doesn’t stop whirring. Ideas and information form a constellation-like moving picture in my mind’s eye as we frame opportunities and make choices. I experience the ambiguity as a physical sensation, and the connections appear to me suddenly like visions. I need space for this, but others need interaction to catalyse what we need to do and how we need to do it. Create an environment that will get the best out of the individuals in your team and you’ve won half the battle.

2. Remember things are rarely as sequential as they may seem. Planning breakthroughs come from understanding the past, being in the moment, and having the knack of envisaging and reforming what the future will be. Remember to stand back and look at things holistically.

3. Be immersed in culture always and everywhere, and without a tight or fixed agenda. Great new thinking comes from developing a keen external radar – and that means stepping away from the laptop and out of the meeting room. Even when you feel at your most stretched, carve out time to experience eclectic things.

When I see great consumer-facing, brand-building work, it first arrests me, then moves me, and ultimately makes a connection about the brand which might even make me want me to talk about it or use it.

Read, watch, and listen voraciously. Eat culture for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make sense of it and it will help you make sense of the world in which your brand lives. It will show up in every detail of your work, in a world where meaning for consumers seeps in through the subconscious. It may sound like a luxury when you have deadlines to meet, but it will provide the spark for disruptive thinking.

4. Use structure for thinking and planning. It sounds like a snore, but I promise that far from being a constraint, it will be a gilded cage that creates better results. It also makes it easier for those who need to translate plans into work across all touchpoints. This is as simple as having a toolkit for common things you need to do – for example how you express brand strategy, brand positioning, insights and examples of great plans which have successfully driven growth.

5. Don’t forget emotions. When I see great consumer-facing, brand-building work, it first arrests me, then moves me, and ultimately makes a connection about the brand which might even make me want me to talk about it or use it. Once I have had this visceral response, it is usually the case that you can decode the role that planning has played – inspired and well-structured thinking that helps creative people come up with solutions that will delight your consumers.

Get the best from your team, search for the bigger picture, step away from the laptop, apply some structure and remember we’re all human. If you do, you’ll hopefully make it through with a little less tension and indigestion, and come out with future plans that all lead towards growth. After all, isn’t it meant to be the most wonderful time of the year?

Andrew Geoghegan is global consumer planning director at Diageo.

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