Call it the second wave of brand experiences. The first wave—popularized by Starbucks and the Apple Store—has given way to brand experiences that demand more depth, more history, more sensory engagement. With the newly-reopened Jameson Distillery Bow Street in Dublin, owner Pernod Ricard may be on the bleeding edge of a strategy brands worldwide are rushing to create.
It had closed its doors on August 31st to embark on a $13.8 million redesign in a bid to make the iconic destination a more authentic, personal and relevant part of its brand storytelling.
The challenge for Jameson’s refreshed brand experience is distinct. How does one make small, intimate and personal a brand that is the best-selling brand in its category in the entire world—and also the world’s fastest-growing Irish whiskey, recording 27 years of consecutive growth and hitting sales of 5.7 million cases in 2016?
Reopening its doors in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Jameson has relaunched its old museum into a living, multi-sensory engagement experience that puts visitors in touch with the tastes, actions, sounds and “feel” of what Jameson calls “the behind-the-scenes magic of the world’s most popular whiskey.”
Of course, the national neighbor that Jameson Distillery Bow Street will be measured by is the Guinness Storehouse. That Dublin-based museum was voted Europe’s No. 1 tourist attraction in 2015. But in a way, the Storehouse’s popularity might work just fine for Jameson.
Located in Smithfield, Dublin, the refurbished distillery is not far from the Guinness site, making it part of a tour for those inclined to visit the birthplaces of Ireland’s storied beverages.
It’s also expected to boost Irish whiskey tourism. As Paschal Donohoe, the Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Dublin Central TD, said at the distillery’s reopening on March 5th:
“Each year, over 600,000 tourists pass through Irish whiskey visitor centres to experience first-hand the heritage behind this time-honoured spirit and hear the stories of established and emerging distilleries … The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy aims to treble this figure to 1.9 million visitors by 2025 and Jameson Distillery Bow St. will undoubtedly play a central role in delivering on this vision. Smithfield and its wider Dublin environs have a rich history and vibrant cultural scene which will also continue to attract and enthral visitors from near and far.”
Jameson intends for the fully immersive experience to cater to whiskey connoisseurs across the globe. Jameson is also aiming for both brand loyalists and whisky tourists who are new to the beverage. (Just remember to say “Sláinte!” if you do.)
As Jean-Christophe Coutures, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, stated back in August when the site refresh launched: “This investment marks an important moment in the history of Jameson in Ireland. We’ve grown up on Bow Street, in the heart of Smithfield, and we’ve always felt privileged to share our home with the world. Since we opened the Old Jameson Distillery visitor experience in 1997, we’ve welcomed over 4 million whiskey lovers through our doors. Now, as the renaissance of Irish whiskey continues at pace following incredible global growth over 25 years, we want to build on our efforts to share the story of Irish whiskey and Jameson around the world. We’ve enlisted the world’s best ‘experience designers’ and complemented that with a 100 per cent Irish contracting team who will work together to deliver on our vision.”
“With this latest investment, we place storytelling at the core of the visitor experience, drawing on state-of-the-art technology to bring the 230-year history of Bow Street to life, with a variety of tour options to cater for everyone – from those who may be discovering Jameson Irish whiskey for the very first time, to long-standing Jameson enthusiasts who are seeking to further their understanding of this much-loved spirit,” Coutures also commented.
Ray Dempsey, general manager at Jameson Distillery Bow Street since its opening, added: “From John Jameson’s brave first steps into this building in 1780, we’ve been focused on his ambition to create unforgettable experiences.” Those live immersive experiences include a music series, The Bow St. Sessions, featuring performances by Irish musicians.
The distillery makeover was led by BRC Imagination Arts, a California-based firm with a long history of creating brand experiences. BRC’s work includes Amsterdam’s Heineken Experience and Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola.
brandchannel: What we can expect at the new Jameson Distillery experience?
John Carroll (right): We’re thrilled to re-open after our major 6-month redevelopment, and incredibly excited to introduce three new interactive, immersive – but above all else – fun experiences, each with a strong focus on storytelling. After all we’re Irish—it’s in our DNA!
All experiences are fully hosted, which means you’ll have a knowledgeable Brand Ambassador with you from start to finish. Our flagship experience is The Bow St. Experience, where you’ll discover our story, learn about our process—and what trip to a distillery would be complete without enjoying a whiskey tasting!
John Jameson had a tradition of rewarding his workers at the end of a long day with a glass of Jameson (or ‘daily grog,’ as it was referred to). That tradition continues today, and as part of the Bow St. Experience you’ll receive a complimentary Jameson, Ginger & Lime.
In time, if you revisit us or you already have a good grasp of Irish Whiskey and the production process, we have two more in-depth/deep dive experiences for you to enjoy.
“The Whiskey Makers” is 90 minute full-sensory experience exploring the craft behind Jameson Original and the Whiskey Makers Series. We also host a cocktail master class—”The Whiskey Shakers.” Both Makers and Shakers experiences include a visit to our live Maturation Warehouse, where you’ll get an opportunity to draw whiskey straight from a barrel.
We also have some great exclusives at Jameson Distillery Bow St. including Jameson Distillery Edition (where you get your name printed on the label). You can also Bottle Your Own cask strength whiskey, label and leave a little message in the log book.
You’ll round off your visit in JJ’s Bar with great cocktails, music & events – and not just for Paddy’s Week, but all year round!
BC: Christian, how did you approach working with Jameson?
Christian Lachel (right): Central to BRC Imagination Arts’ work ethic is our commitment to work hand-in-glove and truly collaborate with our clients every step of the way. Our work started two years ago, and our team underwent deep immersion to understand their history, the story and the legacy behind the brand.
We met with the head distiller, the head cooper and the head of maturation. Our goal was to engage ourselves in the actual process of whiskey-making. As an agency, on every project, we aim to combine the shared values of the brand and the people and fans around the world and bring it to life through one-of-a-kind experiences.
— Steve Simpson (@SteveSimpson) January 30, 2017
BC: What do you hope visitors will take away from the experience?
Carroll: Fans of Jameson flock in their droves from all over the world to see where it all began (we have welcomed over 4 million whiskey lovers through our doors since 1997). It’s incredible to watch their reactions as they arrive on Bow St. – the sense of excitement and anticipation. They’ve made the journey to visit us, seeking an even richer experience right here in these historic buildings where John Jameson first began distilling our whiskey way back in 1780.
Giving our guests the opportunity to touch, taste, smell and interact with Jameson in the original Bow St. Distillery buildings is extremely powerful. We hope all our guests leave us with new knowledge and great memories – and continue as life-long friends of Jameson.
Lachel: One of the greatest things about the new Jameson Distillery Bow Street is how authentic the experience is. The historic location dates back to 1780. From the outset we wanted to create an experience so unique, guests will leave with memorable “bond and connect” moments. We drew on the power of Jameson’s heritage, and its many stories throughout the years, to create an emotional connection with fans.
BC: Besides the brand, what else serves as inspiration?
Christian Lachel: People value experiences over things. What inspired us at Jameson is brand theater–connecting with people emotionally in a personal way that is live. So much of our life is digital, we’re connected all the time. The value of brand home experiences is that they are so compelling people actually put their phones away. The Jameson Distillery Bow Street invites guests to step away from digital and share time with people, with a brand, and create lasting memories that they can cherish forever.
BC: Are there high expectations for this project?
Lachel: We always set our expectations high and want every project to be absolutely perfect. Our greatest reward is seeing the emotional reactions people have when they leave one of our experiences – whether it’s a big smile on their face or a tear in their eye. If we’ve touched people in the heart and made them feel a deeper sense of connection, then we’ve succeeded. That’s the purpose of the work we do.
BC: Christian, a bonus question, out of curiosity: any other brand homes you’re working on currently you can talk about?
Lachel: BRC Imagination Arts is actively engaged with several other brands and other brand home experiences. Some of them are too early to talk about, but one we’re really excited about is our work with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. We’re working with them to create a transformative and multidimensional experience for music fans and visitors from around the world.
This summer, we’ll be opening the Power of Rock Experience in Connor Theater, an epic immersive experience that features arena-quality sound, larger-than-life video screens and fan interactivity that will bring audiences closer to their favorite artists than ever before.
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