Diageo: Perfecting The Art of Petulance

The arrogance of these corporations, and the  people that represent them, is, at times, jaw-dropping.

On Tuesday, 2 days after the award, I (James) took a phone call from Kenny Mitchell, Chairman of the BII in Scotland and Chairman of the Award Committee explaining the situation. To directly quote Kenny:

‘We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner’

‘Diageo (the main sponsor) approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening.’

In my opinion, Diageo is stellar at making mostly good, but not great products. Guinness is a good, but not great beer. Tanqueray is a good, but not great, gin. They do have some great products, but these are the exception and not the rule. Look over their brands and see if you disagree with me.

Here’s the thing…people have been figuring out how to create great beers and great gins, and realizing that as a small producer of these products, they can fiddle and shape their recipes on a regular basis with a quick turn around.

Diageo has difficulty in competing against the new breed of brewers and distillers, in large part because the company is so large.  Change that needs to occur in a large organization is a slow, laborious process, getting buy-in from people who may not even be on site. Change is a long term problem for any large corporation.

So they play short term games. They brag about their silver medals, without telling you that twenty-two other brands won a silver medal at that event.  They bully Award Committees by threatening to pull supporting income.  They get “brand ambassadors” to become walking, talking commercials for their product. This is, in my experience in researching both the whiskey and beer industries, their short term solution for their long term problem.

Their other short-term solution? Remove the products that are actually great. Bushmills, also owned by Diageo, makes a stellar 21-year old whiskey. And I’ve heard from people in the industry that several people at Diageo wants to kill the product. Why? Because it’s expensive to create a high quality product, free of defects. And waiting 21 years before seeing only limited profit on the product seems counter-intuitive to many corporate-types. Other products that have high-quality but low to no profit margins are removed without fanfare.

Here’s the thing – Corporations want to make a lot money. This is the first order of business. Small businesses, know they don’t have the resources to compete against a corporation whose goal is to make lots of many, and they know they can’t compete on a mass produced scale – so these small businesses do something different. They provide a product that has to outshine the Diageo-type product that everyone is aware of.  And when these producers do create such a  product or service, they should be lauded for it, because producing  and selling a great beer, gin, or whiskey is hard fuckin’ work.

Simply put, to pull that award away because it wasn’t an operator that sold Diageo product, is both petty and childish, something I’m finding representatives from Diageo are getting quite good at.

<i>(h/t to Boing Boing and congratulations to Brew Dog.)</i>

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