By Jenni Baker | Senior Editor

August 14, 2023 | 7 min read

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In the second of a three-part ‘Marketing Now & Next’ video series from The Drum and Google’s trends, insights and data resource Think with Google, Diageo’s global director of beer, Baileys & Smirnoff, Grainne Wafer, shares what it takes to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion becomes a core DNA.

Watch the Diversity Now & Next episode here for the full interview

Watch the Diversity Now & Next episode here for the full interview

“It’s important to be empathetic and understand that not everybody is starting from the same place and there is still a huge job to be done in all different cultural contexts” - Grainne Wafer, global director of beer, Baileys & Smirnoff at Diageo* is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusivity, responsible for spearheading the company’s progressive marketing agenda.

And while she agrees positive strides are being made by brands to better reflect the multicultural and nuanced world we live in, she believes it will take collective action and a persistent, sustained effort for brands to truly drive the change the world needs to see.

Speaking with The Drum as part of a three-part video series from Think with Google, Wafer says: “We can be quite impatient as an industry but this is not something that’s going to happen overnight. This can’t become just another hot topic - it has to be something that takes sustained, strategic and deliberate action.”

Having joined Diaego when it was founded in 1997, Wafer has led a compelling case for change - not just internally but through her work as representative and partner for the WFA D&I Taskforce, Creative Equals and the United Nations Unstereotype Alliance. “It’s been a long journey to this point, but our job is by no means done,” she says.

“We’ve seen a huge effort, alliances and gathering momentum by the industry around this topic - but there’s still a gap between what we think we’re doing and giving ourselves accolades for, and the reality of what’s showing up in the work. It takes persistent, sustained effort. We should feel proud of the collective intent from the industry but we have to get clear that it’s about collective action, no one person can do it all, and that is where we’re poised right now.”

Re-telling her own journey, Wafer discusses how she has spearheaded this transformation within Diageo through its ‘diversity framework’ and ‘progressive gender portrayal program’ and how that has been embedded internally within teams and with agency partners - so that DEI is reflected not just in the work they put out into the world but behind the scenes too.

“It’s mandatory training for our 1,200 marketers and all our agencies,” she explains. “We ask people to use the framework in the assessment of all the work and scripts. Not to use it as a tick box exercise but to use it properly as a way of prompting discussion and making decisions. It really helps in starting the conversation in the right place.”

The CMO, she feels, is in a unique position to lead on this front, reflecting the broader change happening in terms of how businesses think about marketing.

“With lots of other aspects to think about now, whether it’s sustainability, DEI, performance, AI, tech and digital transformation, our roles are expanding in terms of breadth,” she says. “But the one thing that CMOs are uniquely tasked with in every organization is to make sure that the consumer is present in the boardroom, that the consumer’s voice is heard and represented - and that we understand not just where the sentiment is now, but where it’s going.

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“I’ve always thought of the best marketeers as being like the general manager of their brand and they’re thinking as much about the performance, the creative and what it means to consumers. They’re also thinking about the culture they’re creating internally around that brand. That’s where I see the change happening but it’s exciting because it’s giving a much more fundamental role for marketeers in every boardroom.”

To help marketing leaders embed DEI culture across the business, Wafer offers this advice:

1. Start from a place of authenticity and empathy: Understand where you are yourself, where your corporation is, where your brands are, and the role they play. Hold up the mirror, take a look at where you are, where you’ve been and the jobs you need to do.

2. Be strategic and thoughtful in your approach: This isn’t easy and marketers are not the experts in it. Open your contact book to work with experts who can tell you where you’re going wrong, what you’re doing right, and what you need to do more of.

3. Systemize the change: You can’t do this through one bold piece of content. You have to think about your supply chain, training, culture, your own teams and hiring processes.

Watch the Diversity Now & Next episode here on how to embrace a diverse and inclusive culture to improve creative outputs and drive better marketing and business decisions.

*Ads are only shown to over 18s and publisher controls are available for alcohol content ads.

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At Think with Google, our mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of marketers, advertisers, and creatives. Here you can find marketing tutorials from experts in privacy, digital transformation, and AI to name a few; the latest consumer data and insights our ads research team is exploring; and perspectives from leaders across the ad industry.

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