Marketing in the new frontier | New Zealand business magazine

YEN is a young gin distiller from Christchurch who uses NFTs to market his product internationally. It’s a disruptive strategy and it’s already succeeding beyond initial expectations.

By editor Glenn Baker.

In 2020, award-winning mixologist Blue Hamel, recently returned from New York, and co-owner of a gin bar, Luke Dawkins, had the idea to produce not only a new brand of gin, but also a unique drinking experience. and focused on Gen Z based on the new NFT digital asset class.

Although many people are still trying to catch up with the potential of cryptocurrency, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have already made their mark on the world.

Stored (or “minted”) in an encrypted digital wallet, these tokens exist permanently, each with its own unique digital serial number. Think of them as financial security made up of digital data stored in a decentralized blockchain.

Over the past two years, online NFT trading platforms have exploded in popularity around the world, hosting hundreds of thousands of assets, such as artwork, music, video, games and other collectibles.

Now, in 2022, the Christchurch-based pair are bringing their fashion-forward matte black craft gin bottles to market via Web 3 – the latest twist on the internet that unleashes the power of e-commerce even further.

“In Web 3, users can regain full control of their finances, assets, data and privacy. There are also many other uses that seek to improve where Web 2 and the central bank system fall short,” says Blue. “For YEN, we built our own web-centric marketing and membership/rewards program NFT strategy 3.”

As a start-up brand in a category as saturated as gin, and in the liquor industry in general, having such a competitive point of difference is vital, he says.

Blue and Luke made an early decision to partner with Joy Katharina Lorck-Schierning, Web 3 entrepreneur and influencer based in Gibraltar and Spain, who is also a pioneering business strategist in luxury, NFT, blockchain , fashion and drinks. They rely heavily on his international experience to establish the brand overseas.

YEN gin had two launches in April this year – the first time as a limited edition NFT token gin bottle.

The NFT is also a membership card, Blue explains, and members receive an engraved metal physical card, which is numbered with their respective NFT number.

Members can also participate in NFT lotteries and access a dedicated chat group channel as well as a number of additional benefits.

“By creating this early adoption community, a whole network of people are embarking on the journey with our brand from the earliest stages,” says Blue. “We are very focused on building an online community and getting it involved.”

A new approach to gin

When it comes to manufacturing. it’s fair to say that the global gin industry is saturated with brands focused solely on history and tradition. But Blue and Luke have devised a whole new approach to gin production, and it goes beyond the all-natural botanical ingredients of juniper, pink peppercorn, orange, kawakawa, iris and angelica root. , liquorice, lemongrass and coriander seeds.

They consider themselves the “black sheep” of the gin market.

“Other gin brands are mostly about the craftsmanship of the product, while YEN is more about the experience you receive when you’re part of the YEN community,” Blue explains.

“Releasing YEN as an NFT really set us apart in the market and it opened up a world of doors for us.”

He says they have been invited to NFT events around the world, including NFT Bali where YEN was the official liquor brand for the month-long event. “In June we attended NFT NYC as a sponsor of several events taking place during the week.”

To date, YEN is self-funded. The second batch has already been released and the plan is to expand to Indonesia and China this year.

Rising transportation costs, along with longer and longer shipping times, have proven a challenge, but Blue and Luke aren’t letting anything get in their way, not even the ongoing pandemic.

“The pandemic has actually allowed us to really create our brand,” Blue says. “It gave us time to hone the taste, with Luke being in the distillery, doing some trials and working out our game plan for how we wanted to approach the market.”

And yes, the timing of the pandemic has worked really well with the rapid rise of the digital and NFT industry, he adds.

Plan ahead

The BHAG for Blue and Luke is for YEN to become a global gin brand. Along the way, they plan to create fun experiences around the world through hospitality partners “by hosting fun brand activations with our hospitality partners.”

“We also plan to expand YEN’s product roster, such as pink gin, which is slated for release later this year, and a tequila and rum,” Blue says.

There’s also a lot of creative marketing in the pipeline, like the innovative use of new heat-sensitive printing technologies. Gin drinkers will be able to grab a bottle and reveal their fluorescent footprints.

In the coming months, many competitors within the global gin industry will closely follow the fortunes of this Kiwi start-up with its forward-thinking NFT marketing strategy.

But so far, Blue and Luke are very happy with how things have progressed. They help forge a new frontier.

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