Pernod Ricard sees connected cocktail glasses as a valuable data source

Marketers want to use data to understand their customers more, and alcohol maker Pernod Ricard has a new tactic: adding data-tracking capabilities to cocktail glasses and booze bottles.

For the latest test, which is in a bar in Paris over summer, Havana Club-branded glasses are equipped with near field communication enabled chips that connect to a web app and allows customers to place their order when scanned by a smartphone. Before an order is made — this is Europe in the GDPR era, remember — a person can consent to their name, email address, country of residence and preferred cocktail being tracked. In exchange for the data, drinkers are promised news about new products as well as invites to exclusive events from Pernod Ricard. If the glass is taken home the web app will use the smartphone’s location to serve them cocktail recipes instead of the re-ordering page they get when in a participating bar.

The maker of liquor brands like Absolut and Chivas Regal for the past three years has distributed so-called connected bottles and connected glasses at events and bars across Europe.

It may sound like another aimless internet of things device that nobody asked for, but Pernod Ricard’s global digital acceleration director, Pierre-Yves Calloc’h, believes people will use these products — and provide Pernod Ricard with valuable data — given the right incentive. The chance to avoid long queues at the bar is one incentive the company hopes to gauge from its test in Paris. It also wants to see whether people at festivals will think promotional offers or access to certain areas in a venue are a fair exchange for sharing data with a connected bottle.

“Connected [glassware] isn’t a gimmick for Pernod Ricard,” said Calloc’h. “These products are a way for us to make sure that we’re targeting the right people. We don’t know whether the fans we have on Facebook for example are actual consumers of the brand — they’re just people browsing a site. With the data we can start to match the profiles of relationships that we own with the theoretical targeting that we’ve traditionally used.”

Pernod Ricard wants the data from its connected glassware to inform its lookalike targeting. It has even built its own platform to pull data from the connected glassware into its own data management platform. That’s the aim at least, according to Calloc’h, who took over the company’s strategy for the internet of things last September. He is aided by internet of things specialists Sharpend.

For all its potential, the data from these products is far from ready for anything meaningful. It is basic and there’s not much of it. Furthermore, Pernod Ricard doesn’t have the scale or strategy across its brands yet to plug the data into larger campaigns. And yet the data the business can access from these products gives it a glimpse into the ages, drinking preferences and locations of people most likely to respond to its online ads. That’s a good starting point for a business that usually has to pay other companies to access that information.

“These [connected] products are going to be a significant source of data for us,” said Calloc’h. “The connected glasses allow us to capture more data from events and bars, while the bottles give us insights into how people drink our brands at home.”
But connected bottles are not the only answer — cost and response need to be considered, which may be different for each individual brand in the Pernod Ricard portfolio, depending on other factors such as audience.

Matt Boffey, director of consulting at technology agency Great State, said: “Whilst Pernod-Ricard wants to have a direct relationship with its consumers, do their consumers really want a direct relationship with them? One person’s ‘connected bottle’ is another person’s ‘surveillance capitalism’.”

Both the Malibu and Havana Club rum brands have been picked as the main test brands for this reason. The younger demographics of both brands mean they’re more likely to use the connected devices either at bars or at home. In 2016, for example, around 500 of the 43,000 connected Malibu bottles that were handed out an event were used by people who shared their data with the brand.

Looking forward, Calloc’h wants to use the connected products as a way to get data from places like events and concerts where Pernod Ricard has a limited view on both the type of people there and what brands they prefer. He said: “The data we get from events is around one third of the first party data the company owns so there’s an opportunity for us to look at a bigger role for the connected products here.”

Update: Pernod Ricard issued a statement after this article was published to clarify the company’s stance on data privacy. The statement read: “We believe it’s always important to make the sharing of data optional and give the opportunity to opt-out at any time. Most consumers understand that their name and location are necessary to get their chosen cocktail delivered. We find that, when presented this proposition throughout our activations, they very frequently choose to participate.”

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