Opinion: Motorcycle Brand Crashes with Jack Legged Alcohol Tie-In

MINNEAPOLIS – This week, Indian Motorcycle and Jack Daniels promoted a tie-in, with the creation of the 2023 Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse limited edition whiskey.

This tie-in is unwise, as it connects alcohol, in the mind, with one product that should not be at all associated with drinking, namely a motorcycle. The reason(s) this is not wise should be clear to anyone. But just in case the reader might not get it, the tie-in promotes the idea that you drive to a restaurant, on a motorcycle, and a brand that might be a good thing to drink when you get there is a cocktail.

There is also another issue. The abuse of alcohol in the native American community is well known, and un-fixed, and not a good tie-in for the publicly traded parent of Jack Daniels, Brown-Forman (XNYS:BF.A). The idea of drunk chief is just not good.

Products as inherently dangerous as motorbikes should not be associating with products that further diminish safety. The only person who might appreciate such an image is a tort lawyer.

This does open up many promotional options for liquor makers and brewers; a new universe of power tools awaits. Just think of the in store tastings and demonstrations that could be dreamed up in the Makita displays of Lowe’s!

Marketing Philosophy Has Changed

In the past, the marketing staff for a consumer durable would focus on straightforward advertising and marketing, dreaming up how to present the features of the brand in a new way. You would find yet more beautiful images, or better products, or smarter products. You would go to the public, with events, and tell the story of the brand. The story of the revival of the Indian Motorcycle provides many ideas, as it was a pioneer in the industry, and promotes American manufacturing by its mere presence.

Today, however, the NFL even does promotions with gambling entities. In the past, this sort of thing was just not done. Someone wise adult would draw the line and just say, no, we are not doing that, and lets do something else. There are plenty of other things to do.

That sense of limits is mostly gone in marketing. Today you want to create a stir, a sensation, a craze. No one is being the grown up, and saying the obvious, that a drunk native is just not the imagery we want for Indian Motorcycles, or Jack Daniels.

No one is being the grown up, and saying the obvious, that a drunk chief is just not a place we want to take Indian Motorcycles, or Jack Daniels.

The problem with sensation oriented marketing is that it wears customers out. It creates market share in unsustainable ways. Granted, it does keep our brand managers and social media minions busy, and often these small promotions, which are cheap, do give the brand some visibility, aka LVMH’s Hennessy and Diageo’s Johnny Walker.

Perhaps some suggestions for tie-ins of the future would be helpful.

Appropriate tie-ins for motorcycles include paints, oil, engine repair, tourist sites, car parts stores, and clothing appropriate for a ride on a motorbike. Appropriate tie-ins for liquor brands are restaurants and food events. An appropriate use of an alcohol tie-in for Indian Motorcycle might be the gift of a special bottle of something to its dealers at Christmas, for instance.

Jack Daniels in the Paint?

According to their news release, the new Jack Daniels product is “hand painted and highly exclusive” with only 177 units for global distribution. The promotion builds upon the “Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse’s mechanical style, where its steel-tube frame and powerful Thunderstroke 116 motor take center stage.” It also includes “fine-touch details that make the bike truly one of a kind” including whiskey mixed with the motorcycle’s paint where “real Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey” is mixed within the bike’s “Super Graphite Metallic paint.” 

“The Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse is yet another powerful and dynamic representation of the quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail that is core to both of our brands,” said Aaron Jax, Vice President for Indian Motorcycle, in a release.

There is still plenty of promotional potential for hard liquor brands, though the field is quite crowded. But allowing your brand to dependent on limited edition collectables, like a sort of Beanie Babies or Hummel figurines, has risks. The product becomes secondary to the promotion. Kentucky Senator, for instance, used such an approach in its first life, but in its most recent revival has focused on the actual product.


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