Drinks brands providing increasingly immersive experiences

JWT says food and drink brands should embrace virtual reality experiences (betto rodrigues)
JWT says food and drink brands should embrace virtual reality experiences (betto rodrigues)

The drinks sector is experimenting with increasingly immersive experiences, according to new research from The Innovation Group - part of international marketing communications firm J. Walter Thompson (JWT).

In its latest food and drink trends report, the innovation and futurism unit claimed that drinks brands were keen to test out the possibilities of virtual storytelling, and gave recent examples such as a virtual reality (VR) experience from Dos Equis.

The beer brand teamed up with global communications agency Havas and event production agency Mirrorball to introduce partygoers at a masquerade Halloween event to its mascot – the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Patrons at 21 bars around the world wore Oculus Rift headsets, which transported them to a fantasy party with flame-throwers and leopards. They had to help the fictional man find his ‘little black book’, with sales said to have increased by 18% during the campaign.

Other alcohol brands such as Patrón have used Oculus Rift to show consumers their production process. The tequila brand used the journey of a bee to show consumers how the drink is made, while Jim Beam took customers in the US on a 3D rollercoaster ride of its production process, using Samsung Gear headsets.

In its report JWT advised that food and drink brands should start experimenting with VR technology now, in order to engage with future customers.

The bigger picture

The Innovation Group also looked at the pace of innovation in the food and drink sector, which it believes is being driven by digital media, advances in technology and a newly politicised awareness of food among consumers.

Consumers are faced with increasing choice, however social and technological changes are transforming their relationships with food, it said.

Lucie Greene, worldwide director at the Innovation Group, described today’s food and drink consumers as more sophisticated than ever before.

"Our research shows that both US and UK consumers are placing increasing importance on food and drink as an experiential luxury and reflection of their personal identity.

"We also found that millennials, despite their well-documented economic challenges, are demanding higher-quality food, visual stimulation, and technologically enhanced experiences."

Key trends

  • Foodie culture has gone mainstream.
  • There is a growing appreciation of ethically minded brands.
  • Experiential marketing for beverages is becoming more immersive as drink brands dip their toes into virtual reality storytelling.
  • Food porn is the new norm.
  • Millennials are mixing things up when it comes to alcohol, opting for healthier mixes and mashing up exercise with hedonism. 
  • Flexitarianism is on the rise, with more and more people scaling down their meat intake.
  • New food tribes include: ingredient skeptics, ancestral eaters and meal optimisers.

According to Sam Bompas of creative food agency Bompas & Parr, food is becoming more important to people’s lives and their sense of identity, with consumers ‘performing’ their identity on an ongoing basis through photographing what they are eating.

Despite consumer’s seemingly ever-growing appetite for all things food and drink, moving forward brands will have to carefully balance consumers' desire for novelty, with a commitment to ethics, transparency and health, the report added.

More: Sector Insight: Alcohol

Eventographic: Five key food and drink stats

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