Campaign Review – The Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter

In 2013 one of my favourite engagements was to work on The Glenlivet account for Aesop, and on their biggest campaign to date ... The Guardians' Chapter.

In the role of Digital Director I wrote the digital strategy, advised on social media strategy, content curation and measurements and built up the development team. It was a great example of fully integrated planning and delivery, mixing the best of on and offline engagement to create a true world first.   


What is it?

When a whisky brand usually creates a new whisky it is up to the master distiller to choose from the aged casks which spirit will make the perfect dram. He does this pretty much alone and the customers’ only interaction is to buy the whisky once it has been bottled. We set out to change that.    

The objective?

Instead of the whisky fans being at the end of the process, switch it around and put them at the start. Give The Glenlivet’s fans the chance to choose the whisky that would be bottled, rewarding their loyalty and creating a world first along the way: appropriate for “the whisky that started it all”.


First, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester created three expressions: 3 different whiskies, all with their own characteristics, flavours and tasting notes.

Now, the hard part, how to get over the barrier of “participation inequality”. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to taste the whisky, but unless we gave it all away for free, precious little of it to go around. How can you vote on a whisky you haven’t tasted?

The solution 

We created a personality for each of the three whisky expressions, relevant to their taste and ingredients of The Glenlivet’s history and brand: Classic, Exotic, and Revival. Read more about the specifics of each whisky here.

As well as Global Tasting events in America, UK, Canada, India, South Africa, Japan and beyond, we also created a content space online called the Guardian’s Hub where each of these three expressions was brought to life, with articles including the likes of Classic Bars, Exotic tailoring or Revival architecture, were regularly served up, giving those who might not get to actually taste the whisky, a chance to define their own taste. They were then able to use this journey to help vote on the expression that most represented them.

The Glenlivet Guardian Chapter - Voting.png

Through voting apps at events, and on the Guardian’s Hub online, participants could vote for their favourite expression, or change their vote if they were so persuaded, and with your vote being made public, you had added incentive to share with your friends to help support the dram you most wanted to see bottled.                

The Glenlivet Guardian Chapter - Home.png

The results

The campaign ran for 4 months and had massive interaction on the Guardian’s Hub, at the events and through social media. People voted in 39 countries around the world and at the end, celebrated the final winner ... The Exotic, in shops in March 2014.  



A good brief and client is one thing, but you need a great team to pull it off. On this project I was involved from the very start and worked closely with a brilliant planner. We gelled immediately and in one room over just a few hours managed to shape and reshape then define the core of the idea in a way that would both look and feel right, but also be technically profound. This ensured that everyone else involved on the project had a clear focus. I have to say was a joy to work on.        

After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

I even appear at 43 seconds into this video

Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign

"You don’t hire the agency, you hire the people"

I did a radio show entitled "Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign" earlier this year, it went down really well.

For those who prefer long form, they transcribed it here:

Part One: Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign

Part Two: What a Social Media Agency Shouldn't Do

Or, listen to the radio show here.



Have you lost the love for Facebook?

I signed up for Facebook years ago and for a while it consumed my life. I hunted down old school friends, then after that I added people I barely spoke to at school, and eventually I ended up accepting Friend Requests from completely random people I am not sure I have ever met. To keep the buzz going I was ‘Liking’ pages and adding games like a mad man, and then, suddenly, it hit me: I was bored.
Read More

From parody to charity: How @lizjonessomalia’s 172 tweets raised £25000 in 2 weeks

In the last few weeks social media has taken a battering but at the same time a great case study for how social media can be a force for good was born.  @LizJonesSomalia the Twitter account parodying Daily Mail reporter Liz Jones’s trip to Somalia has raised almost £25000 with nothing more than comedy and timing.

Liz Jones, better known for her insightful writing on such varied topics as 'If you're too bolshy to put on some lippy, why should any firm give you a job?' and the unforgettable 'If face creams really beat ageing, I wouldn't have had a facelift' was sent to report on the devastating famine in Somalia, from a refugee camp in Kenya. Understandably, almost every free thinking person thought this somewhat crass, but only one person channelled their energy for good.

Through the @lizjonessomalia Twitter account, over the duration of her visit, the wit of the Daily Mail’s own parodier @DMreporter kept 8500 followers amused with some of the darkest satire I have seen. The tweets are so cutting they are should read them from start to finish, but here are my top five:

  • I'm speaking English slower. I'm speaking English louder. Still these people don't understand me.
  • I saw a man with a solid gold machine gun today. I wanted to take a picture using my Hipstamatic app but Aasiya told me to leave him alone.
  • People in Somalia take Ramadan very seriously. Let's hope it ends soon, I can't bear to see people not eating.
  • Very hard to get quotes on the record. Most people too weak to talk, or too distressed to be comprehended. Frustrating.
  • The refugees are lovely too. One little girl said how sorry she was to hear of the difficulties I was having selling my house. At least I think that's what she said. There was a lot of coughing.

Obviously famine is not funny and the spoof writer commented “I’ve tried to be really careful about never making famine, drought or death the target of the joke. This account is not about that. It’s about highlighting the crisis in East Africa and opposing the staggering crassness of sending a crossbreed of Glenn Beck and Anthea Turner to Somalia to cover it”.

The audience was engaged by comedy but also propelled to do something more by the references to a JustGiving page resulting in almost £25000 raised in just 2 weeks.

I think the quote from @DMReporter sums it up best "Isn't there something perversely brilliant about Liz Jones being sent to Somalia inspiring a charity drive in opposition to her? If that doesn't send her a message about her value as a journalist then nothing will".

The bottom line:

  • Two weeks
  • 172 tweets
  • Grew an audience of almost 8500
  • Almost £25000 raised for the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal

The learnings:

  • Timing is everything – this worked because the timing was right
  • Content and message – great writing is critical, but so is balancing the serious message so people willingly share it

I was really heartened to see social media used in this way, what do you think? Please comment below.


Why not donate?



For those with a strong stomach (the writing as much as the subject) then you can read Liz Jones’s final article.

Feeling nostalgic about ... everything2 – early web collaboration


I was thinking about early collaborative knowledge sites, especially those that Wikipedia eventually eclipsed, and remembered with nostalgia the joy that was everything2. For a year I was obsessed with this site, and my profile still exists – frozen in time.

To remind/introduce you I thought it apt to pull up the Wikipedia definition:

“Everything2, or E2 for short is a collaborative Web-based community consisting of a database of interlinked user-submitted written material. E2 is moderated for quality, but has no formal policy on subject matter. Writing on E2 covers a wide range of topics and genres, including encyclopaedic articles, diary entries (known as "daylogs"), humor, and fiction.”  

Once described as "awe-inspiring in its expansiveness and depth" and "a Sim City of knowledge management", with Guardian Unlimited listing E2 as one of the best collaborative encyclopaedias on the web its audience waned as the later-starting Wikipedia grew.

Loading it up again I see that it is “7.7” years since I logged in, and I was delighted, in a geeky nostalgic way that the site has not changed one bit (apart from resetting my hard won ranking!).

Despite failing to maintain momentum, Everything2 I salute you for showing us what was possible.

Killer Twitter stats

The Twitter blog revealed some staggering stats yesterday:

  • Users on Twitter are now sending 200 million Tweets per day, compared to January of 2009 when users sent 2 million Tweets a day, and one year ago when they posted 65 million a day.
  • Every day the world writes the equivalent of a 10 million-page book in Tweets or 8,163 copies of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
  • A billion Tweets are sent every five days.

My biggest learning in 2010, was ... #techMAP

My biggest learning in 2010, was ... I hate social networks

Well okay, not really.

What I hate is the obsession with the tools and networks as if they somehow created a void rather than filling it.

Working in the social media industry I hate the tendency for obsession with over definition. I hate the ... wait this is all sounding a little negative.

You see, what I love is people. I love community. Yes, this is all very hippy sounding but forgive me - if one can't be a little Californian on a freezing December evening in London then when can one?

Back in April I co-founded a tweetup called #themeet140, frankly because I found that the bit I enjoyed most about conferences was in the bar afterwards: the social bit, duh. About 13 of these have now been run, and I have attending many, from 25 people to a mighty 140 in Glasgow - the greatest learning I have made this year is that I am not alone - we all like a bit of community.

And in the community things can happen:

For those that don't know #themeet140 it is the laziest tweet up format ever. It is essentially lots of people in a bar. But from this basic format all sorts of things have sprung:

  • In Glasgow a group of first-timers, who didn't know each other until they met that night, formed a defacto welcoming committee - to ensure that everyone received as warm a welcome as they had.
  • In London, someone who had sadly declined to take a new job because they worried that they were not skilled enough, met the MD of the firm coincidentally at the meet and was convinced to take the job. They are working together fantastically now
  • In Aberdeen themeet community is so vibrant that they have spawned a games night, snowball fight and another meet night. This time a meat 140. I am assuming this is more culinary than erotic.

This is not an advert for the tweet up, and it is also nothing new of course. Community is age old. 100000 years ago when we left the jungle hunter-gatherer groups formed of around 150 to survive. It is no accident that the average number of friends we have on FaceBook is about the same. We crave this.

So my learning social networks are a medium, not the means. I hate social networks for fooling us into believing that they have the power. We have the power.

This blog post is my presentation from techMAP London December, this video may also be of interest:

2011 here we come! @lucyjpayne & @markofrespect #techMAP London from Berniejmitchell on Vimeo.