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Impact Seminar Snapshot: Peter McDonough On Diageo’s Luxury Branding

March 30, 2015

With a vast portfolio featuring some of the world’s most prominent super-premium spirits brands—including Johnnie Walker Scotch and Cîroc vodka—Diageo has proven to be well-versed in the language of luxury marketing. At the recent Impact Marketing Seminar, Diageo North America chief marketing and innovation officer Peter McDonough discussed the changing landscape of luxury, which has evolved dramatically in recent years, due to both cultural and economic shifts.

“The old norms shaping luxury have been battered by the changing realities of environment around us, and a more skeptical consumer mindset has emerged,” McDonough told the seminar audience, citing the lingering effects of the recession and a general distrust of authority. “From this economic turmoil, a change in attitude deemphasizing conspicuous consumption has begun to shape a cultural abandonment of old luxury and bring forth a new perception of luxury.”

According to McDonough, consumers across all income brackets have traded in overt expressions of wealth for more understated forms of luxury, including tailored experiences and personalization. In recent years, Diageo has tapped both trends with regionally-focused releases—including a limited edition Texas-only bottle of Crown Royal and city skyline-inspired Johnnie Walker bottles—as well as unique mobile bar initiatives, such as the Don Julio Airstream speakeasy and Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody Tailgate Trailer.

Likewise, Millennials and Baby Boomers alike have demonstrated a renewed interest in authenticity and craftsmanship, with Diageo brands like Ketel One vodka, Tanqueray gin and Oban Scotch refocusing their brand stories to better reflect their heritage, history and provenance. “Consumers love brand stories, and the future of luxury marketing is all about how the story is told,” explained McDonough. “Today’s luxury consumers are influenced by many different messages and means, and (we must) communicate a compelling and relevant story of luxury in unexpected ways.”

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