Brand Experience: What a non-whisky lover can learn from Macallan
October 3, 2020

Industry AnalysisBrand Experience: What a non-whisky lover can learn from Macallan

Macallan goes the extra mile, and teaches us a thing or two about brand experience.
    • Make your audience feel special! How you make people feel is what they’re going to remember. Do this well and win loyalty for life

    • Put in the extra 10%!!! Whether that’s through your architecture, visual storytelling or customer service. Go the extra mile and it’ll serve you well

    • Make yourself relevant to your audience. Explain complicated things as simply as possible and always consider the value you’re creating for them

The legendary Macallan Estate reopened for the first time since the pandemic hit last weekend. I was lucky enough to snag my fiance and I the last tickets for a tour/tasting – ideal timing as he’s a massive Macallan fan and whisky aficionado. Personally, it’s not my fave. I used to think I liked whisky in my late teens and 20s, pretending to be cool like my big brother and papa. Whisky is popular in Punjabi culture. Alas, it turns out I hate the taste, and I’m woman enough now to admit it. But I love the smells, the complexity of it and I’ve been lucky enough to work on a couple of brands like Royal Salute and Aberlour in my career.

The whisky industry is a fascinating one, and after my experience at the Macallan estate and distillery it is absolutely no surprise that Macallan is top of its game.

Scottish hospitality, and making your audience feel special

Let’s start with how personable the Macallan staff were. Now I’m not sure if this was just the warmth of Scottish hospitality or just exceptionally high standards, but either way, the welcome we received was like no other. The team (special shout out to Colin, Stuart, Matthew and Danielle!) made us feel at home and as if we were royalty straight away- from knowing who would be looking after us from the moment we stepped inside, to remembering (and spoiling) my fiance as this was a birthday gift to him, and letting us get comfortable with some tea and scones before the grand tour began.

Little things like asking where we were from, remembering small details about us throughout the day, dropping in on our lunch to ask how the birthday experience was going made us feel special and looked after all day.

A few days later my fiance had a little FOMO about purchasing a specific bottle and the team were beyond helpful, inviting us back to the estate at a time it’s usually closed to the public on our way back down to London. We arrived, and no sooner had we parked, Danielle arrived with umbrellas to escort us inside and shield us from the torrential downpour. What struck us most after leaving was the team being so adamant to let them know when we were home safe after our long day of travelling back home across the country. It’s rare, really rare, in the world of business for people to show so much care and kindness. The warmth that comes through in how the staff interact with you is really touching. It really does make you feel special, and how many brands can you really say that for?

What does this mean for your brand? People in business forget that the whole team is a brand touchpoint. The way a brand’s team engages with its customer is a reflection of that broader business-customer relationship. You wanna make yours a good one? Be nice and be caring towards your audience. Kindness costs nothing, so it’s an easy quality any business to employ – just be authentic and human about it.

State of the art everything

I’d heard a lot about the new Macallan distillery. My best pal is an architect and one of her colleagues worked on it – needless to say (with her discerning eye) her excitement about the building let me know this place is iconic. Built by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners – it was always going to be an impressive building. These guy also built other iconic landmarks including the Shard in London, the snazzy apartments in Bankside near my old office, Madrid airport and 3 World Trade Center in NYC.
The building features a beautiful undulating grass roof that mirrors the surrounding Scottish landscape, an open plan layout of production facilities and is somewhat subterranean. My favourite part though – the “cave privée”, or private bar. You walk in, the lights turn on, and BOOM you’re surrounded by hundreds of Macallan casks, in a small, intimate setting to raise a glass!

Macallan cave privee private bar

What does this mean for your brand? Everyone in business does the 90% of work that *needs* to get done. But what Macallan excels at is adding in the extra 10%. So much thought has gone into the Macallan Estate – they didn’t *need* to build such a breathtaking building. They didn’t *need* to build an extravagant private bar. Many of you might see these qualities as “extra”, but ultimately it’s the details like this that enable a brand to be top of its game. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond – you’ll find that those details are what your audience love and talk about the most.

Brand storytelling

Being state of the art is great- but think about how everything you’ve created links back to your audience and how it benefits their lives. What Macallan does excellently is articulate this. This attention to detail is clearly what sets it apart from other booze brands I’ve worked with or analysed in the past.

What really elevates the building beyond bricks and mortar and its subterranean eco grass roof are the small touches throughout this high tech masterpiece – these touches help articulate the production process in a digestible and relatable way.

Prime example- Macallan has always been known for it’s “dense and rich” style- coating your mouth with a luscious texture, compared to other whiskies which are traditionally lighter in texture. This is a result of Macallan’s distillation process. While walking around the distillery you see these huge copper stills, chilled tanks and mash tuns that are used for the production process. While they look impressive due to their scale, they are actually the smallest in the industry, and it would be easy to get confused by what on earth actually happens here.

Macallan copper stills

Something Macallan does really well is make the complexity of all these fancy vessels relevant to you, the whisky drinker! The nuances of Macallan’s distillation process are complex and technical, yet the team have managed to not only explain the process so well, but also create a beautiful model to demonstrate this complexity. After seeing the huge stills, you are shown a beautiful pint-sized model where you learn about why Macallan’s stills are different from other brands. You also learn how this impacts Macallan’s taste – relating facts back to your audience and making them relevant is key.

What does this mean for your brand? In a nutshell, this is what Macallan did:

  • Brand problem: Identify a complex process that is technical, potentially boring and easily confuses people
  • Brand solution: Break the process into layman’s terms. Simple language is a key – the easier to understand, the better!!! Then talk about the ultimate effects of that complex process and what it does for your audience. Tell them why it’s relevant and how it makes their life better. Use visuals as another way to maximise people’s understanding.
Creating memories to last a lifetime

The Macallan distillery is memorable for the building alone. The storytelling kicks that memorability up a notch. You learn about real people, about processes in a visual and appealing way.

But what really cultivates the memorable experience is the hospitality of the team at Macallan. The way the team made my fiance and I feel on the day we visited, and on the day we returned, is what will stick in our hearts and minds forever. Credit to whoever hires and trains all the staff that make up the Macallan Distillery experience- because they do an absolutely cracking job on creating a strong culture. Most interestingly, what really made this experience so excellent cost Macallan absolutely nothing. Kindness and authentic care about making the experience excellent made this second to none.

What does this mean for your brand? Not everyone can afford an estate worth hundreds of millions, and that’s okay. Think about every other way you are executing your business. Treat every single customer touch point like it might be their last – how will you make their visit memorable?

Consider how you can elevate your website to tell your brand story more clearly, or explain why your product is not comparable to others. Your audience is scrolling through tonnes of content everyday – the little things like how you write emails or social media posts make a difference. Show that you care about the people reading your content! Going the extra 10% doesn’t really take that long, but is always worth it to set yourself apart, and earn your audience’s loyalty and trust.

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