Jack Daniel’s taps into ‘a triangle of truth’

Reading a Jack Daniel’s poster (see below) while waiting for a London Underground train today got me thinking about what an enduring and iconic campaign the brand has. It’s a great example of ‘fresh consistency’. There is a consistent graphic style and form of storytelling about the crafting of the whisky, with fresh executions telling different chapters of the story. And the campaign has been highly effective, with global sales growing strongly from just over 6 million cases to 10 million during the 2000’s.

The brand’s positioning and marketing is the result of what we call ‘a triangle of truth’ that builds on three sources of insight that I discuss below: cultural truth, human truth and brand truth. The original insight work was done many years ago in the 1950’s and 60’s but like all great insights, these have longevity and are still relevant today.

  • The cultural truth was about “a nostalgia for the gun-slinging rugged individualist of the Old West, who, in the American mythos, had helped forge the country’s success”, according to this article on cultural branding by Douglas Holt. The enormous popularity of Western films was an indication of this cultural trend at the time, which endures today with films like the Oscar winner ‘The Revenant’.
  • The human truth was about the desire of men to re-connect with their masculine roots at a time when their jobs were increasingly sedentary. Again, this is more relevant than ever today as jobs are increasingly desk and computer based.
  • The brand truth about Jack Daniel’s was the traditional production methods and the authentic roots of the brand in in Lynchburg Tenesee. This area was “one of the last authentic pockets of the frontier, where Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone had gotten their start.” The original one-page marketing plan defined in the mid 1950’s still rings true today, codifying the Jack Daniel’s brand as “authentic, made by real people in an out-of-the-way place,” according to Jim Stengel here.

These truths inspired Jack Daniel’s to move away from communication that mimicked the leading national brands of the time by showing sophisticated executives sipping smooth whiskey.  Instead the brand celebrated the authentic roots, working class values and craftsmanship of the brand. And the brand still has the same focus today. This is reflected in communication, but also in other aspects of the brand:

  • Internal engagement: to ensure that employees from around the world understand the brand experience from the inside, they visit Lynchburg in small groups an experience called ‘Camp Jack’, where participants learn ‘the legend and lore’ of Jack Daniel’s up close, including a day working in the distillery. You can watch a video of Camp Jack on the blog below.

 

  • Activation: The Jack Daniel’s global ‘Barrel Hunt’ celebrated the brand’s 150th anniversary in 2016, reinforcing the brand’s authenticity and craftsmanship. Clues on local Facebook pages in 50 countries helped fans find hidden whiskey barrels, giving them the opportunity to win unique, specially designed prizes.

In conclusion, Jack Daniel’s is a great example of the power of combining deep, enduring insights on people, culture and brands to create a brand positioning and campaign with longevity, that has been kept alive with decades of fresh consistency.

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