Learnings on product from Mackmyra, a Swedish whisky distillery.
The product is the result of a passion for a problem or a vision. The product’s story comes from that passion and the path to build the product. This story results in a brand. Branding is inventing and attaching a name and an image to a product. The brand is not the concept, it is merely a result. It is a way of giving life to a solution to a problem by choosing colours, features, designs and it’s the first thing that consumers and users experience.
From time to time, you undergo an experience which makes you feel that the story, the brand and the product both work well together and everything makes sense. A perfect example of this is Mackmyra.
A few weeks ago, I went on a whiskey trip to Sweden with friends, knowing only a few members of the group. Without focusing much on that detail, I had an AMAZING time there. I could not have wished for more out of a guys whisky trip. It was my first time to visit Sweden, which is a lovely country with some genuinely nice people. I am a big whisky lover and on this trip, I discovered something interesting.
Mackmyra the Swedish Distillery
Mackmyra, long story short, is a Swedish whisky distillery which just celebrated their 15th year. Everything about them feels Swedish. From their name, the brand in itself, the colours, the water and the other ingredients that they use for the process.
Mackmyra was founded by 8 friends who had a common passion for whisky. They are calling themselves “Explorers in whisky”. All ingredients used in the production are sourced within a 75-mile radius from Mackmyra.
One of the friends I went on the trip with is Swedish and he discovered Mackmyra a few years ago. He shared that experience with a group of friends and they come back every year. This year, I was invited!
I didn’t know much about Mackmyra before. I knew that there were some good Swedish whiskies out there and that was about it. This trip was also a way for me to discover a new whisky brand and I can now say I’m hooked!
What does Mackmyra offer?
Mackmyra built a product for the true whisky amateurs. Their offer is to let you create your own whisky. It’s a personalized experience. You can buy your own cask and it’s almost like a customizable car. You choose the type of cask, the finish and you can add other options to it. The only difference with other whisky distillery is the size of the cask. It’s a Quarter cask (30L). It’s something that is known in the whisky amateurs world.
Whisky lovers can skip the next image. For others who want to learn more, here is the explanation in one image on how whisky is made.
Technical note on whisky: Depending on the type of cask, it can take approximately 10 years for a whisky to reach a maturation that is enough to be drinkable. There is some whisky out there that are more than 50 years old. Before that there will be too much alcohol in it and it will be hard to drink. By putting your whisky in a quarter cask you can reach maturation in only 3 years.
Finding the perfect tipping point
The maturation is the crucial part of where the whisky takes its taste. And here is the secret behind the Mackmyra experience. They focused on step 5 where the magic happens. By giving that power to their user, by using quarter casks, they can let their customers create a unique whisky and provide them with a unique experience. This experience is not reachable in that amount of time with traditional casks for traditional distilleries.
The cask is yours (at least the content) and you can name it as you wish. I saw some funny names such as “Oops I did it again”. Each year, you can visit Mackmyra and ask to taste your creation. You have to pay for that part, but it’s part of the experience. Right now there are 10,000 casks in their different distilleries which were bought by whisky lovers. In the end, it will result in the production of approximately 50 bottles of whisky (0.5l) at 50–60%. Too strong to be drunk straight but with a bit of water it will be perfect.
This is the Mackmyra experience!
Why do we need more companies like Mackmyra?
Mackmyra, Tesla, Space X, Apple have all something in common. Their brand is really strong and their products too. They are strong because the passion is and their love for the problem is.
If SpaceX wants to make Mars a dream come true, if Tesla wants to shape a new way of thinking about car and energy, if Apple wants to bring beauty to people’s homes, hands and pockets, Mackmyra wants to change the whisky exploration experience.
This is one of the most important points. Your story is important and it’s the genesis of your product and your brand. The passion behind your story and behind your intent and the vision of your product must be flawless.
Mackmyra were 8 friends who had a common passion for whisky and who wanted to bring life to this passion. They created their own product, their own experience.
They decided on what will be their whisky and the all Swedish ingredients coming from the region of Mackmyra because it’s who they are. They offered that experience and their passion for consumers and it worked.
As a product manager and an entrepreneur, when I think about these products, everything feels right. Everything makes sense. It’s almost like, for Mackmyra, with every cask they sell they offer their story to other groups of friends like you are going through the same journey as they did years before.
Without being truly passionate about whisky, they couldn’t have brought to life Mackmyra and the cask experience.
Are you passionate about your product and more importantly are you passionate about your users (if you are not one of them)?
Without passion, you can’t build anything that will last. Mackmyra’s founders were their first users. They built experience and a product that made sense to them. If you are not the primary user, do you have someone that you know and that you can call at any time to help you build your product? How can you get it right and finally, how can it make sense with the brand?
Mackmyra gave their product and a part of their story to their users Tweet this
This is the beauty of their process. They build an experience for the whisky lovers which is accessible and personalized. Sure the whisky is still a Mackmyra and it maybe tastes a little bit worse than a current Mackmyra, but it’s yours! YOU created it. YOU named it. And for a little bit of time, YOU were the whisky maker!
So why should product people care about the passion towards their product and the problem?
Most Product Managers were not the one who tried to resolve the problem, they inherited it. The first who tried to resolve the problem were the founders. They may still be in the company and act as CXO or worse gone from the company. They were the one passionate about it and this is why they created a product.
Product managers and designers who inherited it generally come from one of the following backgrounds: Customer support, business analysis/product owner or IT consulting. It’s extremely rare for a PM to have a background in pure business, marketing or advertising.
The passion can be inherited but it’s extremely rare that a new PM understands it. It’s like the “why” is part of something else, another world. Why do you do things? When you think about your product, you must think about why. But again, the story is part of the foundation of the product. A lot of tears and sweat. Not a lot of PMs or designers have had experience in this field and went through that process. We don’t have the time to come back to the essence of the product. We already have our hands full just to make our product work as expected and answer all the requirements coming from our stakeholders. We should though spend time thinking about the problem and the genesis of the product. We should think about who we are helping.
If technical requirements and architecture are the bones and blood of our product, the brand names it, and the story gives life to it. It brings meaning to what we are building.
The story/passion world, the brand world and the product world are not mutually exclusive. They need to work together in unison. Failing to do so will be perceived by your users and it will not make sense anymore.
Everything comes from the passion towards the problem. Tweet this
Unfortunately, product designers don’t spend enough time on why from my personal opinion and my observation. We don’t spend enough time thinking about it and being sure that our product, the experience we are building are in sync with the why. We don’t validate that the user can feel the story through all the experience. Our users should have the same feeling for the story whether they hear the messages, they read communications or use our product.
The question stays though: Who’s responsibility does the story fall under? Do you feel is just the responsibility of the founders? Or is it may be the responsibility of marketing and branding?