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Responses by Eric Lohman, executive creative director; Brian Walker, head of technology; and Sarah Ann Walters, chief creative officer, Grow.

Background: There’s no better way to experience the Don Julio tequila brand than by visiting the place where it all began: Jalisco, Mexico. Something magical occurs when you experience Don Julio’s story firsthand and its distillery: the beauty of the blue agave fields, the smell of burning piñas wafting on the breeze and the warmth of the afternoon sun in the company of the master distiller. But this kind of trip is only possible for a limited number of visitors each year—and during the pandemic, it wasn’t possible at all.

Don Julio wanted a way to scale the experience beyond the city limits of Jalisco, bringing the spirit of La Primavera (“the spring”) to its customers everywhere and build passion for the brand. Whether perched at the end of a bar or seated in a boardroom, bartenders and restaurateurs rely on entertaining anecdotes and insightful lore to win people over to their spirit of choice. When the pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown, the lack of travel to Jalisco quickly translated into a lack of new stories to tell. Don Julio’s business needed to be reenergized with new opportunities for shareable, sit-back-and-pull-up-a-chair brand storytelling.

So, we built an immersive interactive experience that transports you into the lore of Don Julio. You can hear stories of Don Julio directly from the people who carry his legacy forward, join the jimadors as they harvest blue weber agave, and experience the roasting and barreling process that makes each bottle unique. The stunning visuals and contextual audio might just make you forget you’re not there.

Design core: The site experience centers around interactive storytelling. We have captured these stories through video shot in Jalisco to convey the distinct spirit of the people and the place, allowing our audience to meet Don Julio through the stories told by those who knew him best. We wanted the audience to take away memories—just as if they had made the trip in person—so, a core feature was the immersive, layered content sections that put the user in control, scrolling from one story to the next and diving deeper into the content with additional interviews and photo galleries, among other features.

Favorite details: To deliver on the goal of transporting you to Jalisco, we paid particular attention to the authenticity of the design language and purposeful applications of tech enhancements. From the stucco texture, color palette and soundtrack, we wanted every element to work together to capture the sense of the place. We focused on details like birds flying in the valley, the crackling of the fire used to roast the agave and the rich soil that makes the location so uniquely suited for making the world’s best tequila. By repurposing assets in a custom WebGL system and adding subtle effects—like dust particles in the fields and rays of natural sunlight in the distillery—we made 2-D feel like 3-D.

Special navigational features: We built the user experience to invite interactive story exploration. Users are introduced to each story through video before landing in an immersive and exploratory scene that the video segment was shot in. They can scroll to engage deeper through audio clips, videos and copy in these interactive sections.

Special technical features: We tied each of our immersive scenes to the user’s scroll, allowing them to dive into a 2-D image based on predetermined depth markers within the images. All visual and audio effects were tied to the scroll-based timeline, creating a robust, immersive experience in WebGL.

For our WebGL system, we created a custom control panel that allowed our creative team to fine-tune all of our scenes. From scene depth to dust particles in the air, everything could be dialed up and down to take the experience to pixel-perfect execution.

A spatial audio system helped create the feeling of being in the agave fields alongside the jimadors by triggering sound effects, music and narration tied to user interactions.

We added a closed caption system for all voiceovers to make the experience accessible.


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