Diageo, owners of brands such as Johnny Walker and Smirnoff, has set up virtual bars in networking site Second Life.
Robin Dargue, chief information officer and business process director at Diageo, explained that the company was attempting to stay relevant to the next generation of consumers, which he branded the “digital natives”.
Speaking at the Forrester annual IT forum in Edinburgh, Dargue said the drinks company was faced with many challenges as it strives to transform its IT strategy to be relevant to the new breed of consumers.
Corporate reputation was one such issue for the company, as it strives to use technology to market its products in innovative ways.
"If you believe there is significant risk, do not do it. If you believe there is any risk to reputation, do not do it. It will end up costing you so much more money than you will ever get back from marketing projects," Dargue said.
"It takes many years to build reputation and only a few moments to destroy it," he added.
Dargue listed other factors that IT managers needed to consider, such as regulation, increasing pressure on corporate social responsibility, emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, and growth.
There were some challenges to using Second Life as a marketing tool, he noted.
First, Diageo's security team would not allow employees to access the site from the company’s premises. "Our marketing team have to go home and do their work from home," he said.
Second, the drinks firm’s advertising and marketing is regulated so that it cannot be marketed to young people or children. "Our marketers need to stay within the marketing code. So we need to be sure that an avatar is not underage, and that we market to the right age group, because we are wary about corporate governance and reputation."
Dargue added his thoughts on green IT. "We need to be careful, as there is a lot of hype. At Diageo we take a more holistic view, we recycle our IT kit to train nurses and doctors in emerging countries, rather than just reducing our carbon footprint. It's about total social responsibility, and the environmental view is part of that. We do our bit."
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