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Commercial test to brand building: How Johnnie Walker's NFT foray came about

Commercial test to brand building: How Johnnie Walker's NFT foray came about

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When Johnnie Walker ventured into the NFT scene earlier this year, it was not expecting the collection to be sold out within three minutes of going live. In fact, the initiative started off as a commercial test of whether it could get a view of what the secondary market appreciation potential was, Lyndon Govender (pictured right), marketing director, Southeast Asia at Diageo said during a recent event titled "Into the Metaverse" organised by Omnicom Media Group and Meta.

The teams at Johnnie Walker were interested in learning more about the secondary market and identifying how consumers were keeping track of their whisky collection, if they knew the price of the whisky they owned, and how do they normally show it off to others aside from displaying it in cabinets. Other discussions surrounding NFT also occurred at the same time, revolving around topics such as how Johnnie Walker can form new ways of engaging with consumers and pioneering new experiences.

"[The NFT initiative] moved into brand building very quickly. We saw the opportunity to really take the brand into the new space and naturally, how to be able to reach consumers then becomes a big topic of discussion," he said. The collection had seven one-of-a-kind works of art, and the brand collaborated with NFT marketplace BlockBar.com and graphic designer BossLogic. Lucky winners were also offered an exclusive brand experience in Scotland.

"The global brand team brought on board BossLogic, who is famous for his Marvel creations, for the project and this was a big unlock for us. He was able to reinterpret the whisky bottles in wonderful ways, which was really helpful for us in bringing more vibrancy to the category," Govender added. It also sought the expertise of Deloitte UK to build its internal capabilities for NFTs and educate the team on how they can bring this project to life. 

While getting the NFT project off the ground might have been a feat on its own, Johnnie Walker also ensured that this immersive experience was being amplified and scaled across various media channels. According to Govender, Johnnie Walker operates in a complex media environment in Southeast Asia, especially within the alcohol category. Hence, Meta platforms were used as a source of reach for the team to engage consumers in the region. The team leveraged short-form content to drive reach and talk about the Johnnie Walker trademark, while its partnership with PHD allowed it to create more targeted executions. The brand also partnered with Tatler to announce the NFT launch, which Govender said was the right luxury environment to be featured in given the high-net-worth individuals it wanted to target.

There was also a VR experience which allowed consumers to see the history of the brand and some of the NFT artworks which were going to be sold on BlockBar.com.

"It was quite a comprehensive media plan. We had a bit of scale behind paid, social, and organic for the global social media pages of Johnnie Walker, the immersive experience, a targeted environment with buyers, and earned media out of our NFT project. We were able to get coverage from luxury and lifestyle press as well as fintech and crypto press which was a first for the brand. So it worked out really nicely," he explained. 

johnnie walker into the metaverse

For marketers looking to jump into this space, Govender said it is important to create a culture where everyone is comfortable with ambiguity and risk. "For us, being very clear on the type of risk that we were able to take on versus what we couldn't was critically important," he said. While Johnnie Walker was comfortable with the commercial risk of not knowing whether the NFT collection would sell, the brand was clear that it was unwilling to take any risks when it came to brand protection, alcohol, and the society.

Aside from being uncomfortable with the unknown, it is also important to bring the right people along the journey and have the right amount of information. While this can quickly become overwhelming, Govender said it was still important for the team. "Being very clear on what you want to get out of it, you can get a whole host of benefits, you can get a whole host of things that you don't want happening as well. There's a risk mitigation plan that you need to lead in there," he said.

(Read also: Analysis: What exactly are NFTs and why it's relevant to marketing)

What are the KPIs in the metaverse?

The conversation surrounding NFTs is closely tied to the metaverse and Web3.0. According to research from consulting firm Analysis Group, the metaverse could contribute US$3 trillion to the global GDP within a decade if it evolves the same way mobile technology has in terms of adoption. As technology evolves, KPIs will also have to evolve.

In a separate panel at the event, Sam Piller, head, digital and innovation, PHD Singapore said metrics such as likes, clicks, views, and impressions will become even more meaningless in the metaverse.

Instead, there will be a real shift towards engagement and attention. Hence, PHD is currently trying to give consumers a more usable experience in the metaverse, from virtual trials to virtual test rides for cars and even virtual makeup tests. "If you think about measurement, think about how much you want to invest in. The metaverse needs to be part of your test and learn budget," he said.

Meanwhile, JLL's APAC CMO Gita de Beer added that the first step towards the metaverse is strategy, thinking about the brand's goals, how it will delight and surprise the customer, and how it plans to do it differently. 

"If you think about the metaverse, think about what platform you should activate [to engage consumers]," she said, adding:

The communication experiences on the platform and the way consumers interact in the metaverse is very playful and very much driven by value exchange.

You need to be daring enough to let your brand go a little and let the community take over. That's when you can start creating the right experiences. 

According to her, brands that are successful in the metaverse have been able to transcend the big idea in both the physical and virtual world. Hence, brands need to go back to basics when marketing in the metaverse, de Beer said, which is to have a big idea, surprise and delight consumers, and use the right channels to make the experience happen.

Also weighing in on the matter was Karen Teo, VP, APAC global business group (mid-market), Meta, who said that brands should figure out what the true metrics and KPIs are. "However, there are certain things that will always be relevant today in terms of what we're building and how we engage with our customers. For example, what are the returns when you are selling something? What's the revenue?" she said.

According to Teo, these will always be relevant KPIs and success metrics. "If you are going into the metaverse, always start with what am I trying to accomplish here? Is it to provide value to customers? Am I trying to sell virtual goods? Are you trying to connect with like-minded individuals? Am I building a new community?" she said. 

Like PHD's Piller, Teo also believes there will be new ways of engagement but that is something the industry will need to figure out together.

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#ExplainIt: Is there a need for a chief metaverse officer? [Video]
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