Diageo sees promise in using voice to turn drinkers into brand ambassadors

Last December, the drinks giant launched the ‘Talisker Tasting Experience’

Following an experiment with its Talisker brand to “enhance the whisky tasting experience” through Amazon Alexa, Diageo is seeing promising results, and finding new ways to turn drinkers into brand ambassadors.

Last December, the drinks giant launched the ‘Talisker Tasting Experience’ a voice virtual distillery tour, designed to make the heritage of the flagship single malt “more accessible” to more people than ever before.

Following a successful pilot over Christmas and a subsequent roll out period, Diageo’s head of technology and innovation, Benjamin Lickfett, admitted such a feature could be applied to “a lot of products” in Diageo’s range – but explained it had decided to start with whisky because there was a strong desire among people to “understand” the spirit.

Promoted on-pack, the tool works on any Alexa-enabled device (including the Echo, the Echo Show and Fire TV stick). Drinkers first have to enable the Skill, then select which iteration of Talisker they want to know more about. The process kick-starts an audio journey to educate them on how to taste Scotch and get to know the richness and complexity of flavours within the Talisker range.

Users can also learn more about the Scottish Isle of Skye – where Talisker is distilled – via the experience. The final stage invites the ‘taster’ to ask questions about the story behind their drink or explore whiskies they might want to sample in the future.

Though it didn’t reveal how many customers had engaged with the tool, Diageo’s data shows that those who have used it in the six months since its launch have spent an average of 7.5 minutes with the experience. 60% of time spent using the skill was on the tasting experience while the other 40% was spent in the brand and category discovery element. The most popular time for usage was between 7pm and 8pm.

“Talisker’s complexity of flavour lends it to [a voice] interface,” he Lickfett said. “We started with Talisker because it really comes to life beautifully and it has a nice brand story that people can engage with. We used voice as an ambient addition, but it’s still about the product – the smell, the flavour, the colour and we use voice to add an additional layer.”

Lickfett said that the Skill was a “digital value add” for Talisker and suggested the approach could be rolled out for other brands across the group.

“People have been getting really engaged with the brand [through this experience], and it’s turning them into brand ambassadors as well as allowing us to highlight the uniqueness of the product.”

The Guinness and Gordon’s Gin owner has been experimenting with different ways to use voice, including with the launch of ‘The Bar’ in 2017 – an experience for the Amazon Echo Show that enables consumers to master mixology techniques and shop for ingredients through voice-led practical advice. Its ‘Happy Hour’ Amazon Alexa Skill has also been serving up cocktail recipes and recommended bars for the best part of a year.

Diageo worked with a specialist agency to create the Talisker activation, with Lickfett saying Amazon had also played a role in its creation.

“We’re platform agnostic. But we find that all of the players including Google and Amazon are really keen to find voice use cases that really add value to consumers lives and we believe this is one of them,” he said.

Armed with a three-pronged strategy (“recruit, re-recruit and disrupt”) to ensure it brings new products to market and makes the most of those already in place, Diageo has been doubling down its innovation efforts of late.

The group’s global head of innovation Michael Ward admitted Diageo was “doing less innovation” than it was three years ago but that the quality was better.

“That is quite simply because of the strength of our ideas in our pipeline. [They] are delivering most of what [we want] and that allows us to be more choiceful,” he explained.

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