‘A different way of building brands’: Diageo on using AI to get closer to ‘real consumers’

Diageo is using AI to better understand “real behaviour, not unintended”, which it is using to drive innovation.

Don Julio tequila. Source: Diageo.
Don Julio tequila. Source: Diageo.

Diageo is using AI to better understand “real” consumers’ behaviour as it looks for new avenues for innovation away from product, according to its global head of planning for breakthrough innovation Ana de la Guardia.

She said this is all the more important as the gap between what consumers “say and do” is getting “bigger every day”.

To counteract this, Diageo has been working with AI-powered consultancy Codec AI to identify consumers’ actual behaviour, leading to the development of an immersive experience for its Tequila Don Julio brand through an Apple Vision Pro app.

“It [AI] brings us closer to real consumers because it gives us a sneak peek into their lives and enables us to make data-driven decisions,” she explained, speaking yesterday (9 May) at The Marketing Society’s Digital Day.

“Why is this important from a brand perspective? Well, it shows real behaviour, not unintended.”

Codec AI’s algorithms helped Diageo “capture, classify and organise” millions of content URLs into groups of shared interests, values and behaviours. This enabled Diageo to uncover the cultural communities in which its audience actively engages.

This is a different way of building brands, and it uses deep-grounded consumer insights

Diageo, Ana de la Guardia

“Brands that innovate and are culturally relevant for consumers grow six times faster than brands that don’t,” de la Guardia said.

She emphasised the importance of uncovering communities that “exist today” to harness the “halo power” from tapping into them.

“What is incredible about this algorithm is that it enriches with wider passion,” she said, explaining that the technology allows them to find the “passions and interests” of its consumers, allowing the brand to interact with them in a “really authentic way”.

She added that it shows “real behaviour, not unintended”, because rather than looking at conversations they are instead looking at what content people are engaging with and analysing that through the AI technology.

Taking action

Diageo has been using this AI-powered technology to better understand consumers of its Tequila Don Julio brand. The insight it gained led it to create an Apple Vision Pro app as tequila enthusiasts, it found, are continuously “seeking new ways” to deepen their understanding of the spirit.

“This is a different way of building brands, and it uses deep-grounded consumer insights,” de la Guardia said.

The Don Julio app experience on Apple Vision Pro will focus on the four key chapters in the Don Julio making process: harvesting the agave, baking the piñas, distilling the liquid, and ageing the tequila.

De la Guardia said the new technology will enable consumers to have a “one-to-one” experience with the brand from the “comfort of their own home”.

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In deciding to launch with Apple Vision Pro, de la Guardia said it identified Don Julio’s audience as “tastemakers” and individuals who “like to be in the know”.

“They want to be the first to experience the world and share it with their communities”.

Mission to innovate

The new initiative is part of Diageo’s mission to innovate beyond “liquid in a bottle” as it looks to drive business growth and future value for the business.

As part of this push, the company launched a new team dedicated to ‘breakthrough innovation’ in January.

Explaining the dedicated team, de la Guardia said: “We have our own independent ecosystem.”

“What we try to do is deliver new capabilities for the business that will unlock transformative growth and will create value for Diageo, consumers and society.”

Innovation has long been a priority for the business. Back in November, CEO Debra Crew reiterated its commitment to innovation, describing it as one of the company’s crucial four pillars of growth.

At the time, she said: “While we are custodians of incredible traditional brands, we are not standing still.”