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The Hot Seat: Changing Travel Retail

In a world of increasing jet-setters, re-imagining travel retail is the only way to capture jaded consumers.

The days of traditional shopfronts and static advertising are coming to an end. Walk through the concourse of Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 and you’ll be greeted by three 3m-tall bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, each one designed by three local artists using digital media, that tell the story of the famous blended whisky.

“It’s a constant challenge to be creative and disruptive enough to get people to stop and look at your brand,” shares Stephen White, global marketing director of Diageo Global Travel Retail and Middle East. “People are constantly moving from one country to the next, so our points of sale should be representative of the countries they are in, so consumers don’t feel like they’re walking into the same store at every airport.”

Which is why the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Gallery will be launching in other major cities like London and Miami, with art commissioned from their respective local artists. The brand has also launched its Skyline range, which features limited- edition bottles decorated with the skylines of participating cities (Singapore included) and available exclusively at airport stores of the DFS group. “It’s all about celebrating what makes each city special, and it’s a brilliant souvenir,” he adds.

But, with all these fancy new marketing efforts, is the history and prestige of quality Scotch no longer enough to hold interest? “A lot of whisky brands have great heritage, but you’ve got to help people connect to that heritage in a way that’s relevant to them today,” White counters. “We’re dealing with people who are becoming more discerning and progressive, and who want to be surprised. We want people to be part of the future, not the past.”