Noting that most of the "enterprise value" of his company is fundamentally about "people and the relationships they have with our brands," which include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, he said, "The purchase decision is almost entirely emotional."
Those brands have "sustained wars, fathom, social and political turmoil and more economic cycles than you can shake a stick at," Fennell said, adding, that they're all "still here" because those brands' founders got their "fundamentals right."
Fennell acknowledged that the media world is evolving rapidly, but said the key to sustaining brand success is in maintaining their fundamentals. He even coined a nifty acronym to explain them: FACE, which he said stands for "flair, agility, consumer insight and execution."
For all the challenges to his brands' success, Fennell said there is also tremendous new opportunity. Noting that "each year, 100 million people reach legal drinking age," he pointed out that 20 million of them are in China alone. Not surprisingly, he provided some case studies of Diageo's marketing strategies in emerging markets like China and Africa, including "The House of Walker Shanghai," the first "scotch brand heritage center outside of Scotland."
In Nigeria, Fennell noted, much of Diageo's market relies on mobile media as its primary platform, but much of it is "semi-smartphones" that cannot access the same kind of digital broadband ubiquity as many developed markets. Diageo's solution: Develop a social network optimized for those semi-smartphones.
"For now, this is what we need to do, because we don't want to wait the two years for smartphones to get to scale," he said.