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Malibu Rum Serves Up NFC-Connected Bottles

The maker of the coconut-flavored liquor is carrying out a three-month pilot involving Tesco shoppers, to learn how RFID can be used to engage consumers and understand their behavior.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 26, 2016

Pernod Ricard UK is releasing "connected bottles" of Malibu, the company's brand of coconut-flavored rum. The bottles are being fitted with Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags designed to enable consumers to access product-related content with the tap of an NFC-enabled phone. The technology being piloted (including NFC tags and content-management software) is provided by U.K. Internet of Things technology firm SharpEnd Agency.

The campaign, which began earlier this month, consists of 40,000 bottles, each with an NFC tag attached to its front, beneath Malibu's sunset logo. The bottles are being sold at Tesco stores throughout the United Kingdom, with a "neckhanger" label inviting consumers to tap the front of the bottle to access a variety of offerings, including music, recipes and a contest.

To access product information, consumers can tap an NFC-enabled phone against a bottle's NFC RFID tag, located beneath Malibu's sunset logo.
In the long run, Malibu's U.K. marketing managers hope not only to capture consumer interest, but also to better understand where bottles end up, as well as how much interest there is in the product, and where.

The Absolut Company (TAC), another of Pernod Ricard's corporate divisions, has been collaborating with Malibu's marketing managers on technology to further engage with U.K consumers. Absolute operates an innovation lab in Stockholm, where it and SharpEnd have developed the connected-bottles concept now being piloted.

TAC has been working with SharpEnd for the past few years to formulate a variety of advertising initiatives to use technology to drive consumer interest in its brands throughout the United Kingdom. "As an agency, we work across a number of brand owners, and are working on a wide range of projects utilizing RFID- and NFC-based solutions," says Cameron Worth, SharpEnd's founder. He calls his company the United Kingdom's only dedicated Internet of Things agency that bridges the gap between marketing, technology and brand building.

Malibu's marketers had hoped to pilot a system that would engage with consumers primarily, but also, in the future, enable the company to understand what happens to the product once it ends up with customers—the retailers that sell those goods. "Traditionally," Worth explains, "when a bottle has gone to the retailer, Malibu—or any brand, for that matter—loses insight from that point on." They don't know who each buyer is, how and where the product is purchased, or how it is being enjoyed. "The connected bottle enables Malibu to gain huge insight into their end users and get a lot closer to them." The RFID technology does this, he adds, by capturing information regarding what content users access and where those individuals are located.

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