But in 2012, Pernod Ricard realised they faced a number of profound problems: Firstly, both they and their rival Diageo had enjoyed incredible growth through acquisition, but with few brands or distilleries left to buy, that growth would need to come from other sources and models. Secondly, shifting consumer behaviours meant that while off-trade customers were becoming connoisseurs of wine and beer, spirits were being consumed far less often at home than they had been. Lastly, and arguably most profoundly: Pernod had no relationship with its customers. All they knew was that on a certain day somewhere in a Tesco, Carrefour or Walmart, someone bought a bottle. Clearly, change was required.
For six months, we travelled the world talking to customers, mixologists and influencers in the world’s best bars, clubs and hotels. Unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of research volunteers.
The work uncovered rich insight into the global views and perspectives surrounding spirits, and delivered key themes such as sustainability and transportation. This data resulted in a new approach and challenge to the iconic glassware: a letterbox-friendly cardboard cartridge design that could be ordered online and posted directly to customers. Simply resting the cartridges on a unique enabled tray created a connected system which, partnered with a multi-platform app, could allow consumers to automatically replenish their favourite drinks, but also be offered mixology coaching and guided cocktail recipes.
Inspired by the prototype work, Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard, went to the press to demonstrate that with the new system Pernod had become a technology and innovation company.
To deliver the vision and to create a completely recyclable, yet intelligent cartridge that would hold spirits without leaching meant finding and inventing new materials. As well as this, a patented pressure-delivery system was developed that was as inexpensive to manufacture as a glass bottle. This would not be ‘wine in a box’.
Innovative material choices and a physically efficient form factor enabled far higher unit numbers to be palletised, and reduced the overall carbon footprint of the concept by 34%. What’s more, it was completely recyclable. A far cry from energy intensive glass bottle manufacturing and the inherent inefficiencies of their transport.
The intelligent tray recognised which brands were placed on it, and how much was in each cartridge. Tablet and smartphone apps enabled heightened customer engagement, product research and marketing initiatives. Never before had Pernod had access to such rich and immediate data, providing them with unique insight into their customers.
For the first time in Pernod's history the idea was enthusiastically embraced by all their brands, who worked together to ensure its success. Had we just designed a new bottle, or another cocktail app, the impact upon Pernod Ricard’s business would have been negligible.
This innovative new system, now called ‘Opn’, was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and has 20,000 units on trial in Paris prior to the global rollout.
Pernod, through the invention of an entirely new digital and physical ecosystem, have revolutionised the user experience and changed the direction of their industry.