Digital Bottle Cap Augurs The Internet Of Alcohol-Based Things

The creators of T-shirt OS and the first animated tattoo have created an RFID-enabled cap that sparks fun times when it’s popped.

Digital Bottle Cap Augurs The Internet Of Alcohol-Based Things

London-based Work Club’s latest project offers a chance to start an evening out on the town with friends with, quite literally, a bang. The digital agency’s new work for Strongbow Gold Cider is a digitally connected bottle cap called StartCap which when flipped becomes a trigger for something to happen–anything from automatically checking you into Foursquare to activating a spotlight or firing a glitter cannon.


At a time when beer sales are in decline and consumers’ preference for sweeter drinks is rising, Strongbow’s owner Heineken is eager to roll out the cider brand in many territories worldwide where consumers don’t even know what cider is. The challenge, then, is: how to introduce the product and educate consumers? Work Club’s strategy uses digital to bring to life the proposition that drinking Strongbow provides a fresher start to the evening and encourage drinkers to try something different.

“The starting point was to use digital to create something of interest that because it was interesting would also be social. Technology allows you to bring product, customer, and brand much closer together,” Work Club Joint Creative Partner Ben Mooge explains.

“As an agency, our approach is to use technology to create a brand platform to tell a story which can then be captured and spread socially. It’s about doing something interesting using technology first, then using digital as the accelerant. The trick is not to over-complicate it–do something too tricks-y or too futuristic and people struggle to see the point.”

With StartCap, an idea evolved by Work Club over four months and through 40 different iterations, the message is the product itself. In its current beta form, StartCap uses an RFID tag embedded in the cap of a limited-edition bottle. The tag is carefully secured beneath transparent paper to ensure it doesn’t snag on the bottle top’s sticky foil, which is perforated on one side to ensure it easily breaks when opened–propelling the tag away.

The bottle cap becomes a trigger when popped and RFID scanners in the environment in which the bottle is opened are activated. Over the past couple of weeks the prototype has been used at launch events in Budapest and Rome and footage of its various uses has been edited into online films for social distribution. Moving forward, Mooge adds, the agency hopes to further evolve the concept as StartCap is rolled out into other territories.

StartCap is the latest in a series of Internet-of-things innovations developed by Work Club. Last year the London agency launched what was claimed to be the world’s first animated tattoo, for Scotch whisky brand Ballantine’s (the online film for which has so far generated over 3 million YouTube views). Last month, meanwhile, it launched T-shirt OS–the world’s first programmable T-shirt–in partnership with digital clothing specialist CuteCircuit, again for Ballantine’s.


“Ballantine’s brand strategy is about enabling people to leave an impression, and our brief was to find a role for digital to bring this to life,” says Work Club Joint Creative Partner Andy Sandoz. “It was all about shifting the audience towards having more creative conversations in social media than are usually associate with whiskey by enabling Ballantine’s to act like a technology brand.”

T-shirt OS is a T-shirt made from 100% cotton into which was woven an ultra-thin LED screen, a tiny camera, microphone, accelerometer, and power pack. Each component is controlled by a small chip that’s Bluetooth-connected to the user’s iPhone and so, in turn, to the Internet. The aim is that the wearer uses T-shirt OS to leave an impression–showing Instagram pictures live on a night out, for example; displaying the wearer’s Facebook status and live Tweets; or sending the person next to you a message.

Sandoz describes the project, which cost less than half the price of an average 30-second TV ad spot, “as a brand platform”. The first two of four online films–including one depicting what might happen when two friends road-test T-shirt OS on a wild night out in London–have already been released online and two more, made by local clients in Mexico and Brazil, will be released in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Ballantine’s is now considering ways to turn the idea into a commercial product–if there is sufficient demand.

“It’s a global asset sweated locally,” Sandoz explains. “Both StartCap and T-shirt OS are like a global TV ad that can be remade each time, market by market, without the downside of having to put up with bad local language dubbing. What’s interesting is each brands’ willingness to use technology as media–allowing the idea itself to be what tells the story. “

About the author

Meg Carter is a UK-based freelance journalist who has written widely on all aspects of branding, media, marketing & creativity for a wide range of outlets including The Independent, Financial Times and Guardian newspapers, New Media Age and Wired.