Glenfiddich Stag Racing - When Whisky Meets Hackathons

5 Min Read

Last week Solid State Group had a grand day out. We shipped out to Stratford to attend a hackathon like no other. Called Hackadram, it was created by William Grant And Sons, who own brands like Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s, Drambuie, The Balvenie, Monkey Shoulder, Tullamore D.E.W, and Sailor Jerry’s.

And yes, the goodie bags were very very good. I have a cucumber saw for gin garnishes! A teeny tiny little saw! And Solid State Group can now also claim the skill of pairing Tullamore D.E.W with beers. My favourite was a Guinness Original combo.

But, the real business at hand was the hack brief. Here’s what we invented:

Glenfiddich Stag Race

We made a multiplayer AR racing game for mobile! The “Glenfiddich Stag Race”.

The buyer of a Glenfiddich could download the app, share it with their friends at a party or pub, all log in to play together, and happily race stags round the bottle for points.

When we were testing the app in public, fellow hackers were flocking towards our app like cheetahs after a fat antelope, or even faster, like the House Of Lords after a free lunch.

Why An AR App For A Whisky Brand?

William Grant And Sons is in the innovation business. They’re proud of their history, but are even keener on using the digital age to transform their business and lead the spirits industry from the front - that’s why they organised the hack in the first place. Their four briefs were all about engagement or innovations for the brands, we were confident this AR app was the innovative customer engagement channel they needed for the digital native of the future.

Why? If the future of branded content follows the future of media, then there’s going to be a natural progression from newspaper adverts to tv adverts to youtube adverts to AR adverts, as brands situate their message alongside the organic content uploaded by Joe public.

Beautiful design for Glenfiddich

Our AR app aimed to help WGAS be at the forefront of that progression. This would be their first foray into that new media channel of virtual reality. It’s preparation for a future in which we do not wield mobile phones and view digital media through 10 inch screens, but rather, exist in mixed reality worlds enabled by wearable devices.

So we went straight to the possibilities afforded by AR, buoyed by our recent success with an AR app for Christmas cards. We thought carefully about the branding opportunities in the app, for the app to work as a great game it can’t be weighed down by noisy advertising. But rather, the game should be enriched by the fantastic stories and characters created by WGAS over its 130 year history.

For example, these stories bring the game to vivid life when we apply them to the racing assets, in our case stags, to represent the Glenfiddich brand (Glenfiddich means Valley of the Deer). Suddenly, the users aren’t racing 3D blocks, but the noble, beautiful and historic emblems of Scotland’s proudest export. Likewise, the marker which anchors the game, which tells the app to orient the racetrack around it, is the handily cylindrical whisky bottle (but it could be any bottle or object in theory) and therefore we’re quite literally placing the Glenfiddich bottle centre stage.

The Glenfiddich augmented reality world

And like any good game, the world is as important as the gameplay, and our game would inhabit a beautiful themed world based on the different brands, i.e. misty Scottish valleys for Glenfiddich, or sun-kissed Caribbean beaches for Sailor Jerry’s rum, or post-zombie apocalypses filled with demonic chimpanzees for Monkey Shoulder.

New worlds and characters could be released alongside product releases, and the educational content such as the unique distilling techniques of the Experimental Series could be included as side quests and info.

The Build

We wanted to play to our strengths of fast MVPs, beautiful design, and a comprehensive commercial case for the technology.

Like with our Christmas card AR app, we used Unity, the game engine, to power the app, and Vuforia as the platform. Check out our AR app blog for more details on why we chose those tools for AR apps.

The Commercial Case

Our game’s main string in its bow was the value it brings as a branded customer engagement channel, however, there is one very big addition to this app.

Our proprietary Add To Basket technology makes content shoppable. You click on an ad or piece of content, it instantly takes you to your retailer of choice such as Amazon or Tesco, and it adds the product to your basket in one click.

Another look at the checkout options

This app would be no different. Not only could the app help customers discover the rarer WGAS products, it could also help them shop them. Whisky can be a daunting and confusing shopping experience, check out the main whisky websites and shops, you’re dazzled by choice, and usually under-equipped with the knowledge. But play our Stag Racing Game, learn that Glenfiddich’s Winter Storm is finished in ice wine casks, and that the ice wine grapes are picked by moonlight in Niagara in the midst of the winter frosts, and spy the Add To Basket button on the screen, and boom, a truly special whisky is on its way to you.

You can see the whole user journey from this gif of the app in use:

Glenfiddich Stag Racing

Tom on the left was the looooooser in this instance. I beat Kyle earlier. He claimed it was a bug.

And Hats Off To…

There were dozens of other teams present at this hack and there were some fantastic ideas pitched at the end of the two day hack. The breadth and depth of ideas and technologies were inspiring and it was genuinely one of the best hacks we’ve ever attended.

So well done everyone at Hackadram, thank you for inviting us, we had an amazing time, made new friends, learned new things and after two days of frantic coding, relaxed whisky tasting, and fiery pitches, we finished the hackadram the SSG way - with hot wings, beer, and a bit of light stag racing in the bar.

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