Kilchoman Distillery was founded in 2005 and uses the message ‘from barley to bottle’ to distinguish its brand and business model.
The industry is, however, fiercely competitive with 126 licensed Scotch whisky distilleries selling to some 200 markets internationally, which presented Kilchoman with a challenge – how to stand out from the crowd as one of the smallest companies in the market.
It partnered with Thinfilm to use its smart hang tags featuring NFC (Near Field Communication) SpeedTap technology integrated with two whisky brands; Machir Bay and Sanaig.
The smart tag bottles were sold initially across Europe, allowing the distillery to launch one-on-one consumer engagement experiences in-store and at-home, tapping a smartphone with NFC.
“One of the advantages of NFC is its ability to provide authentication rather than QR codes which need to be serialized and is still expensive compared with NFC,” said Paul Butler, senior product manager, Thinfilm, speaking at the AIPIA (Active & Intelligent, Packaging Industry Association) World Congress in Amsterdam last month.
“With the whisky brand the look and feel is incredibly important, the brand owner did not like how QR codes looked on the bottles and they wanted to keep the codes invisible."
Butler said that, through its work with various brands, it has learned a lot about tapping at home compared to in-store.
“People tap more at home than in-store, but if you give consumers a good reason to find out about the product in-store they might do that. For example, with Barbadillo we ran a campaign to win €1,000 but you needed to open the cork after buying the bottle so it depends on the design of the campaign.
“We hope in the consumer journey we can be present in multiple touch points and the first is its presence in the store.”
6.5% engagement rate
As a result of the campaign with Thinfilm, the NFC tags generated a 6.5% engagement rate among consumers, outperforming more traditional digital marketing channels such as display, email, search, and social.
By tapping the ‘smart bottles’ with an NFC-enabled smartphone consumers could find out about product details, taste profiles, brand messaging, and distillery information.
Kilchoman is further planning to develop its digital content to “deepen its relationship with brand enthusiasts”.
“Our vision is to have NFC products everywhere and we are scaling up our production plant in San Jose, California, to print 7bn tags in the next two years. The price will come down as we scale up, before it was mainly premium end products that were taking our tags, but if you give consumers value they will tap on it,” added Butler.
“With NFC we filter out the noise and go direct to the consumer and they are more likely to choose your brand as a result.
“We produce our NFC tags in San Jose, and 100% test our chips before we dispatch them. Once we choose a converter [supplier] we help them with a converter certification process an ‘onboarding process’ to make sure everything is produced at the right standard.
“Content is really important. You have to give value to your consumers because they won’t tap for the sake of tapping. In the case of Kilchoman, for content, they built a beautiful website with information about the distillery, an animated comparison about the two whiskies, Machir Bay and Sanaig.
“The results showed a 6.5% engagement rate, higher than social media banner ads, and other methods. It’s also a lot more personal, qualitative rather than quantitative.”
Butler said its CNECT (Cloud Platform) analytics showed each bottle was tapped by 1.35 consumers on average with a 35% virality rate (ie each tag was tapped multiple times and shared by friends).
The results saw interaction in 13 countries despite being launched in only a few countries, and engagement was highest in Finland and Helsinki, which Butler said is an indication Kilchoman should focus on that market.
“It took seven weeks to get the NFC integrated bottles from ship to shelf, and we learnt about the popularity of each variant so the distillery knows which flavor profiles are more applicable to various markets,” added Butler.
“The campaign delivered some great market insights that the brand owner can now use in the future. Based on the success of this hang tag we are moving from a regional trial to global deployment, on all Kilchoman’s variants and the content will be extended.”
Thinfilm has created NFC campaigns for several other wine, beer and spirits brands, such as Oskar Blue Brewery and Barbadillo. Campari America, the US distributor of Skyy vodka and Wild Turkey bourbon, this year distributed special Thinfilm-powered refrigerator magnets that consumers could tap with a smartphone to order spirits for home delivery.
The “Campari on Tap” magnets opened a product page on Drizly, the online shop for alcohol delivery.
Thinfilm has also launched a free e-book Thinfilm for Dummies.