Guest Blog: Connecting Malibu rum to the internet of things with Cameron Worth of SharpEnd

Jan 03, 2017

GDR is pleased to host a guest post from Cameron Worth of the Internet of Things agency SharpEnd on the exciting things his company is doing in collaboration with Malibu.

We’re on the cusp of a massive industry-wide shift. Everything around us can – and will – be connected to the ‘Internet of Things.’ In these early days, there’s a lot to get wrong – tech for tech’s sake is a trap that many good brands fall into, but there are applications that can be used in ways that are meaningful to brands and consumers alike.

There’s no doubt there’s appetite for these developments, too: we recently worked with the media agency Mindshare on some research that revealed there’s a strong appetite for household brands to provide ‘services’ in the home – 64% of UK consumers are interested in the idea of everyday objects being connected to the internet, and 62% find the idea of a product which alerts you or reorders itself when about to run out appealing.

We work closely with our clients from the point of strategic thinking to rollout: a good example of this is the ‘connected bottles’ Near Field Communication (NFC) trial we worked on with Malibu.

When thinking about the bottled spirits market, it’s worth considering that hundreds of millions of bottles are produced and sold every year, just by The Absolut Company (which owns Malibu) alone. As soon as those bottles reach retailers, brands lose visibility of their product, and have no knowledge of the consumers who purchase them. This represents a significant loss in potential insights. But what if those bottles were connected? And what if brands develop ways to motivate consumer engagement? We would be able to learn a lot about products and consumers, as well as creating a direct communication channel.

One of the catalysts for the connected bottle trial was the creation of our IoT Lab at The Absolut Company’s (TAC) head office in Stockholm. It was through this lab that we produced a range of prototypes for user, market and employee feedback. We all know it’s important to pair a concept with the right technology, and when it came to connected bottles we were conscious of two things: being wary of any technology that felt close to its sell-by date – the connected bottles had to stand the test of time, so the tech had to be future-facing. Second, we needed technology that would pair with the bottles seamlessly to create an experience that consumers would actually like and want to repeat.

We went through a many prototypes at this stage of the process, and collated user feedback as we went on – and NFC was by far the standout. Once we’d made our choice, we looked at consumer insights and potential new service opportunities that could reach consumers directly through their smartphones. Ultimately, our demo to the TAC team, as well as the local markets who we’d need to secure the pilots with, was what inspired them to think seriously about how the technology could work for them.

Showing brands how technologies can work for them in a meaningful way is a powerful thing, and TAC (and the brand company Pernod Ricard UK) got fully on board with the rollout of over 40,000 connected bottles – the largest trial of its kind to date. Each NFC-enabled bottle of Malibu came with an instructional neck hangar and gave consumers the ability to enter competitions, win prizes, access playlists, find unique drinking spots and watch AV drink-making tutorials.

We’re now at the point where the trial is over and the data is being reviewed. What quickly became obvious was the enormous level of data and insight we would gain from the trial, and how valuable that would be.

The Malibu NFC connected bottle trial has sparked discussions with a broad range of markets looking to run even bigger trials in 2017 and beyond. Brands are starting to understand what new technologies can do for them. And with the IoT at such an early stage of consumer adoption, at SharpEnd we’re doing everything we can to help them embrace technology in the best way possible.


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