Johnnie Walker ‘smart bottle’ debuts in Thailand
Diageo is to launch its Johnnie Walker Blue Label ‘smart bottle’ on a trial basis in Thailand this week, marking the first time the product will be used by consumers.
In February this year, Diageo’s Technology Venture’s team collaborated with Thin Film Electronics to launch the device, which uses printed sensor tags to detect whether the bottle is sealed or open with the tap of a smartphone.
In addition to its ability to clampdown on counterfeiting, the smart bottle offers unique marketing opportunities, allowing Diageo to communicate with consumers in a more personalised way. Once a consumer has interacted with the device through their smartphones, Diageo is able to send ‘targeted and timely’ communications.
Furthermore, the technology will enable the drinks firm to follow bottle movements through the supply chain, in stores and up to the point of consumer consumption.
Until this week, the bottle has only been used as a prototype, but will be launched on a pilot basis in Thailand for an unspecified time period from this week.
Speaking to The Spirits Business, Sam Maguire, senior innovation manager at Diageo’s Futures Team, said of the launch: “It will be small-scale, but this is the first time the product will be out in a market and in consumers’ hands. This will help us see how consumers interact with the technology. We need to understand the best way of engaging with consumers in a way that adds value to their experiences.”
Maguire also said that Thailand was selected as an ideal trial location for the bottle because it is a “dark market”, meaning alcohol advertising is largely prohibited. “It doesn’t conflict with any laws that exist,” he claimed. “We were very cautious with this and worked within the laws that exist.”
“This is a new technology and no-one has really done this before, so it’s a bit of an unknown. But all content complies with regulations.”
He added that Thailand’s “high smart phone penetration” made it an ideal market for the trial launch.
Maguire added that while the smart bottle offers unique opportunities in terms of combating the counterfeit spirits market – since the majority of illicit spirits are sold in once-legitimate bottles – it primary benefits lie in marketing.
Diageo is currently running background operations to test the bottle’s scalability.
“My vision is to make every bottle in Diageo’s portfolio a connected object that allows us to deliver content to consumers every time they interact,” said Maguire. “ But the journey to this point will be a long one and we need to make sure we have the right brands in the right markets and that the content is relevant.”
A limited run of 500 bottles will be sold through two channels: selected ‘valued customers’ and ‘traditional’ off-trade channels, including 10 outlets in Bangkok. A small number of pre-sales have already resulted in “positive feedback”.
Maguire said that Diageo does not plan to expand the availability of the smart bottle outside of Thailand in the near future.
Created using technology by Selinko, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label smart bottle is one of a number of app-connected devices launched in recent years.
Selinko is a software and solution provider. Selinko’s Smart Bottle solution relies on an Inside Secure patent pending CapSeal tag technology and an Amcor capsule.
Rémy Martin unveiled its ‘tamper-proof’ Club Connect bottle in China this autumn, while Pernod Ricard has used a patented QR technology, called Puma, for all of its products shipped to China over the last three years.
For more information on the rise of smart bottle technology in spirits, see the December 2015 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.