The drinking experience is no longer just taste, brands must satisfy every sense

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'The Showgirl' cocktail created by We Are Jackanory

It comes as no surprise that London has strong appeal for brands looking to generate maximum impact from a brand experience. With London proving to be such a pull for brand experience activations, more consumers than ever before are catching on to the notion that experiences make you happier and are as valuable, or more so, than buying fancy things.

People now expect every element of their night out to deliver a multi-sensory, immersive experience, including the food and drink they order. In London’s high-end bars and restaurants, visitors are prepared to spend significant chunks of money to get the unique, surprising, sensorial experience that they most crave. Not only does their food and drink need to taste good, it needs to look incredible, smell and sound out of this world and above all tell a story; a story that they can instantly share on social media, giving them top dollar social currency.

Earlier this year, inspired by the stories of The Savoy, we created a number of unique drink experiences for the hotel’s Beaufort Bar. ‘The Showgirl’ is in memory of Marilyn Monroe who once took tea and held a press conference at the hotel; rather than relying solely on the flavours, we ensured the drink experience was taken to the next level by serving it with a bespoke infinity mirror surrounded by light bulbs, evoking the showgirl era of which Marilyn was queen. It’s a visual delight and perfect for social sharing.

‘Under the Stars’ is inspired by Fred Astaire, who famously danced upon the roof of The Savoy during the 1920s. Served over ice, the drink is sweet and unutterably smooth, prepared at the table and placed on a light-up coaster inspired by the illuminated pavement in Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean music video. To heighten the drink experience, it is also served with a Polaroid picture of guests with the drink, in tribute to the infamous photograph of Fred Astaire featured in Playboy Magazine, drinking Champagne at a New Year’s Eve party. And to celebrate London Fashion Week, we created the F’row for Sexy Fish, a seductive drink presented on its very own catwalk and inspired by the glamour of the front row.

Taste is no longer the sole element of the drinking experience, so what are the others? How can you ensure drinkers are blown away by your serve and get that heightened experience that they’re after?

Here are our top six tips:

Tap into the trend for sensory science

Consumers are looking for experiences that are experimental or uniquely memorable and immersive. Since Heston made the science behind our food and drink seriously sexy, we recommend tapping into this trend for sensory science. Demonstrate the science behind your serve and why each element enhances the drinking experience. Diageo’s Singleton Sensorium, for example, was a pop up event that blended scientific research with a sensual experience and was designed to highlight the different flavours in The Singleton 12-year-old Single malt, and to engage consumers with how important their surroundings are to get the best out of their whisky.

Add an element of surprise to your serve to create sensory delight

Our ‘Goodfellas’ cocktail for The Connaught included edible money, linking back to the dirty money referenced in the film. Our ‘Old Magic’ cocktail for The Beaufort Bar included a bespoke note from bar staff and a hidden poem. Work hard to ensure every detail of the cocktail serve delivers delight and surprises the purchaser, adding to the overall drinking experience.

Capitalise on the trend of experimentation

People are looking for something different and are showing a greater desire to try, test and taste products that demonstrate their individuality and tell their own story. Artesian, the bar in London’s Langham Hotel, is creating ‘emotional cocktails’, where bartenders tap into customers’ personal experiences by creating drinks that capture their mood and essence in a glass.

Get the consumer involved

They want to portray themselves as being involved in the drink serve process – mainly because of the social status derived from trying novel things. The bartender is of course a key part of the process, telling the story behind the cocktails, recommending and creating serves according to the consumer’s tastes and preferences.

Use the highest quality products

Not just the ingredients used, but the surrounding elements of your serve. Each part needs to be well-made, look as premium as possible and be able to convey true luxury. It’s no longer enough to simply serve a cocktail on a coaster. It needs to be showcased, presented in a spectacular fashion and have its own stage.

Tell a story

Use all the elements above to tell a story, to truly engage with the consumer on an emotional level. Get this right and they’ll share their experience far and wide.

It looks like London will continue to be a key focus for brand experiences, and bars, restaurants and brands need to continue to focus on bringing new experiences to consumers in order to satisfy their increasingly sophisticated, discerning and demanding needs. London bars at the ready – ‘what next?’ we ask ourselves.

Lucy Gillions is co-founder of brand experience and events agency Jackanory.

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