Last month, Tennessee-based distillery Jack Daniel's became the first alcoholic beverage brand to buy ad space on Twitter. It did so to build hype around the launch of its new Tennessee Honey whiskey product.
Alcohol brands had previously been restricted from buying ads on Twitter as its audience consisted of too many users below drinking age. Over 70 percent of the network's audience is now over 21 years of age, according to Nielsen and comScore, satisfying self regulatory requirements put in place by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS.)
The Brown-Forman-owned brand purchased three promoted trends in seven days to spark conversation around the launch, which made use of the hashtag #JackDanielsHoney and appeared on the 16th, 21st and 22nd of April. The Twitter activity was coupled with targeted ads and video content on Facebook, kicking off a year-long digitally-focused campaign for the fledgling product.
"The promoted tweets did exactly what they were intended to do. All of the social media activity centered around the objective of building brand awareness," Marjorie Dufek, interactive marketing director at Brown-Forman, told ClickZ.
Dufek said Twitter reported "significantly higher than average" engagement rates for the campaign, as well as greater use of the brand name within tweets than its advertisers usually experience. Since no liquor brand has had access to the opportunity previously, however, Jack Daniel's had the chance to set the benchmark with Tennessee Honey.
"The advantage for us is that people see Jack Daniel's as a friend, it's a very social brand by nature. We have an unprecedented opportunity to have real conversations with our consumers via social media," Dufek said.
Given that the Tennessee Honey product wasn't even available to the majority of consumers when the Twitter campaign launched, there was a fair amount of confusion about what it actually was, judging by users' tweets incorporating the hashtag. Many asked for more information, while some assumed it was actually a honey product rather than a whiskey. "That ambiguous discussion wasn't our intention " Dufek explained, but the trend succeeded in generating discussion among the Twitter community anyway.
Tied to the promoted trending topic, Jack Daniels used multiple messages in its promoted tweets. Some encouraged users that had seen the product "in the wild" to tweet their location along with the hashtag, while others drove traffic to content on its Facebook page. That page featured teaser video content leading up to the launch of the brand's first TV ad last week, featuring its mascot the "King Bee." Jack Daniel's-related Facebook activity is only ever visible to users over the age of 21, Dufek said.
In line with DISCUS regulations, all promoted tweets for the product also had to include a disclaimer, which stated, "Msg 4 21+ only. JD Distillery, Wsky Spec. The inclusion of that copy, coupled with the fact that 70 percent of Twitter's audience is now over 21, satisfies DISCUS guidelines, the company said.
Though Brown-Forman works with agencies for some of its marketing functions, Dufek said the majority of its social media activity is handled by in-house teams, which it views as an extension of its 50-year old consumer relationship program. "We've long had a team devoted to talking to our friends," she said, citing the company's progression from postal marketing, through email, and finally to social media.
Dufek declined to specify how much her company paid for the three days worth of promoted trends, or how much it has invested in digital marketing around the launch of the product. The company did say, however, that digital spend was roughly equal to that of TV.
Alongside the social aspects of the campaign Jack Daniels will continue to invest heavily in digital media over the coming year, including integrations with properties and services including AOL, ESPN, Pandora, Gawker and AOL. It also plans to run mobile ad campaigns. "You'll see a lot of activity in May, June and July," Dufek said.
Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.