The revival of Jim Beam: how the equality marketing movement by StrawberryFrog saved an American icon

It’s sometimes easy to forget that much of the marketing industry is concerned not just with launching new products and brands, but rather is focused on ensuring the continuing relevance and survival of brands that have already been with us a long time.

The revival of Jim Beam: how the equality marketing movement by StrawberryFrog saved an American icon

When the Kentucky bourbon whiskey brand Jim Beam first approached StrawberryFrog, it had suffered from years of declining sales and was trailing far behind its main competitor, Jack Daniel's. Jim Beam had picked up the reputation of a cheap ‘party fuel’ and, as a result, had grown increasingly irrelevant to millennials.

The answer was StrawberryFrog’s unique and original approach. We invented movement marketing. It’s very different from other marketing philosophies - both inspiring and practical higher order, yet also has its feet on the ground.

We established that our key tasks to revive the fortunes of Jim Beam would be to:

  • Reintroduce a new generation (young millennial males and females) to the brand
  • Change the game in such a way as to disrupt Jack Daniel's the traditional whiskey brands and their old fashioned marketing approaches
  • Extend the campaign to support new product innovations
  • Evolve the idea into a global, unified marketing movement platform from a new brand experience in advertising to events to digital.

Reintroduce the brand to millennials

Jim Beam has always had a rich, bold history full of great stories, from its deep Kentucky roots to the seven generations of Beam distillers. But the category as a whole was caught in traditional thinking and moreover with Kid Rock as its spokesman, the brand catered to a very specific audience.

We saw the potential to appeal to a much wider audience. This inspired our creation of the 'Make History' brand-fueled marketing movement. Working with the leadership of Jim Beam, we aligned behind the movement strategy that took a stand against the patriarchy and for equality. As a result, 'Make History' was a huge idea and a massive global canvas.

Our research underlined the importance of the female millennial consumer and yet nothing had been done in the category to earn her respect and patronage. Thus, our movement for equality. We said that the brand needed a powerful movement idea that would ignite conversation and action. We wrote the movement motto: 'Make History', which allowed us to talk about the heritage and legacy of the brand. It also allows us to talk about the brand now, because rather than a beer moment, 'Make History' is about what you and your friends are going to do tonight that’s a little more special than a beer night.

The ‘Mila’ factor

We made history by launching the first marketing and advertising campaign for an iconic American bourbon featuring a woman. We partnered with a genuine bourbon drinker worthy of every female and male’s attention – movie actress Mila Kunis.

Not just another gorgeous talking head, the choice of Mila also genuinely represented our movement against the patriarchy associated with drinking bourbon for equality and modern brand. It isn’t so difficult.

In addition, Mila is seen by young guys as being someone that is real, approachable, and fun. Women admire her strength and confidence, and she inspires them. Mila’s desire to immerse herself in the brand and its history; to become, as she put it, the next generation of Beam, added up to the perfect brand fit. Plus, she drinks a lot of Jim Beam bourbon! She loves it.

Compared to traditional advertising campaigns for spirits brands, this original and unique movement marketing approach was a game changer. It was also the best possible way to align with millennial women.

The 'Make History' movement marketing campaign consisted of events, TV, print, digital, poster and social advertising including a modern online experience that dramatized this bold philosophy.

Support product innovation

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is a unique bourbon extracted from deep within the barrel wood. Because of its higher proof and intensity of flavor, Devil’s Cut was positioned as a whiskey for the new generation. Once we launched the 'Make History' anthem for Beam White, we backed up the movement with Mila and a choice to explore the consumers’ more sinister side.

Make it global

Jim Beam tasked us with developing their first-ever global 'Make History' marketing and advertising campaign across all global markets. With our success in hand, the movement strategy and creative platform moved beyond the US.

To blow the brand out across the globe, StrawberryFrog customized a team — as we usually do for global clients — cherry picking Jung Von Matt in Germany and The Works in Australia to form an inventive, non-traditional collaboration. This approach was not only cost-efficient, but also enabled us to make fast impacts compared to the traditional global corporate ad agency structure.

Last orders

The campaign went into market with the highest scoring spots Beam has ever tested with Millward Brown; scores are in the top 15% of the entire Millward Brown data base. Jim Beam won the Gold Effie award for the most effective advertising. Furthermore, sales soared in the US and globally. We helped Jim Beam raise prices and increase HH penetration.

The greatest result in the Jim Beam brand today is Mila Kunis and the 'Make History' motto front and center, which has been adopted by the new generation of female and male consumers and millennials. In the process our movement has effectively repositioned Jack Daniel's as the brand for Harley Davidson drivers: mostly older boomer guys.

Not too shabby from StrawberryFrog, the world’s Movement Marketing company.

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