Diageo’s Saller to take inspiration from Arthur Guinness

Incoming Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller says she will take inspiration from the founders of its top brands including Pierre Smirnoff, Arthur Guinness and Johnnie Walker in her new job. 

Guinness Surfer Horses

Marketing Week columnist Saller is to step up from her current job as global innovation director and replace Andy Fennell as CMO next month. 

Speaking to Marketing Week Saller said: “Our brands were mostly built by philanthropic entrepreneurs who ran their business in interesting ways and we want to be more like them than [an] FMCG [company] and we have been moving the model that way.”

This means constantly adjusting marketing strategy for each of its brands and reacting quickly, she added.

“A founder does not launch a marketing programme or an innovation then wait for many months to get the key performance indicator, they are out there in the bars and thinking about it.”

During her time in her current role she is credited with overseeing growth of its whisky brands from a £40m business in 2008 to £400m today with innovation accounting for almost 40 per cent of Diageo’s total growth in whisky.

A priority will be to visit all of the company’s markets around the world and learn about how marketing technology and innovation is employed, Saller added.

“I have a lot to catch up on in terms of what has been happening in technology and marketing innovation and I look forward to learning all of that. The first thing I need to do is get out into the markets and really listen to them.”

An agency review may also be on the cards. “I want to build my understanding of what’s happening in the agency space, [finding out] who is great and trying to hold that at bay for a while.”

She takes up her new role on the same date that Ivan Menezes replaces current chief executive Paul Walsh, who is to leave to join catering company Compass Group as chairman.