Smirnoff Vodka wants to make you the star of your own short film. To do it, the company’s released "Mixhibit", an app that will pull selected photos from your social networks, arrange them in an artful way, layer on a custom track, and let you share the resulting creation with your friends.
To buff up its tech cred, Smirnoff pulled out the geeky stops and debuted the release of "Mixhibit" in a Beta With Benefits event at SXSW Interactive last week. It’s worth noting (again) that entire businesses have pinned their hopes on generating buzz during the technological cacophony that surrounds SXSWi. Twitter did it in 2007. Foursquare followed with its official kickoff in 2009. In a move that walked the line between overt splash and invite-only exclusivity, Smirnoff’s Mixhibit encouraged festival attendees to upload their own videos and enjoy VIP status at Viceland in hopes that they would provide feedback to further perfect the app before it goes into wide release this summer.
This isn’t the first interactive, multi-platform creative effort Smirnoff’s undertaken. The brand, under the corporate umbrella of global premium drinks company Diageo that counts Johnnie Walker, Baileys, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray, and Guinness in its portfolio, has nudged devotees to share their social indulgences via the Nightlife Exchange Project (with Madonna as the celebrity celebrant), the I Choose Smirnoff gaming app, the Midnight Circus featuring artist and photographer David LaChappelle, and the most recent £7 million (U.S.$10.6 million) Western European media campaign “Nightlife Experience.”
Despite these previous efforts, Michelle Klein, senior vice president of Smirnoff global marketing, communications, and digital says that "Mixhibit" isn’t piggybacking. “We are in the process of creating a new platform which is rolling out across the world,” she tells Co.Create. And the brand doesn’t want to give up an ounce of its hard-won market share. Klein asserts that Smirnoff is the number one premium spirit in the world in terms of value and volume. A dominant player in 133 countries, the U.S. is its number one market but continues to grow, particularly in the developing world, she says. As smartphones continue to gain users, Klein says, it’s important for Smirnoff to be ready “with a cool tool to ride that wave.”
Klein says "Mixhibit" will “unlock the power of our community and provide a platform for them to have fun, be creative, and experience the brand in social occasions, to take the physical experience into a digital one.” Not to mention take advantage of the scientific fact that vodka greases the wheels of creativity.
Damien Claassens, head of creative at Smirnoff’s digital agency Profero, which created the app, says that "Mixhibit" is the first tool that allows users to “DVR their night” by pulling content from all their social networks. By selecting photos from Instagram or Facebook, Twitter updates, and Foursquare check-ins and choosing from among the app’s custom music tracks, users can create a one-of-a-kind video clip that rivals the 15-second uploads users can create on Viddy or SocialCam or the choppy 6-second mashups on Twitter’s Vine.
“We are firm believers that there’s a great canvas for people to showcase their lives,” says Claassens, “But it also starts to split apart across the channels.” In an age of oversharing, "Mixhibit" makes it easy to streamline the documentation of “the morning after the night before,” he says. As for privacy, users will self-select content that is already available to the public on social platforms. Claassens underscores that Smirnoff won’t be appropriating any private user data through the app. (Or potentially running into problems with compliance laws on brand pages.) Finally, says Claassens, it doesn’t take much more than a few clicks to grab it all and produce the video.
The app was generally well received at SXSWi, according to Claassens. Strategically dropping it amid tech-savvy festival goers and average citizens coming to have a good time at the venue, Claassens says the app garnered plenty of suggestions for improvement, from adding functionality to be able to see it on a home TV to printing images on a T-shirt. Other suggestions will go to the developers to further refine the app before its wide release in June.
One thing you won’t find on "Mixhibit" is any overt selling. Though Klein says Smirnoff has used mobile incentives in shopping aisles in the past, she believes that a digital app is an “affinity driver” for the Smirnoff community. "Mixhibit" is going beyond asking consumers to “try this” with a coupon on their smartphone or a “what are you doing Friday night?” Facebook update. “If you drive equity and affinity because you created something that adds value, that translates into brand love,” she says. And hopefully a lot more sales of Smirnoff.