Posted onOctober 7, 2014
Jack Daniel’s Parent Targets a Varied Customer Base
AN INTERVIEW WITH: Ted Hissey, SVP and Director of Innovation, Consumer Planning and Global Marketing Services, Brown-Forman Co.
August 01, 2012
Ted Hissey is senior vice president and director of innovation, consumer planning and global marketing services for spirits and wine producer Brown-Forman, marketer of brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Korbel, Chambord and Finlandia. Hissey oversees new product initiatives, market research and marketing services that
support B-F’s brands on a global basis. Hissey spoke about how B-F is using digital media to promote new and existing products and to reach its broad customer base via sports and music.
Question: Why is digital media a good complement to the alcohol segment and how does it play off of the category’s social nature?
Ted Hissey: It plays into it well since alcohol has always been a social category. Word-of-mouth has always been critical in driving awareness of new and existing brands. Social media lets us bring some scale to word-of-mouth. Another thing that’s really good is that most social media vehicles are very targetable. From an efficiency angle, it’s a
great way to reach people by age and other demographics.
Question: How does digital help you better target adults 21-plus?
We make sure our messages are directed to people over 21. Our legal department is very strident. But digital has made us put a process in place that helps us get legal approvals faster. In the old days, if you developed ads and TV spots, you had plenty of time to get the necessary approvals.
Question: Have you shifted budget from traditional media to digital?
Hissey: When we develop media briefs for brands, we take an integrated look at what is the best way to reach the consumer we want to reach. Five years ago, digital was 5% to 10% of our media spend—now it’s 20% to 30%. That includes Facebook ads, banner
ads on more traditional websites, and ads on things like [music site] Pandora.
“When we launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey in the U.S., we got a query from a customer in Germany asking, ‘Can we taste it?’ Nothing is local anymore.”
Question: How is your digital department organized? Is there a CMO that oversees all media, or is it divided among different people?
Hissey: I report to our CMO, but I have responsibility for all media.
We have about 20 full-time digital marketing people. Most are assigned by brand and some work across brands. We’ve made a good investment in digitally-savvy people. I oversee TV, too, and work across all our brands and work with the brand leaders.
Question: Which brands best lend themselves to digital media?
Hissey: We do a lot with our bigger brands like Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort. But even brands where we do less total ad spending are allocating a good deal of their budget to digital.
Question: How do you approach a brand like Jack Daniel’s, which is huge and appeals to a very wide variety of consumers?
Hissey: Yes, the Jack Daniel’s target is fairly broad. But how we approach it with digital is not much different from our approach with traditional media. Most digital media companies can provide us with great data on demographics. Whatever the target, there is way to reach them.
Question: Can you give an example of how you use Facebook with Jack Daniel’s?
Hissey: Jack Daniel’s has over 3 million Facebook fans worldwide.
When we advertise on Facebook, we may want the message to go to consumers ages 25 to 35, or we may want to go after women or older consumers. If somebody ID’s in their profile that they’re Hispanic- American, we can target them that way, too.
We also do posts that go around the world. When we launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey in the U.S., we had people in Mexico and the U.K. saying, “What about us?” We got a query from a customer in Germany asking, “Can we taste it?” Nothing is local anymore.
Question: How do you approach important groups like millennials and older consumers?
Hissey: There are quite a few people who are 40, 50 or 60 and are very active in digital. Digital is a great way to reach them. But we have to advertise to them [too]. Millennials in particular are important to our business. At that age, people will often establish lifelong brand habits. Right now, that age group watches lots of TV, particularly reality shows. While traditional media is a big part of the mix, they certainly overindex in social media. But we don’t forget about traditional.
“If there’s something new involved, we tend to get good responses.”
Question: What about marketing to Hispanics and all the different ethnic groups, who often have specific tastes in beverage alcohol?
Hissey: The U.S. is very ethnically fragmented and it’s a challenge.
The country is becoming more diverse every day. What we try to do is have a message that can communicate to most, if not all, of the population. Then, we dig deeper from a media perspective into certain multicultural groups.
Question: Where do “lifestyle” sites—food, women’s sites, etc.—fit in, particularly with brands whose consumer targets are very pinpointed?
Hissey: When we put our media plans together we work with our global media agency on what the right vehicles are. Our Little Black Dress vodka brand, for example, is aimed at women. We will go with sites that are geared around fashion and women’s lifestyle. We’ll also focus on things like “girls nights out.” These are linked to Facebook and Twitter. It’s not that different from how we use traditional media, and the messages are the same.
Question: Brand image is very important in alcohol. How do your digital efforts support that?
Hissey: In a couple of ways. Each brand has a well-defined brand image and personality. Whatever we do, we will be very consistent with the image and personality. If you read Jack Daniel’s’ posts, they are all written in the same style. There are tight guidelines on what is the “voice” of Jack Daniel’s. All mediums will use that voice. It’s wellestablished.
We are trying to create a voice for all the brands.
Question: How do the digital platforms you employ fit in or complement other advertising and promotional efforts?
Hissey: When we launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey, that was a well-integrated campaign that included so-called traditional media. We had a national cable TV schedule, ESPN and heavy ads on Facebook, ESPN.com and other websites. The campaign was almost half digital. Digital lets you reach consumers who don’t watch as much TV as people did 30 years ago.
Question: How are your digital efforts tied to in-store or on-premise promotions/activities?
Hissey: For legal reasons, we can’t direct people to specific retail accounts. But all websites have product locators. If I want Comfort Cherry, I can find out which stores in my area have it. We also announce promos via social media—like Jack’s birthday or a new product. We get that message out on digital and social platforms.
“We have responsibility messages telling people not to drink and drive. Some people will criticize them, but others will reinforce them and the message becomes more powerful that way.”
At point-of-sale, there may be QR Codes that can be downloaded for moe information about the brand. Recipes are the most popular. A lot of our brands also have information about the distilleries, as in the case with Jack and Woodford Reserve. We can also link a video to a QR Code, but it has to be valuable, interesting, entertaining or useful.
If it’s just something boring that people can get anywhere, you’re wasting your time. There is also the risk of the shiny-new-toy syndrome. [We have to ask if an initiative] is really achieving its objective. In the digital world, consumers become bored fairly quickly.
Question: How do you decide whether a brand’s digital content should be educational, entertaining or something else?
Hissey: Whether it’s educational or entertaining depends on the brand. A big brand like Jack Daniel’s can do both.
Question: Your brands have been very involved in sponsoring music tours and sports. Can you talk a little bit about how you tie these events to digital?
Hissey: We are sponsoring the Zac Brown [country music] tour with Jack Daniel’s. We list where he’s going to be performing, along with backstage photos. On his website he promotes Jack as well. It’s a good partnership.
In sports, our el Jimador tequila brand just ran a great event. It was kind of like a “field of dreams” in Guadalajara, near our Mexican distillery. Consumers in the U.S. and Mexico could win an opportunity to play soccer down there. They got to interact with Major League Soccer players—el Jimador sponsors Major League Soccer. Ten years
ago, the only people who would have known about it were the 10 people who went, but now we can publish this online and put up videos so that so all our fans can hear about it.
Another great event took place two weekends ago with Korbel champagne. Korbel sponsors the American Century Championship golf tournament. The tournament involves professional football players and other pros. These are high-class athletes. Between holes 17 and 18, these celebrities competed in how far they could shoot a champagne cork. Even five years ago, nobody would have heard of that. Now, we can send it to fans on Facebook.
Question: How do you promote direct interaction and feedback with digital media consumers?
Hissey: Right now, Facebook is the primary way. The amount of interaction we get with some posts is really high. It might come from something as simple as a really attractive shot of JD on ice—the really simple things can do well. Or, we may say, “Try Jack and ginger ale this weekend.” If there’s something new involved, we tend to get good responses. We’ve learned about some of the things that work and of the things that don’t.
Question: How do you deal with negative comments?
Hissey: It varies. On Facebook, if the comments use bad language or talk about irresponsible drinking, we take them off right away. But if somebody posts incorrect information, we try to gently correct them.
We don’t want to get into an argument online, because you never win.
Some things we just let go. The most powerful way to address that type of situation sometimes is to let other consumers correct that person. Sometimes these consumers work it out among themselves.
For example, we have responsibility messages telling people not to drink and drive. Some people will criticize them, but others will reinforce them and the message becomes more powerful that way.
Question: What is your policy regarding consumer inquiries?
One thing the digital world has taught us is you need to respond faster when a consumer asks a question. We have to get back to that consumer within 24 hours. If you don’t get back to them for three or four days, you risk losing the customer or having misinformation spread around the world.
Question: How do you measure your success, specifically the impact on off- and on-premise sales?
Hissey: Some things are relatively easy to measure—we can measure how many people went to the sites and how long they stayed. With social media, we know how many followers we have. We also have a good idea of who that consumer is. It gets tougher when we try to understand what they’re buying on- or off-premise. We are working
on proprietary ways to measure that. It’s a work in progress.