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How Glenfiddich is measuring the success of its first foray into the metaverse

Creative collaboration leader details the whisky brand's first NFT project and the importance of creative partnerships, community and a healthy dose of experimentation

Building an exclusive Glenfiddich community and gaining insightful learnings into how to step forward into the metaverse are two big measures of success for the brand’s creative collaboration chief following its first NFT debut.

As part of its brand presence at the Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) 2022, Glendfiddich teamed up with Australian multidisciplinary artist, Jordan Gogos of Jordans Spyridon Gogos, on a one-of-a-kind digital piece of art gifted to attendees as an NFT.

The NFT comes off the back a broader and longstanding program of work by Glenfiddich to pursue creative partnerships with artists. In this case, Glenfiddich had formed a partnership with Melbourne-based sneaker designer, Chase Shiel, to produce five physical custom sneakers specifically for Gogos’ runway show. The handmake sneakers are made out of revamped materials and feature a distinctive design. A pair will be archived and conserved by the Powerhouse Museum.

Glenfiddich initially worked with Shiel on 23 custom sneakers for the Melbourne Grand Prix, which sold out in under 4 minutes for $2500 a pair. The combination of custom fashion, sneakers and AAWFL made collaboration between Gogos, Shiel and Glenfiddich a no-brainer for the brand’s creative collaboration lead, Ross Blainey.

As he told CMO, the decision to bring custom sneakers to AAFW was prompted by his desire to bring together Gogos’ style, creativity and colour with Shiel’s ability to create shoes.

“Around the same time, the question was flying around our company and our marketing director and team were asking me: What are we doing with NFTs?” he said. “I knew we could just create an artwork and make it an NFT. I’ve seen other brands do that, but that’s just doing it; there’s no real thought.

“There needs to be genuine collaboration in what we do. We wanted to make a genuine step into that space.”

The decision was made to turn one of the custom sneaker pairs for AAFW into an exclusive and limited NFT release. Glenfiddich gifted 350 versions of the NFT to consumers who attended Gogos’ runway show via a Community Token.

“This was so we could highlight what Jordan’s driven by, which is almost the democratisation of fashion. That’s his goal – fashion everyone can be part of,” Blainey explained. “The exciting part for me is these people [at the show at AAFW] are all connected with our brand – they are part of the community. They’re not just consumers or customers, they’re our community. It’s one of the amazing things about the metaverse.”  

Glenfiddich released the NFT just after the runway show took place, setting everyone up with their own MetaMask wallet and building a virtual gallery to view the artwork. The company chose to mint with Polygon given its more sustainable blockchain platform and energy-neutral approach.

“Apart from giving away the NFT and having everyone involved in this one unique piece, we wanted to push boundaries,” Blainey continued. “Glenfiddich, from its beginning, has been about pushing boundaries and what is the next thing.

“We didn’t necessarily know how to get into the metaverse, we were working it out as a business. This was about taking people’s hands to walk with us. We weren’t saying we were the experts – we make whisky, and we work in lots of different areas.  But we’re working it out so we can do it together, so let’s push the boundaries together and help people get their first NFT artwork.”

To ensure consumers were able to take that step, Glenfiddich supported the NFT drop with a phone hotline and email consumers could contact. It also had people onsite to help attendees set up that metaverse wallet.

“We knew that was going to be the hard part. This was setting up hundreds of people with something they didn’t really know about or understand,” Blainey said. “We couldn’t just do what other people are doing either. That’s where the Community Token came in. In talking with our agency, Culture Vault, it was clear others haven’t done this at that scale before.”

For Blainey, there are two ways of measuring success of Glenfiddich’s first metaverse foray. One was securing registrations.

“There were some complications from that and a lot of different parties involved. We got some learnings from that – some relating to the metaverse, but also from having lots of partners involved. So getting the numbers of registration of MetaMask wallets out and how many we would mint was one measure of success,” he said.  

“The second measure was this was our first foray into the metaverse. This was about gathering as much learning as we can to understand how we can do it better next time. There wasn’t too much pressure on making this the biggest success ever. We had to learn from this. Everyone wanted it to be successful and were pushing for that. But with these things, you have to have the freedom to win within the company, but also to fail.

“You have to be ok that this might not work. But you also have to try it. We weren’t worried or scared to do it because of that and we’ve had learnings throughout it.”

Again, Blainey stressed the importance of pushing the boundaries. “If you are genuinely pushing boundaries with what you do, some aren’t going to like it. If everyone likes what you’re doing, you’re probably not pushing it out far enough,” he said.  

“This was about showcasing the values of Glenfiddich and what we care about. It wasn’t just about the fact we make whisky. We care about pushing boundaries and being creative too.”

Creative partnerships are something Glenfiddich and its other owned single malt brand, Balvenie, have had plenty of experience in. Besides custom sneakers, other creative partnerships it’s formed include with Ben Avery, the colourblind florist and artist, Vicki Lee. In addition, it struck five collaborative partnerships in 2021 to create products inspired by Balvenie, such as ceramics, jewellery, tailored suits and even a guitar.  

For Blainey, ensuring these types of creative partnerships are successful is about understanding what makes the other side tick.

“When working with different people, especially in creative areas, everyone is so different. There are very specific ways of working. What it comes down to is understanding them, and that’s what I spend the most time on,” he said. “You can’t just expect to go in with an idea and think it’s definitely what you’ll do. You have to understand their business, personality and goals and fit them together with yours.”

As for the next steps for Glenfiddich in the metaverse, Blainey is equally open-minded. “At the moment I’m curious about working with an architect that can create an art gallery within the metaverse,” he said.  

“We have plans to build more of the artwork we are creating, building into that into something more spectacular. But we still don’t necessarily know what’s there yet. You can’t rush into it too much. There’s a whole job to understanding this new world.”  

What is clear, however, is just how critical community will be in this new immersive world, Blainey said.  

“I’m so excited that with all the people that got that NFT, we can give them more things. It’s one of the most exclusive clubs that we have around this,” he said. “We have people who have been willing enough to step over the boundary and get into the metaverse with the NFT; they were also people at Jordan’s Gogos runway show, so they love fashion. They know who we are, because we have walked them through that.

“So if I’m doing a partnership with a bar in Sydney and we put a new cocktail on, I can access all those people and buy them a drink. I can say, you can go to this bar and get a drink because you are part of this community and you have this NFT. We can also send them another things, invite them to other events and more. That’s exciting.”   

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