Whisky firm taps augmented reality to promote label

A promotional drive by Chivas Regal for its whisky at bars around Tokyo is tapping into the interest in augmented reality (AR) and may serve as a template for future advertising campaigns for other products and in other markets.

Japan has long been recognized for having an inventive and innovative approach to marketing, and that is true of the Aroma of Tokyo project.

The premise of the campaign, which started last month, is simple: While out and about in the city, participants collect points via their mobile phones that can then be exchanged for a free cocktail or a gift bearing the Chivas Regal brand - one of the most popular in this nation of Scotch-lovers.

To take part, a drinker is initially required to download the Layar augmented reality application to his or her cell phone. Compatible with mobile phones that are equipped with GPS, the application then directs the user to one of the locations where points can be earned.

Once at one of the locations taking part in the campaign - there are 18 around the city - the user checks in using Foursquare or the Rocket Touch social networking service, operated by online giant Livedoor, to start racking up the points.

After a drinker has accumulated 18 points, they can be exchanged for a free cocktail at one of the bars that are involved. Chivas Regal said the cocktails are worth Y2,000 (€17.03) each and have been specially devised by some of Tokyo's top bartenders for the campaign.

For anyone who earns 85 points, the gifts are either a moleskin wallet or a USB stick bearing the Chivas Regal logo. In addition, anyone who takes part through the Rocket Touch interface is entered into a weekly draw for a 700 ml bottle of Chivas Regal.

The augmented reality portion of the campaign is rather simplistic - a blue dot that moves over the screen of the mobile phone to guide the user through the streets of Tokyo and to the door of one of the participating bars - but the idea is likely to be enhanced and improved upon in future AR generations.

Used in a range of marketing campaigns, Layar also featured in an AR treasure hunt in Dublin late last year, for the opening of a bar called Copan, which involved participants picking up clues around the city to win a variety of prizes.

Watch the video explaining the campaign: http://youtu.be/7Q0WRaT71Gg (in Japanese)