#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: The Macallan serves up neuroexperience to draw luxury seeking fans – Marketing Interactive

Whisky brand The Macallan might be well-loved among whisky lovers but the brand wanted to go beyond its usual pool of loyal customers to target 25 to 45-year-old luxury-seeking consumers. Its research into the alcohol purchasing habits of luxury Asian consumers found that there was a potential target audience who were indifferent towards and not particular about the type of whisky they were having. Hence, Erdington Group along with Rebel & Soul saw the opportunity to create an interesting neuroexperience to pique the interest of potential buyers. This led to the team winning gold for Most Creative – Customer Engagement at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE‘s MARKies Awards 2021.

Challenge

Under “The Macallan Brief”, Erdington Group wanted to create a marketing campaign with the goal “to position The Macallan as the ultimate luxury spirit brand in Asia”.

According to Erdington, it wanted to stay true to the brand’s global ethos “Make the call” which involved bold decision making. It also wanted to drive awareness of its brand heritage’s unique selling points, which comprises its six pillars – spiritual home, curiously small stills, finest cut, peerless spirit, natural colours, and exceptional oak casks. The brand said that these are the foundation stones for the quality and character of The Macallan whiskey by encompassing the strong sense of place at the heart of the distillery and the estate, together with its long experience of distilling and maturing malt whiskeys.

Strategy

The brand targeted APAC countries such as Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam. It sought to increase 8,000 new-to-spirit recruits per country and targeted 25 to 45-year-old luxury-seeking males and females.

When conceptualising the campaign, the brand said that the idea had to work across six countries and multiple cultures. The message had to be easy to translate, and it also wanted a COVID sensitive campaign, choosing to focus on support over hard-selling its products and infusing delicacy in “what it says, how it is said and whether it could be done safely”.

In addition, to drive awareness of the whisky brand, Erdington said that it needed to deliver a campaign that would drive a deep desire for association and purchase, sustained attention and lasting memories.

Together with its agency Rebel & Soul, the group conducted an audience assessment and combined it with The Macallan’s own consumer research. The group said it commissioned a report from information service company Wealth X on the alcohol purchasing habits of luxury Asian consumers. It also partnered with Quintessentially, the private members concierge company that caters to this audience in its target territories, to understand what the consumers actually like, and not just what they say they like.

According to the group, the assessment revealed that “in reality, whisky doesn’t matter to them”. Erdington added that they were also “high achievers who loathe overt sales environments”. Therefore, the group landed on a campaign to entice people who were indifferent towards and not particular about the type of whisky they were having to “care about The Macallan”.

The group said that it implemented an idea named the neuroexperience. It planned to give its audience something they do care about – an exclusive, luxury experience, with a dose of learning and technology and subtly infuse it with The Macallan. This was done through designing the experience to feel as luxurious as the competitor brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Patek Philippe.

Through this initiative, Erdington said that it wanted to redefine the way its audience felt about luxury spirits by suggesting that a luxury whisky like The Macallan, should only be consumed with inspiring stories. This went on to serve as the inspiration for the creatives – whisky worthy stories.

Execution

The campaign budget was originally set at under US$1.2 million and was reduced to approximately US$950,000 due to the pandemic.

The group explained that the marketing centrepiece of the campaign was a short film telling true stories of authentic Asian heroes who made brave calls, delivered in a state of the art boutique cinema as part of a luxury brand experience. The film and the cinema were designed collaboratively with award-winning film producers and directors, creative technologists and sensory specialists. Working with the events management company Rebel & Soul, the group also added that every touchpoint was applied with neuroscience to deliver a powerful cocktail of neurotransmitters that optimise the environment for neuroplasticity (memory making) while its audience tasted variants of The Macallan selectively curated to pair with the true stories.

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According to Erdington, the search for an appropriate subject with a “whisky worthy story” was met with a slew of challenges. The brand thus appointed full-time researchers, film producers and journalists who spent over 800 hours searching for suitable candidates who were also willing to sell the rights to their story. The final film featured Filipino freediver Marese Secades, who shared about the sacrifices she had made in pursuit of her passion and eye doctor Dr. Reeta Gurung, who gave up western fame and fortune to give sight to the blind in remote parts of Asia.

The screening of the film was accompanied with multi-sensory techniques designed with applied neuroscience, to optimise the potential for memory making, said Rebel & Soul.

Each tasting was delivered by the protagonist of the film, who would break the fourth wall to speak to the audience and guide them through their sensory whisky tasting. The stories in the film were set in a bar, which was also presented as an exact replica in the film when the audience left the cinema. The film ends with the parting words “Everyone’s got a Whisky Worthy Story to tell. Come join us in the bar to share yours”. The centrepiece cinema and bar were placed into a ticketed branded retail experience (a pivot to retail allowed the show to go on despite COVID-19). The experience was also home to eight subtle interactive storytelling zones and a VIP dining room, and ticket sales were driven by a bespoke microsite, digital marketing campaign and an abstract 15-second story key visual.

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The brand said that The Macallan needed a live element to the marketing campaign to showcase the taste of the liquid. Erdington, therefore, decided to make a bold move and create six ticketed retail experiences in iconic locations in six different countries, with eight luxury learning story zones. The live channel was supported by a marketing campaign featuring one month of teasers from the sensory cinema experience, the abstract story animation key visual, as well as photo-realistic renders of the space, and an organic and paid marketing campaign featuring images from the experience and video teasers from the experience across social media, print, display advertising and PR.

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The agency also added that three of the zones featured “one-of-a-kind, world-first technology and experiences”. Due to the pandemic, all of these had to be produced remotely. Thus, the people and parts had to move countries almost daily to bypass COVID lockdowns and meet launch date requirements. The films were also remotely directed and edited. Rebel & Soul also said that with a reduced brand budget due to COVID, it scoured over 250 pieces of existing footage to produce the Cask Toast film for 21% of the original budget and Kinetic at 50% of the original budget

Result

Amidst the various restrictions and obstacles presented during the pandemic, Rebel & Soul said that the campaign saw more than 400% increase year-over-year on the branded search term “The Macallan”. Quoting statistics from social insider, the campaign’s social engagement also surpassed the industry average of 1.22%. The Macallan’s website also saw an increase of more than 50,000 new unique visitors, which made up approximately 70% of total visits. The agency added that post-event, there was an increase of more than 1,000 uplifts in The Macallan email newsletter signups. The agency also said that there are plans for the activation blueprints of the different zones to be applied for five more markets, and all experiential technology will be shipped to future experiences to maximise the ROI and sustainability