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Unlocking experiences during lockdown

by Kristy Castleton
The Macallan Experience Singapore - Rebel & Soul virtually on set filming with limited crew

A year ago, when Rebel & Soul were briefed to design a highly immersive brand experience to tour APAC for The Macallan, live event experience and epidemic weren’t two terms that you would have ever found in the same sentence. A few months into the planning and the agency had to take their ‘creativity’ to a whole new level.

Creating highly memorable spaces for brands is the agency’s speciality. Their tried and tested formula of an expertly skilled team, a proprietary neuroscience framework for memory making and a little black book bursting full of trusty suppliers has led to multiple industry accolades. However, that formula also relied on face to face teamwork, a global menu of suppliers, super fast precision production and shipping and the ability to hop on a plane anywhere anytime to conduct quality checks. 

When the news of the virus first aired, the agency had conceptualized an immersive brand experience with 8 rooms, each one designed to ignite consumer’s neurotransmitters to imprint meaningful memories of The Macallan’s brand journey. Core elements of the room design included two films, two walls of casks, a bespoke indoor flame effect, a one of a kind interactive moving art piece and a gravity defying bottle display. The wider deliverables included an extremely detailed marketing and event production blueprint for all APAC markets to follow and fine touches like a scent infused gift wrap ritual for the retail area and stylised items to dress the whisky lounge.

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Cask Tunnel by Rebel & Soul
Credit: The Macallan Experience

As lockdown struck the agency had engaged over 20 suppliers spanning 4 continents on 8 time zones to bring their concept and designs to life. Suddenly, every conversation had to contain every what if scenario, every possible eventuality had to be considered and every contract, where possible had to be renegotiated. There were also more significant discussions, where both brand and agency had to consider whether a live experience was the right marketing medium to pursue. As a socially conscious agency Rebel & Soul’s ethos is to provide resource and generate profits for good. The agency chose to direct their give back from this project to a number of Covid charities and The Macallan are contributing a percentage of profits from each live experience ticket to charity. Live experiences might appear as a luxury in these unprecedented times, but if there was ever a time when consumers were craving connections and interactive experiences to temporarily transport them from a feeling of survive to thrive, it’s now. 

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Whisky Bar and Lounge by Rebel & Soul
Credit: The Macallan Singapore

The pinnacle of The Macallan Experience is a 12-minute sensory cinematic sampling experience where the audience are invited to ‘taste the whisky worthy stories’. The key to this room is a film, designed in collaboration with award-winning cinematographers, creatives and technologists and based on the true stories of two inspiring individuals who, like The Macallan, made bold and brave decisions which led to positive outcomes. The stories in the film are paired with two variants of The Macallan and the audience is guided to taste and savour the whiskies at key moments, an experience enhanced by what the audience can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Consumers may not have the opportunity to craft their own ‘whisky worthy stories’ this year, but the film hopes to inspire them for the future.

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Sensory Cinema Experience by Rebel & Soul
Credit: The Macallan Singapore

The agency had to go to extreme lengths to complete the film. The original plan was a five-country shoot. Over the next few months the shoot plan changed as frequently as the reported Covid figures. Multi-country lockdowns and thirty shoot plans later, and the epic production teams managed to pull off the shoot in a brief week of relaxed lockdown measures in Australia, with Creative Direction and Production via Zoom to a lighting speed studio built with a limited cast, crew and of course medics on set. 

To give the film the sense of awe and inspiration it needed to bring the brave elements of the story to life the producers scoured the globe and exhausted every connection to source some incredible footage from the countries the agency were due to shoot in. One of the stories involves a free diver and the water scenes were crucial to the film. The team spent weeks looking for alternative and realistic dive locations that would provide the shots they needed. Eventually, despite lockdown, churn from two local storms and our initial open water Director contracting Covid and needing a sudden replacement, the sun eventually shone enough on the water and on the team and the results were stunning.

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Rebel & Soul virtually on set filming with limited crew

Lockdown didn’t only pose location issues, there were multiple factory closures in the UK and China. A new day, a new factory, a new lockdown. To ensure quality control, the producers would usually conduct or at minimum oversee the install of every experience, every plinth, every design detail. That was no longer an option so on site teams had to receive precision training virtually and Rebel & Soul’s on site production team had to learn at lightning speed. 

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Rebel & Soul providing zoom Direction sensory Cinema Film

Nowhere was this felt more than in the production of the Kinetic art installation. The inspiration for the interactive art piece was to bring a slice of the home of The Macallan, Speyside Scotland to Asia. The design involved six unique formations, including the rolling hills of Speyside, a nod to the stunning architectural roof design of their new distillery, precision programming and choreographed timing to conduct the 89 individual copper spheres to move in sync with each other, with sound and with lighting design. Every element of the installation had to be designed, produced and tested remotely – a first for every member of the team involved. 

The Macallan Experience Singapore - Kinetic Art Installation by Rebel & Soul and FutureLabs
Credit: The Macallan Singapore

“The close partnership with Rebel & Soul was key to surmounting the obstacles of the pandemic to produce a luxury and authentic live experience that accurately represents The Macallan brand. When one door was closed, the agency found ways to open another and their ability to adapt to change was invaluable. We are incredibly proud of the final result”, says Coral Gill, Regional Marketing Director for Edrington Asia Pacific.

“Brand experience creation in the time of Covid is like learning to ride a bucking bronco through a permanent storm, whilst conducting daily experiments on how to make everything you used to be able to do in your sleep, work in lockdown, at pace, whilst socially distanced, in a mask. The upside is that every work from home day is filled with heart stopping moments, the team’s sense of achievement goes through the roof and my sense of pride for all the magic they continually make happen grows exponentially” says Founder of Rebel & Soul Kristy Castleton. 

If you would like to experience the memories Rebel & Soul have crafted for The Macallan, visit the microsite for more details.

View the case study for The Macallan Experience and The Macallan Experience – Regional Marketing Toolkit.


The Macallan Experience

The live experience will tour a number of The Macallan’s key APAC markets in 2020 & 2021. The tour launched in Singapore on Monday 2nd October, in partnership with Raffles Hotel, where all elements of the brand experience will be hosted for 4 months, whilst core elements such as the bar, whisky lounge, retail and VIP will stay for one year. 

About Rebel & Soul

Rebel & Soul is the world’s first Neuroexperience agency. Founded in 2014 as an event company, the agency, who think differently ‘Rebel’ to give back, ‘Soul’,  is now a multi-award winning, socially-conscious brand strategy and experience agency. Working with some of the world’s biggest and most reputable brands including HSBC, The Macallan, Sephora and Intel, the agency applies their proprietary neuroscience methodology INVOLVE®, a powerful shortcut to brand memorability, to deliver marketing experiences across APAC that connect with consumers at a subconscious level to leave long lasting memories.

For media enquires: Sharon Lewis, Marketing Director –

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