Jack Daniel’s is a universally recognised brand, but often for different reasons. Most of its marketing focuses deeply on heritage and tradition.

A down-home, deep fried sense of warm hospitality that permeates its ads and copy like a gentle waft of charcoal. 

It’s also permeated by images of Lemmy pouring it on his cornflakes after a night on the Sunset Strip. 

Combining these two perceptions is no easy task, but JD’s new ‘Bar Stories’ campaign manages it with aplomb.  

Before we get on to Bar Stories, let’s take a look at how Jack does content on its site.

Once we’re past the perfunctory doorman, there’s some excellent content to be found. We’re initially greeted by a carousel, featuring ads for Jack Barbeque apps, competitions and more, but it’s the video that really stands out (It's also one of the least shareable elements of the site, so I've linked the images below directly to their corresponding videos if you want to take a look for yourself).

One spot features Frank Sinatra, JD in hand as a walking bass guides us smoothly through 60s Vegas. It’s cheesy but undeniably cool. And this sums up a lot of the content on display here.

Franks Sinatra Jack Daniels 

There’s a lovely ‘Timeline’ feature crowded with videos, most of which focus on heritage. In the world of the spirits (alcoholic ones, this isn’t ‘Most Haunted’) age matters. Taking your time is good. It’s an indicator of a superior product.

(As an aside, When I was researching this article I looked at around 15 different booze sites, and only one – the controversial vodka brand Neft – positioned itself as modern and cutting-edge).

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Jack is very good at this. Videos focus on members of staff who have worked at the company’s Lynchburg brewery for years. There are interviews with the chief tasters, images of the communal house where workers take lunch together.

It’s all about creating stories

A community of people you can trust and, by buying the right whisky (it’s not a bourbon because... ah, you can Google why not), be a part of. 

September also happens to be ‘Mr Jack’s Birthday’. Allegedly, no one knows when the famous founder’s actual birthday is, allowing yet more slightly hokey stories to be created, all reinforcing that all-important brand message.  

It’s a neat idea, one that’s almost overpowering when seen in the same place. Like a drunken summer barbeque where you’re forced to meet 20 relatives you thought you’d left behind when you moved town. 

Speaking of moving to a new city, maybe once you got there, you were hungry for just a taste of home? Only here, the way you experience it is very, very different. So different in fact, that it probably has haystack hair and lives on the Sunset Strip.

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There are a few allusions to this side of things. Some interesting videos, including a new TV spot underlining the backstage ubiquity of the brand, but it’s subtle, alluding to legendary performers and, again, the stories that surround them, rather than going ‘full-on Jagermeister’. 

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How does heritage keep a brand relevant? 

JD describe the brand as being rich in stories, and that’s the key point.

You aren’t living the experience; you’re listening to the stories about that one perfect night out. It’s relaxed, it does away with the need for one-upmanship or beautiful people having amazing pool parties, and because of this, the stories become more inclusive.  

Not everyone can make history, but they can enjoy reminiscing about it. 

Bar Stories

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Bar Stories fits perfectly into this. So much so that many of the tales involved don’t even mention the brand. Jack has compiled a list of stories using various media: Video, audio, text, and is combing the US for more examples.

There’s a confidence and swagger about putting out ads without any overt branding, but it’s a great approach that really hones in on what it means to be social.

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Fortunately vintage values are undergoing a huge revival currently, so there are also nods to popular current pastimes included, without shaking the mood.

There’s a few cocktail recipes (served in the mandatory jam jars), last year the brand even partnered with Brooklyn Magazine, and this year Bar Stories includes a photo competition that will appear in that microcosm of ageing hipsterdom; Vice.

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Some of this can be a little twee, but it’s a clever piece of marketing that encourages consumers to create timeless content that reinforces the brand, allowing the buyer to, just possibly, become a small part of history.

Stories matter

I’m aware that all this sounds like me heaping praise on a brand in the hope of a free bottle, but that’s sort of the point. I'm fulfilling JD's brand engagement metrics by attempting to align myself and become involved in the narrative.

Whatever the brand, product or service, story is absolutely key. We’ve all seen agency sites with ‘our story’ sections, but very few take time to tie this directly into all the branding.

Jack Daniel’s has half an eye on the now, but is aware that it will need to compete in the future and is creating timeless content that will be usable for years to come. 

Econsultancy's Festival of Marketing event in November is a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.

Matt Owen

Published 18 September, 2014 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (2)

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

Many of the 'heritage' rock images in the recent UK cinema commercial look pretty dated and unattractive to younger viewers (18+ of course), Woodstock is just a cartoon character to this generation.

It looks like it was put together by aging creatives, maybe it was?

almost 4 years ago

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Edwin

It is amazing how powerfully stories can create and strengthen a brand's reputation, yet how so many other brands do not emulate this fine example. I believe one reason is that business people have a hard time finding the simple and powerful stories waiting to be told.

almost 4 years ago

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