The Distilled Series: 3 – Expanding Reality and our Breakthrough ‘Hunting Grounds’

1 May 2024

“Regardless of geography or sector, technological and digital transformation is essential today to unlock the full potential of brands. Diageo has seen with the likes of ‘What’s Your Whisky’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’ that digital innovation not only adds incredible value, but importantly gives the modern consumer new and exciting ways to interact with brands, even those that are hundreds of years old. This ‘Expanding Reality’ trend will increasingly redefine how consumers experience life, and I’m so excited to see how Diageo’s Breakthrough team shapes this future of celebration in a digital-first world.”

Benjamin Lickfett
Benni Lickfett,

Global Head of Breakthrough Innovation – Digital

From office life to how people socialise, the rapid adoption of digital infrastructure has blurred the boundaries between the online and offline. Daily interactions between consumers now span the digital and physical worlds seamlessly, with Diageo‘s inaugural consumer trends report ‘Distilled’ highlighting that discussions around technological advancements rose by 94% between 2021 and 2023.

This is a trend we labelled ‘Expanding Reality’, and driven by topics such as AI-enabled relationships and high-tempo digital experiences it’s a movement that brings boundless opportunities for brands to enhance everyday life. So if Diageo is to shape the future of social celebration, we know we must take a lead and shape consumer trends such as ‘Expanding Reality’, with our innovation function at the forefront of this commitment.

‘Elli’ is Seedlip’s virtual concierge that uses AI to allow consumers to learn about all things Seedlip, cocktails, and gift ideas.

‘Elli’ is Seedlip’s virtual concierge that uses AI to allow consumers to learn about all things Seedlip, cocktails, and gift ideas.

Core innovation at Diageo predominately builds ideas in-house using current capabilities, with recent successes including the launch of Smirnoff Electric Guava in Mexico and ‘The Cocktail Collection’ in GB. However, to be a truly innovative company we need to be at the edge of our comfort zone, with our recently launched Breakthrough Innovation team on a journey to find new and exciting ways for consumers to love our brands in this increasingly digital-first world.

With its experience and diversity stimulating creativity, Diageo’s end-to-end Breakthrough Innovation team will rapidly test and learn platforms under three main themes, or as the team is calling them, ‘Hunting Grounds’. These provide the basis of what will guide the team, with each entertaining a consumer, and society, that is increasingly digital-first. But what are the ‘Hunting Grounds’?


Consumers today are increasingly looking to celebrate in ways that blur the lines between ‘in-real-life’ and virtual. With ‘Distilled’ highlighting that there were 4.6 million conversations regarding the ‘Expanding Reality’ trend between 2021 and 2023, the lines between imagination and tangible experiences are changing the future of human experience.

Diageo’s Breakthrough team will therefore provide platforms that expand the boundaries of celebration beyond "just alcoholic drinks”, delving into the transformational power of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and more recently Spatial Computing.

In March, Diageo announced it was partnering with Apple Vision Pro on a Don Julio experience, to offer groundbreaking new ways for global consumers to engage with the brand and the world of tequila. In a first-of-its kind update for the Beverage industry, this experience provides an exciting opportunity for Diageo, and initially Don Julio, to build upon what consumers already love about our brands and extend it to engage with sight, sound, and touch, allowing consumers to truly immerse themselves into our brand like never before.



Consumers are increasingly searching for products that signal belonging, status, and personality. ‘Distilled’ explained that consumers are redefining their definition of hedonism and yearning for unique products and experiences, with increased conversations around this sub-trend (+72%) highlighting that personalisation is essential for today’s consumer.

Brands today need to reimagine their services and how they interact with consumers, and Diageo’s Breakthrough team is seeking to provide platforms for customers to tailor products for themselves and for others. This will build on the success of ‘What’s Your Whisky’, the AI-powered experience that helps whisky fans across the world discover their perfect Single Malt, as well as the ‘Journey of Flavour Tour’ at Johnnie Walker Princes Street. The Tour uses AI to map visitors’ personal flavour preferences to their palate, and with more than 800 flavour combinations available, one person could visit Johnnie Walker Princes Street every day for more than two years and not have the same experience twice.


Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their choices, seeking ways to align their purchasing decisions with their values and habits. While not a new phenomenon, Distilled highlighted that conversations around the trend ‘Betterment Brands’ were still prominent (+44%), with the Breakthrough team looking to deliver platforms that will provide impactful options for the planet.

In January, Diageo launched its open innovation programme ‘Diageo Sustainable Solutions’, an exciting programme that will invest in new technologies and partnerships with start-ups to unlock ideas and solutions for more sustainable innovations. Building on the progress that Diageo has already made, the Breakthrough team will continue to push Diageo to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.

Read more about the Breakthrough Innovation team

The full Distilled Report