Aishwarya Ramesh
Marketing

Jack Daniel’s, other alcobev brands fight for relevance amid COVID craziness

Jack Daniel’s recently ‘relaunched’ itself with a new tagline ‘Make It Count’. Why are alcobev brands eager to show that they’re changing?

With COVID-19 disrupting on-premise accounts, leading whiskey brand Jack Daniel’s is reinventing its marketing with the largest global campaign in its history. As part of its rebranding exercise, Jack Daniel's intends to inject a new energy into the brand, with the theme 'Make It Count'. Jack Daniel's, which famously hails from Lynchburg, Tennessee, is nearly 154 years old.

While the essence of the brand remains the same, with 'Make It Count', Jack Daniel's is attempting to take what's always been real and authentic about the brand. It wants to bring that out in a way that is more relevant today in consumers' lives around the world, including India.

A press note mentions that the brand, as part of the new strategy, intends to engage with not only its loyal consumer base, but also newer audiences. It will undergo a change in the way it speaks to its audience, with consumer motivation and occasions at the centre of it.

Jack Daniels' new tagline
Jack Daniels' new tagline

Jack Daniels teamed up with the agency Energy BBDO to create a commercial titled 'First Timers' as a part of this make it count campaign. The commercial is airing in international markets.

Vineet Agrawal, marketing and commercial director - India Area, Brown-Forman, is responsible for overseeing this change. He claims that it is an adaptation of the core philosophy behind the brand values.

Over a Zoom call, Agrawal admits that it has been a challenging time, and adds that home consumption rose during the COVID-induced lockdown. Talking about the plan as India 'unlocks', he says that it’s great news that on-premise consumption is opening up in some places. But, it is more important to make consumers adapt to consumption of beverages in the way that they are comfortable with it.

Vineet Agrawal
Vineet Agrawal

“Recovery will take time, even if dine-out options open again, as COVID is not going anywhere as of now. As an alcohol brand, we can’t advertise, so we relied on outdoor events, experiential marketing, tastings, and so on. Liquor also plays an important role in socialising, so that has also taken a hit in these lockdown months,” he says, talking about the challenges.

Agrawal explains that agility is the name of the game, talking about Jack Daniels’ virtual reality experience and lockdown initiative to help bartenders – a crowdfunded virtual tip jar for the hospitality staff.

Also Read: Jack Daniel's 'virtual tip jar' to raise funds for bartenders, waiters

Talking about home delivery of alcohol, he explains that it is still in a very nascent stage in India. They’d welcome such initiatives, though, as a consumer can’t go out and social distancing norms make purchasing alcohol at retail points a tricky affair.

“India continues to be an important market for us, and in the last four years, it has been growing at a 20 per cent rate. We’re trying to amplify our visibility at retail touch points, and with marketing campaigns, we are trying to reach the end consumer,” says Agrawal.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, an independent business consultant, mentions that alcohol consumption used to be a largely outdoor occasion – 70 per cent of the consumption used to happen outside the home.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat
Samar Singh Sheikhawat

“Right now, in the months of total lockdown in India, people have gone through their stock of alcohol, and even those who occasionally consume alcohol, have been stocking up at their homes,” says Sheikawat, who was previously working as the chief marketing officer at United Breweries (for over 8 years).

Sheikhawat explains that in the last few months, alcohol brands have witnessed slow growth and so, they had the time to come up with rebranding initiatives – something which, otherwise, takes a lot more time and effort.

We at afaqs! have covered these efforts extensively. Diageo India, the alcohol beverage major, recently introduced ‘Hipster’. It is a portable Scotch whisky in a pocket-sized format. The company called it a ‘disruptive innovation’.

Diageo India's 'Hipster' whiskey
Diageo India's 'Hipster' whiskey

Also Read: Diageo India’s Nitesh Chhapru wants people to consider Scotch whisky at casual get-togethers

Glenfiddich’s new packaging intends to celebrate its rich history with a more sophisticated and elegant design. The 12-year-old has been given a refined makeover and is now known as ‘Our Original Twelve’, as a clear nod to the brand’s iconic expression.

The 15-year-old has been rebranded as ‘Our Solera Fifteen’, as a more overt celebration of the brand’s Solera system; futuristic and unique in the whisky industry. The new state-of-the-art design is intended to allure the current drinkers and entice those who are new to the brand and category.

Glenfiddich's new packaging
Glenfiddich's new packaging

McDowell’s No. 1, Diageo India’s prestige brand has also undergone a complete brand portfolio renovation and aims to make whisky a choice of drink for the next generation of enthusiasts. The new approach will incorporate a new logo unit, a better-balanced whisky and a sustainable packaging- The biggest change for the brand since its launch in 1968.

McDowell's new packaging
McDowell's new packaging

Also Read: “This change is probably the biggest one after the launch of the McDowell’s No. 1 brand in 1968”: Amarpreet Singh Anand, Diageo India

Commenting on the revamping of different brands, Sheikawat calls it a superficial effort, and that if a brand wanted to revamp, it should have made those changes across their social platforms, their retail touch points, their logo, and so on.

He explains that this kind of rebranding effort would not have been possible with a brand like Britannia but alcohol brands did not see much traction in the first few months of lockdown and hence, they had the time to ideate and undertake these marketing efforts.

“In India, the sale of hard spirits tends to be more than beer or wine or other liquors. People drink to get drunk and the packaging or change in marketing message may not make a huge difference to them when it comes to selecting a brand to consume. At the retail level, they might just notice the difference, but they will stay loyal to the brand of their choice. The revamp in packaging is more of a superficial bid to stay relevant than anything,” concludes Shekhawat.