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Under the influence: How is Diageo keeping up as consumers drink less?

Under the influence: How is Diageo keeping up as consumers drink less?

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In the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, moderation has emerged as a trend in alcohol consumption. According to data by IWSR which looks at research and data of the beverage industry, no- and low-alcohol products - including agave alternatives, alcohol adjacent and no-alcohol craft beer and sparkling wine – are expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 6% between 2023 and 2027.

This trend is driven mainly by health and lifestyle choices, with consumers opting to drink better but not more alcohol overall. Consumers are also choosing to moderate their frequency and intensity of alcohol consumption.  “This is a trend that will likely persist as lifestyle habits are changing among Gen Z consumers,” said Wilson Del Socorro, corporate relations director of APAC at Diageo, in an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

Don't miss: Have you heard K-Pop star SUHO's new song on responsible drinking?

According to Del Socorro, APAC consumers are becoming more selective as they seek to drink better, and not more. This comes across in consumers who want to explore and experience new quality spirits and cleaves.

In addition, APAC consumers are looking for brands to interact with them in authentic and humanising ways, adding that: 

Consumers are expecting brands to offer more personalised and locally curated experiences beyond mere transactions.

So how does Diageo leverage these drinking trends for its marketing efforts?

Placing consumers under the influence

For starters, Diageo has become a master of adapting to moments in popular culture and consumer trends. For many years, the brand has established multiple collaborations across the region. This includes the collaboration with local artists for the creation of special editions of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in celebration of the Lunar New Year, and the partnership with Asian American artist James Jean for its special edition bottles for the Year of the Dragon.

Most recently, the brand partnered with global K-pop star Suho from boy group EXO for the launch of its first regional APAC responsible drinking campaign, "Enjoy the flow, savour every moment".

As part of the campaign, Suho released an original song, music video and behind-the-scenes footage. The campaign emphasised the importance of savouring each moment and enjoying alcohol in moderation. The song featured familiar sounds associated to a bar such as glasses clinking, and a canned drink opening.

It also featured sounds of nature and flowing water. The lyrics include messages such as "take it easy", "slow down" and "savour every moment" to remind viewers to slow down and pace themselves with water.

“Our partnership with Suho highlights how we tapped into the growing influence of K-culture across the region to better engage consumers across APAC in a creative way, sparking conversations and actions on making more mindful choices and embracing moderation,” said Del Socorro.

By tapping into the growing influence of K-culture, Diageo was able to creatively engage adult consumers across the region and empower them to embrace the spirit of savouring the drink in moderation, added Del Socorro.

Making change with changemakers

Working with changemakers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) has served the brand well thus far. In Singapore, Diageo developed an influencer advocacy programme comprising a global luxury and fashion content creator, a food content creator and Miele’s in-house chef, a renowned pasty chef, and a radio personality and host help educate consumers on the brand’s history and recruit new premium whisky drinkers.

To mark the Year of the Dragon this Lunar New Year, Diageo organised the Johnnie Walker Blue Label’s Mahjong Club in Sydney. Hosted by renowned restaurateur Dan Hong and Crazy Rich Asian star Remy Hii, guests were treated to a trio of curated cocktails inspired by popular Asian flavours while enjoying rounds of fast-paced Mahjong games.

“The experience not only held important cultural symbolism but showcased new ways of enjoying Scotch whisky and cemented the brand’s innovative spirit,” said Del Soccoro.

In the past, Diageo has also worked with local KOLs in different APAC markets including Australia, the Philippines and Taiwan to better engage consumers on responsible drinking. For instance, Diageo worked with local influencers and Diageo brand ambassadors Nico Bolzico and Erwan Heussaff to widen the reach of its messages for last year’s ‘Stick to your limit’ campaign in the Philippines.

Similarly, in South Korea, Guinness became the official partner of the Korea Football Association, the country's soccer governing body.

“Our consumer insights teams keep a finger on the pulse of trends to work with influencers that resonate with our consumers,” said Del Soccoro.

One other example is the launch of Don Julio 1942 Tequila in Southeast Asia, which was headlined by top female international DJ Peggy Gou at Singapore’s biggest luxury nightclub, Marquee Singapore.

“Peggy Gou is a leader in global club culture and is an increasingly prominent icon in the luxury fashion scene, so engaging her to launch the world’s most luxurious tequila in Singapore was a great fit and she was really well received,” said Del Soccoro. “We have since continued to also expand our collaboration with local influencers that resonate with our consumers for brand activations across the region”

Other efforts which leveraged trends and drove meaningful conversations around responsible drinking include DRINKiQ, Diageo’s global resource that aims to inspire consumers to take action and invites them to learn more about moderation, to drink better and to shape a long-term positive change in their attitudes to alcohol.

To address drink driving, the brand launched ‘Wrong side of the road’ an interactive drink-driving awareness and education program in partnership with UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The programme was piloted in Vietnam and in partnership with local authorities.

In addition, the brand has launched SMASHED, one of its longest-running interactive education programme that uses theatrical performances in live and online formats to inform and educate on the harmful use of alcohol and underage drinking.

“It’s been well received in APAC where we work with schools, local government, education partners and community groups to bring the programme to youths in schools. To date, more than 290,000 youths have experienced SMASHED and learnt about the harms of underage drinking,” said Del Soccoro.

Beyond APAC and 2024

Beyond APAC, the Don Julio team had partnered with Jimmy Kimmel, Disney and the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science to activate a brand moment at the 96thAcademy Awards this year.

“We made it our objective to cement Tequila Don Julio 1942 as the celebratory spirit of choice on a global stage. Leveraging creativity, innovation and our trusted partners, we were able to collaborate in a way that unlocked a first-of-its-kind in-show integration,” said Christina Choi, senior vice president, tequila, gin and breakout growth brands, Diageo North America, in a separate interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

The result of the Oscars activation, according to Choi, “have been impactful.” Tequila Don Julia became a trending topic on X and traffic to the Don Julio website increased by 1100% versus the previous week.

“We saw 5.2 billion media impressions and we have been inundated with requests for our new Don Julio 1942 50ml format,” added Choi. “At the top of the list is accomplishing what we set out to do: become the ultimate spirit of celebration amongst some of the most respected personalities in the entertainment and film industry.”

Moving forward, Diageo is “committed to transforming global drinking habits for the better, promoting moderation, and addressing the harmful use of alcohol,” said Del Socorro.

The commitment, according to Del Socorro, is integral to Diageo’s 10-year ESG plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress. This includes the aim to reach one billion people with dedicated responsible drinking messaging.

We intend to continue investing in programmes that encourage responsible alcohol consumption.

“[This includes] bringing more consumers to our DRINKiQ programme,” said Del Socorro. 

Photo courtesy Diageo, Instagram

Join us on 12 June 2024 for an exciting experience as Content360 makes its debut in Malaysia! Brace yourself to join the crème de la crème of the content marketing industry hailing from across the region. Immerse yourself in a dynamic atmosphere, and uncover the latest trends with thought leaders and solution providers from the realm of content.

Related articles: 
Diageo acquires Philippines alcohol brand Don Papa Rum in million dollar deal 
Johnnie Walker walks the streets of Southeast Asia in new content push  
Diageo lets you 'video chat' with drink drivers on the wrong side of the road 

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