In 1955, the Jack Daniel’s company decided to start advertising in a concerted way. Until then, they had built a decent business by word of mouth, and by the unsolicited endorsement by celebrities, most famously by Frank Sinatra .
The brand’s first marketing director, Art Hancock, wrote a one-page marketing strategy. It would be based on the authenticity of a distilling process unchanged since Jack Daniel formulated it in 1866, and focus on the people who were the current generation at the company’s distillery in Lynchburg,Tennessee.
It’s worth noting how radical this route was. At the time, premium drinks brands would show an expensively-dressed man holding the drink in a luxurious surroundings. Now along comes Jack Daniel’s with their men in working clothes.
That central strategy hasn’t changed in six decades since. It’s classic advertising – the stories are continually refreshed, but the tone and message remain constant. And Jack Daniel’s is now the the best-selling whisky in the world.
This is what I take from this story:
A strategy that can be fitted on one page will be one that people can live by.
Winston Churchill famously demanded of his First Lord of the Admiralty In 1941: “Pray state this day, on one side of a sheet of paper, how the Royal Navy is being adapted to meet the conditions of modern warfare.” If your strategy cannot be distilled (no pun intended) onto one page, your chances of getting everyone to understand, buy in to and implement it are pretty remote.
Be true to yourself.
If your communications are rooted in the true values of your organisation, what you offer is believed, most importantly by you. You then have a real brand, one which builds cumulatively over time and which establishes a powerful connection with your audience.
The more things change the more the stay the same.
The media and communications landscape has of course changed hugely over the last decade, never mind the last six decades. Yet the essence of what Jack Daniel’s is about can work in any medium, as shown by how it has successfully developed its digital presence. One example: 4.3 million likes on its Facebook page, the largest of any spirit brand. As Wade Devers, the Creative Director of one of Jack Daniel’s agencies, Arnold Worldwide, says of their updated website: “There is probably a good amount of technical jargon that can be used to describe the new Jack Daniel’s website. But at the end of the day it’s nothing more than a modern way to do what the brand has always done: tell good stories.”
Stick with it.
Rosser Reeves, the 1950s ad man and coiner of the term Unique Selling Proposition (USP), said: “Given identical products, identical budgets, and identical sales forces, I will let you have a brilliant campaign every six months, provided you change it every six months – and l’ll take a less-than-brilliant campaign and beat your tail off with it, because l’ll run it ten years.”