It Took Brilliant Marketing To Turn Jack Daniel’s Into The World’s Most Popular Whiskey

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Jack Daniel’s has come a long way in its 140-year history, but it didn’t solidify its place in pop culture until the 1950’s when it started telling its story to the world.It wasn’t enough to let word-of-mouth carry it forward (though it had fans in high places like Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra). Savvy marketing allowed it to grow immensely and become the world’s best-selling whiskey brand, writes Jim Stengel in his new book Grow (excerpted by The Atlantic).

So what exactly did the marketers at Jack Daniel’s do to create a gigantic worldwide whiskey brand?

Scarcity — Between the mid-’50s and mid-’70s, Jack Daniel’s was actually quite hard for stores to acquire — it was available on allocation only. Demand was higher than supply, yet the brand kept advertising. It was telling people about something they couldn’t have, which heightened the allure of the whiskey.

Lore and legend — Jack Daniel’s ads have focused on the history of the brand. Ads talk about its quirky founder, Jack Daniel, his independence, and what he did to protect his fabled distillery. The other focus is Lynchburg, where it all started. The town is the setting for everything Jack Daniel’s, and now boasts public tours of the distillery and a barbecue competition.

Associating it with “maverick independence” — The image of a Jack Daniel’s drinker is one of defiance. That’s the central message that the brand’s marketing has been hammering at for years, and it is now solidly affixed to pop culture — rock stars in particular, over the years, have been powerful ambassadors for the brand. Lately, it has been equating the brand increasingly with the independent American spirit — a shift that keeps the message remarkably consistent.

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