When we think America, it’s no coincidence that many of our thoughts will be similar, despite any differences in personal experiences.
But what is it that has seeded these ideas in our minds? Well, my guess is the branding and marketing of big, American corporations, who through their imagery and messaging, have shaped perceptions so vividly, of the Land of the Free.
Although in the always-on world we currently live in, it’s hard to escape such messages, American brands have long been infiltrating us with their representation of what is now known as ‘Americana’ – the things we associate with the States.
And amongst these, is American whiskey brand, Jack Daniel's, who have bought the taste of a small region in America to the mouths of consumers all around the world.
Jack Daniel's: The brand
Jack Daniel's is one of the most recognisable American whiskey brands. But no matter its size, it has remained loyal to both its heritage and history, and I believe this to have played a crucial role in building the brand’s success.
But brand recognition aside, the figures also illustrate its immense success and significance in the market. For instance, following a year on year increase in sales since 2011, 30 million nine litre cases of the drink were sold across the globe in 2019.
And much like sales, through the ages, Jack Daniel's has remained consistent in all other aspects too. Sure, it has had a few nips and tucks over the years, but fundamentally, the brand and its products are the same – with values, ethos, look and taste.
In terms of branding, history and heritage continue to form a large part of its image and messaging. Alongside this, is a strong connection to music.
While rock and other genres have benefited from an association, Jack Daniel's very much keeps country music at its core. After all, the brand was born and bred in Tennessee, the home of the hoedown.
Demonstrating just how powerful their connection to the music scene is, the great Frank Sinatra had become synonymous with the drink. He was known to take a sip before every show, even taking bottles along with him on foreign tours to avoid breaking the tradition. The real connection though, was realised when he was buried with a bottle.
This is a perfect example of a brand creating emotional bonds between the consumer and product, which is something I doff my cap to in itself, as seen in other instalments of this series. A job well done, JD.
The effects of branding
Growing up, I was always compelled by big name brands. Now, with a better understanding of the purposes and effects of branding, I can explain why.
It had a lot to do with the image and lifestyle they represented and looking back, it was always the glitz and glam of that Americana way of life which drew me in. Brands, like Jack Daniel's, painted the States in such a way that it seemed exciting, stylish and fascinating. Basically, it offered so much more than what we had here, on the other side of the pond.
Other examples of this include McDonalds – as they began to branch out to neighbourhoods around the world, they bought with them this captivating, commercialised image of America. Everything appeared bigger, brighter and more boastful, leaving consumers with a strong perception of the alluring American lifestyle.
Similarly, when Nike partnered with Michael Jordan, basketball, which had an audience that was almost exclusively based in the United States, began to take the world by storm. Ultimately, it was Jordan’s all-star American persona that attracted crowds in countries all around the globe. He represented something much larger than the sport – a way of life, a culture and that idea of the ‘American dream’, which we are all too familiar with.
Of course, having visited America since, I know this stereotypical image not to be true. But where the genius lies is in the way brands have been able to shape people’s perceptions so strongly, that even those who have not visited, would be able to give you a detailed explanation of what they could expect.
Think global, act local
In this way, Jack Daniel's has instilled in me, and many other consumers, an understanding of who it is and where it is from. So, no matter where in the world the drink is being poured, a taste of Tennessee accompanies it.
Having positioned itself at the heart of the State and its country music scene, consistently using imagery and messaging to create associations, they now all go hand in hand, at least in consumers’ minds anyway.
For instance, its association with country music has allowed the genre to reach a worldwide audience, whereby the bigger the brand gets, the popularity of the genre follows. ‘Country to Country’ is a great example of this; Europe’s biggest country music festival, selling out stadiums in London, Dublin, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Berlin.
What we often find is that after penetrating a global market, many brands forget the power of localisation. Jack Daniel's did not. Rather, it executed the complete opposite strategy, exceptionally well.
Despite building recognition on a global scale, it has never forgotten its humble beginnings. Regularly paying tribute to its Southern roots, it keeps heritage a key part of its brand messaging and story.
Therefore, the way in which Jack Daniel's has globalised a niche culture, which is so local and personal to them, is yet another reason I doff my cap.
Sometimes, it is necessary for brands to take risks and make drastic changes, and as you will see as this series progresses, I doff my cap to these too. However, what consumers also appreciate is consistency, which is what aids in creating loyalty and ultimately, brand advocacy – a toast to Sinatra.