May 14, 2020

Will Harvey is the Digital Innovation Manager, and a member of the Culture, Media & Futures Team at Diageo – one of the world’s largest distillers and makers of leading global alcoholic beverage brands including Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Baileys. As DIM, Will works directly with the Head of Technology & Innovation to scout, centralize, and integrate interesting new consumer behaviors and technology trends for the brands in the company’s profile.

Episode 3 Highlights

5:00 minutes in

How is the Futures Team built and how do you match the different technologies you discover with the brands in Diageo’s portfolio?

It’s important to have a centralized function to understand the landscape, to know what’s happening, and to continue testing. To be a first mover rather than a fast follower. Agile but also plugged into the large organization – it works both ways. It’s essentially a pairing of two different worlds: on one hand, what are the brand managers dealing with, what are their channels? On the other, what’s new and innovative in the startup world? How can we combine them?


8:45 minutes in

How do you find/scout new technologies that you want to incorporate into Diageo’s brands?

Our team has different skill sets and passions. One of us works with start-ups in northern Europe, another has vast on-trade knowledge, I bring years of experience working at Ogilvy to combine creativity and technology. You have to stay open and curious, and step out of your comfort zone. When I first started I’d go to free trade events as much as possible – things that are seemingly unrelated. What is blockchain? What is mixed reality? Who are the interesting companies in the gamification space? It’s about exploring, understanding the space and the players, and building relationships.

11:30 minutes in
We run about 30 pilots a year, a lot of them centered around retail technology and the in-home experience. From AI, to personalization, to flavor profiles at a molecular level to get consumers the right kind of whisky, to an Alexa-powered whisky tasting experience in your own home. Sometimes the work we do is too early and then we go back to those projects to further explore and reiterate. In terms of at-home consumer behavior we’ve seen the scope change since Covid-19.

15:40 minutes in

How do you bring physical tech to engage with consumers in the ontrade environment?

Every year Diageo runs the World Class, a competition for the world’s best bartender. 60,000 entries globally, whittled down to the top 60 who compete on stage. In the last few years the Futures Team got involved and added a Taste of the Future component to the event, inviting a number of handpicked tech partners/pilots that we wanted to showcase to the bartender community, customers, and industry innovators. Everything from taste customization, to drinks inspiration, to partnering with Spotify to create specialized playlists.

18:00 minutes in…

Getting these companies together in a live bar environment, and crossing the bartending community with the tech pilots is a great opportunity for Diageo. It’s a mixing pot that was really successful for us to showcase and then scale those pilots. Once we’ve done the groundwork we want to work with the rest of the business to see how it works for our brands, or how we can adapt it and evolve.

20 minutes in….

In the context of Covid-19, how are brands engaging consumers (the bar owners) at this time?

The current landscape is challenging for businesses, the bartending community, independents. We’ve got tough months ahead of us and we’re trying to remain positive. There’s a cultural shift happening that will hopefully bring more balance. Not just doing it for the sake of doing it but really understanding our role and responsibility in the relationship we have with one another. There are new behaviors that we’re fascinated with exploring, such as virtual socializing and live-streaming, our new routines. Can we still keep ourselves entertained? Virtual experiences will be more important for brands to remain relevant. And more human-centric, made with empathy, not just instagrammable moments. We’re looking at the grassroots level to see what is culturally shifting, beyond our technology bubble perspective.

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