AR app for wine marketing

The wine industry has been slow in adopting digital technologies for marketing so a new app is good news. For publication in week starting 25 December 2017.

An augmented reality app from Treasury Wine Estates to market the Australian wine label 19 Crimes has proved highly successful in terms of audience reaction and sales. The project is believed to be a world first in the application of AR for wine marketing.

All seven of the 19 Crimes wines with augmented reality labels can be purchased in the United States, though only three are available in Australia and Asia.

The target audience is young men aged 18 to 34, and focuses on the one item they have in common – their mobile phone. After downloading the app people point their mobile’s camera at the label. The face of a convict on the label comes to life and tells a story.

Treasury are happy with the traction. A company spokesperson told me 500,000 people worldwide have downloaded the app so far and this number continues to grow.

The Better Retailing site reported earlier this month the brand had grown 60 per cent in volume sales and 70 per cent in value in the past year. More than one million cases have been sold this year in the United States. The app launched there in June, and it could be argued it has influenced sales.

Augmented reality represents an exciting example of how a brand can use technology to create a positive “buzz”. AR differs from virtual reality. The latter involves wearing a headset that creates a sensation of an alternative reality. An earlier column described the problems associated with virtual reality, especially for people with spectacles.

Augmented reality is less clunky. As the name suggests, it adds to the information available. In the case of 19 Crimes, the label comes to life via the mobile app. We see original images of prisoners as we watch and hear them talk. Six of the seven wines are red and feature male convicts. The seventh, Hard Chard, invokes the life of Jane Castings who describes her life as a thief.

By the late 17th century England’s prisons were very over-crowded. The laws of the time were harsh and even a petty crime like stealing a handkerchief or a loaf of bread meant prison. Australia was established as a penal colony in 1788 after England lost the war of independence with the United States, which meant that country was no longer available as a prison.

The label references the 19 offences sufficiently serious to almost receive the death penalty. Prisoners were transported to Australia “for life” instead of being sent to the gallows. These offences included bigamy, stealing more than a shilling (12 pence), taking fish from a pond or letters from a post office, stealing a shroud from a grave and – most bizarrely of all – impersonating an Egyptian.

The sea journey took seven months and was arduous. If prisoners survived the voyage and worked hard they could build new lives in the colony.

The company has been astute in its choice of subjects. Irishman John Boyle O’Reilly, shown below, is particularly interesting. In 1867 he received a sentence of transportation for number 18 of the 19 crimes – breaking out of prison. Apparently O’Reilly wrote poetry during the voyage to Australia and once there was clever enough to outwit his guards and escape to America. Via the app we hear him speak of “finding true love in the most unlikely of places”. {Photo courtesy Treasury Wine Estates.)
19 Crimes Red Blend 3D_NV.jpg
O’Reilly had a nice turn of phrase. Of the transportation experience he says only people “who have stood within the bars and heard the din of devils and the appalling sounds of despair can imagine the horrors of the hold of a convict ship”.

Reaction on Apple’s app store has been mostly positive. One person wrote: “A fantastic app that brings a little piece of history to life. I jumped out of my skin when the mugshot spoke to me.”

A Treasury spokesperson said the idea to use augmented reality came about when the company was researching using virtual reality for a client in the US. “It seemed like a natural fit [with 19 Crimes] given the stories behind the convicts and the images we have of them.”

No actors were used for the voices; the videos we see in the app were animated via computer. Treasury worked with an agency in San Francisco called Tactic, alongside its global creative agency J. Walter Thompson. “We are not aware of any other wine brand that is using augmented reality on their labels,” the spokesperson said via email.

Of the seven wines from 19 Crimes, the Shiraz and the Red Blend are available in Hong Kong, while the Red Blend, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are sold in Singapore. The company plans to launch in other Asian markets early next year.

The WiseGuyReports.Com site published a report earlier this year in which they predicted that augmented reality for advertising would grow at a compound annual growth rate of almost 31 per cent from this year until 2021.

“AR technology makes the consumer remember an experience or action related to a particular product, and it allows the viewer to manipulate a computer-generated 3D representation of the product. Hence, it is popularly being used in advertising and marketing. It also allows a more interactive experience, possibly leading to an improved retention of the product information,” the report said.

The 19 Crimes app is available for both Android and iOS devices. The wine company’s web site also includes a store locator for finding the wine, by typing the post or zip code.

The press release connected with the American launch offers this observation: “… 19 Crimes wines celebrate the rebellious spirit of the more than 160,000 exiled men and women, the rule breakers and law-defying citizens who forged a new culture and national spirit in Australia. Just like these legendary rogues, 19 Crimes wines are a taste that will live long in infamy.”

One wonders when other wine marketers will start appreciating the power of digital tools for selling wine, or creating a “buzz” about a label.

Words: 1,006

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