Diageo Baileys Women

How Baileys creates conversations that shift culture and drive growth consistently


By Seb Joseph, News editor

November 17, 2015 | 4 min read

Diageo readily accepts its brands exist in a world where recruiting fans is harder than it has ever been but through Baileys its learning how to have a cultural significance that goes beyond product benefits.

The liqueur is thinking less about being a brand unto itself but rather how it could exist with other brands like the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s a collaborative approach to becoming iconic that Baileys is using to transform into a brand that’s comfortable with the reality that people don’t care about it as much as it does and is determined to align itself to topics that interest drinkers.

And yet despite the altruistic nature of the shift, it's grounded in a commercially pragmatic rationale. “There are more book readers than there are Baileys drinkers,” said Garbhan O’Bric, Baileys global brand director at an event hosted by its agency Sunshine to clarify why it's competing for attention not by proving it’s better than the competition, but by being culturally relevant.

Diageo, like most FMCG companies, has an issue; it’s struggling for growth at a time when drinkers are increasingly fickle in their attitude to brands. Add to that the issue of content overload people are now faced with and it creates a challenging and yet potentially lucrative opportunity to play a role in culture. Case in point; its sponsorship of the prize allows it to position itself as the drink of the modern book club, a far cry from the “traditional broadcast model of berating people with everything you want them to know about the brand,” said O’Bric.

“We’re guilty in marketing of thinking what we do really matter and like to think that what we do makes a difference. The reality is it doesn’t – people have a fast apathy,” he continued. To further stress the point, the drinks marketer cited a statistic that found “less than a half of one per cent of fans of brands on Facebook are actually talking about those brands”.

However, what’s special about a partnership like the Women’s Prize for Fiction is that each year it brings with it an entire new audience. A changing marketing model needs a different set of benchmarks, with the alcohol maker aware that some of the traditional metrics are no relevant – “the reality is that we need to rethink the way we [as an industry] evaluate our marketing models,” added O’Bric.

“If what you have to say [as a brand] by yourself is not that important then you flip the entire narrative. The whole thing changes; maybe if we had permission to turn up in what people are interested in and do something in that space then maybe we’ve moved a smidgeon of the needle.”

It’s a back to basis approach the brand hopes can help it grow consistently after developing it with Sunshine two years ago. There was a time when Baileys was synonymous with modernity, femininity and aspiration and somewhere along the way it allowed those fundamental pillars to crack.

“We’d gone from being a brand of relevant modernity to being the bellwether of naffness,” admitted O’Bric, who was referring to the connotations sparked by Mint Baileys' appearance in a Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special.

“Brands lost their way not because they make one big galactic fuck up," he added. "It’s because it’s a series of small and interpercetable [sic] failures to hold yourself to the highest standards. The hardest thing is the discipline of staying true to what you stand for. If you start from the basis of what can I give them then you stop and think about what are people interested in and culturally you work back from the consumer.”

Baileys sponsorship of the Women’s Prize for Fiction is a sign of things to come for Diageo’s liqueur brand, which ended its 15-year relationship with BBH in May.

Diageo Baileys Women

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