Top 10 Innovative Brands 2018: #10 The Macallan

The single malt whiskey is pioneering the way liquor brands can connect with consumers through virtual and augmented reality and immersive theater and storytelling.

By Ian Zelaya October 10, 2018, 4:32 AM EDT

The Macallan Distillery Experience was housed in a 15-foot cube structure that featured 360-degree video projections of Scottish scenery and the distillery. The video was captured by drones and a remote-controlled robot.

Photo: Wes Tarca Photography

The goal of many spirit companies is to gain new consumers through events, and in the past year, the Macallan has stood out among its industry competition by applying innovative technologies and creative storytelling techniques into its experiential marketing strategy. 

The Scottish single malt whiskey brand has recently incorporated virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive theater into its public events in an effort to connect with more consumers and inform them about new products and its distillery.

“We strive to lead the way when it comes to new technologies and immersive experiences, and are constantly challenging ourselves to create new ways to bring the Macallan to life,” says Samantha Leotta, brand director at the Macallan. “We believe that delivering these one-of-a-kind experiences helps to grow our following base by delivering educational, immersive, and memorable moments, which then results in long-term success for the brand.” 

Last fall, the Macallan debuted an augmented-reality art exhibit called Gallery 12, which showcased the Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old and the Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old whiskies through interactive art pieces that came to life with the Microsoft HoloLens. At the activation, which traveled to New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco, guests could wear the devices to visually experience the whiskey’s flavor notes, and to visit American and European oak forests where the brand’s oak casks are sourced. 

For those who couldn’t attend Gallery 12 in person, the Macallan created an A.R. app using Apple’s ARkit to educate consumers on the differences of each bottle. Gallery 12 won two awards—a gold distinction in the physical and digital integrated campaign at the Shorty Awards and the best production of an event (consumer) award at the 2018 Ex Awards at the Experiential Marketing Summit in San Francisco. 

“We believe that delivering these one-of-a-kind experiences helps to grow our following base by delivering educational, immersive, and memorable moments, which then results in long-term success for the brand.” 

To introduce its new Scotland distillery to U.S. consumers in July, the brand launched a 4-D virtual-reality experience in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Groups of people were invited to step inside of a 15-foot cube structure that displayed 360-degree video projections of Scottish scenery and the distillery, captured by drones and a remote-controlled robot. Guided by a brand ambassador, participants could choose the videos they wanted projected by interacting with a small screen that caught their mid-air hand gestures with leap motion control technology. The experience also incorporated special effects such as wind and scent diffusion technology. 

Along with tech-fueled events, the Macallan has dabbled in immersive theater. In June, the brand partnered with arts organization Third Rail Projects to hold “Behind The City,” an experiential theater production in New York that merged personal storytelling with surreal whiskey-inspired moments. 

“We have had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our events this year. Besides several industry awards and nominations, it’s always humbling to see the fantastic amount of social media engagement and sharing from consumers while they attend our events and activations,” says Leotta. “We have found that when we connect emotionally with our consumers and bring the roots and values of our history and heritage to light, it truly resonates.”

The brand has also been a key contributor to the growth of its parent company Edrington. The international spirits company reported that for 2017 to 2018, the Macallan’s core revenue was £706.7 million, up 7 percent from the previous year.

The brand’s newest event series is called the Macallan Manor, and it invites guests to take part in four different multi-sensory storytelling experiences, each focused on one expression of a particular whiskey. The tour kicked off in New York in September and will travel to eight other U.S. cities this fall, ending in Los Angeles in November. 

Launch Slide Show

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