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

What’s in a name? Is ‘social media’ out of date?

I love hearing new names for ‘social media’ such as social business, social communication etc. The rush for nomenclature in any new area is of constant fascination to me. No, not because I love jargon but because I love the pressure-cooker environment in which new terms are proposed, debated, devoured and used. What sticks, what does not? I have seen this before though.
Read More

Are my standards too high or is this new online newspaper simply not up to scratch?

<Warning: This post is full of frustration and the loss of faith in web design borne from a missed opportunity>

Recently the Caledonian Mercury “Scotland’s first truly online newspaper” launched, albeit early.  In this time of ever smaller newsrooms at traditional press, and usually hamstrung online teams, this could have been such a success. An online newspaper for the next decade. My hopes were duly raised.

I would have loved to work on that project - begging or borrowing all the functionality and usability from those that have gone before, giving it the base users have come to expect from a news site and doing it in a relevant, challenging way. Instead we are served with a crass use of Google ads unfiltered so the first thing you read is “Freddie Mercury Costumes”.  That upset me. As I say my standards may be too high but with all the mechanics for monetising content these days is this the pinnacle, the zenith?

I really don’t want to comment on this but I just can’t proceed without highlighting a real bug bear. Navigational colours. Yes I said it. There are many areas of usability that are in the eye of the beholder (or guru) but keeping navigational elements the same colour site-wide is pretty much a commandment. In this site they may not go for revolutionary monetisation, or features, or search but by god they want to rip up this standard. Article links are a different colour in each section, including a jazzy neon green that smacks of “damn I have run out of colours” syndrome. That would be ghastly but at least it is a sort of consistently – but if you search for an article then the articles are all black, which makes the links look look like a heading. I can let off the ‘pub chat’ section names – such as “Rab” or the almost un-writable “Biz Tech” but not the Crayola navigation.

Okay, I am going to stop myself now. Some of you reading this may think I am slamming something for the sake of it: quite the contrary. I am defending web design and especially the skills and dedication of genuine web designers as a profession and art. I am also defending the user. We all deserve to have great online experiences and a site that does not meet these standards is an affront to both, it lowers the standards, it slows the adoption of great usability and it does not reward the time of people with a thousand better things to do.

I wanted to discuss these views with the editor by engaging on Twitter but no one replied. As such I open this blog, and especially my first post with a subject close to my heart.

Do you agree, am I wrong? Make your voice heard below and with me on Twitter @markofrespect