St Patrick's Day activations are actually a little thin on the ground this year, but one that caught my eye (perhaps due in no small part to my personal fondness of the brand) was Jameson Whiskey, who are celebrating the launch of their very forward-thinking new new limited edition bottle range this St Patrick's Day. The bottle in question, which was commissioned in line with the brand's goal to release a unique, limited edition bottle for every St Patrick's Day, is the first whisky bottle to be implanted with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. For those who are unaware of NFC, it's the same tech used in Nintendo's 'Amiibo' toys, that allows physical objects to communicate digitally with other tech, in this case, smartphones. Created in partnership with Dublin based artist, Steve McCarthy, the bottle’s added connectivity offers users the chance to experience the rich history of the Irish brand.
Steve is known for his bold, colourful and witty style, a great match for the cheerful spirit of the season. His design was inspired by the “Chance your Arm” story, with the work depicting a handshake framed by the St Patrick’s Cathedral door of reconciliation. The words ‘Sine’ and ‘Metu’ are tattooed on the knuckles of each hand, as a nod to anyone who has been inspired by the Jameson family motto; “Sine Metu,” which means (loosely) to encourage people to avoid the well-trodden path, and to open their hearts to new experiences.
These days, the “Chance your arm” expression means to take a risk to achieve an end, and to get out of your comfort zone. The phrase, however, apparently has a story that can be traced back to 15th century Ireland, specifically to 1492, Dublin, when “Black James” Butler and his men were barricaded behind the door of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, opposing Gearóid Fitzgerald on the other side. Tired of constant fighting between the clans, Fitzgerald decided to give peace a chance and with the help of his men, he cut a hole in the door and extended his hand through the gap as a token of friendship. Luckily for him, it wasn’t chopped off immediately, but met with Butler’s handshake. A long standing feud came to an end, and a famous saying was born. Steve’s artwork is filled with references to iconic Dublin landmarks including the Ha’penny Bridge across the River Liffey, the Irish mountains and the Smithfield tower. Steve own story is represented by a night time view from the window of his old studio on the neck of the bottle, but behind all of the historic references, this year’s special edition bottle of Jameson features cutting edge technology.
The NFC technology on the crest on the bottle, developed in partnership with SharpEnd and piloted exclusively for the Irish market, will, when tapped by NFC enabled Android devices, allow access to exclusive content and competitions. Prizes include instant-win tickets for the new Jameson Distillery Bow St, as well as a chance to win the Ultimate Jameson St Patrick’s Day Experience in Dublin. The Limited Edition Bottle is available globally, however the NFC technology is only enabled for Irish users. The neck hanger also carries a URL for iPhone users whose phones don’t currently read NFC tags. When an NFC-enabled smartphone comes into contact with the product, the tag launches a URL directly in the smartphone’s browser. The content accessible through the NFC interactions will change over time, such as delivering ‘always on’ content via the Jameson mobile site after the St. Patrick’s Day promotions have been delivered.
NFC was apparently selected as the engagement technology because it offers a more seamless user experience than QR codes or Augmented Reality, both of which require smartphone users to download an app before engaging. Until recently, NFC technology has been used predominantly as a method of making smartphone payments. Brands are now starting to understand the new opportunities for the technology and this Jameson pilot follows a similar trial by Malibu (also owned by Pernod Ricard) as part of their ‘Because Summer’ campaign last year.
Taryn Casey, global head of digital at Irish distillers Pernod Ricard, said: “Capitalising on the development of the Internet of Things, Jameson is engaging with consumers in a new way, igniting a consumer-led desire for experiences from brands and products. With this local targeting, Jameson can connect with its consumers in a meaningful way by tapping in to consumer behaviour and trends and work towards the goal of celebrating St Patrick’s Day – the Jameson way.” Dan Lundberg, Jameson Global Brand Director, added: “As the industry moves in this direction Jameson is capitalising on the early adoption to drive user engagement and brand awareness in a personal and bespoke way. In the future, we look forward to multi-market propositions that champion the capabilities of hyper-localised content. With increased support for NFC this will only improve its capabilities, allowing us to create even better experiences for consumers.”
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.