At a time when some alcohol and consumer brands have devolved their marketing into social agendas, the Kentucky bourbon whiskey brand Jim Beam has taken a traditional, but forgotten approach.
The idea? Show positive visuals of many actual people in the advertising, show the product (a forgotten Advertising 101 sort of thing), and do it in a way that no one would be offended or annoyed. The idea would be that potential consumers would, perhaps, finish the ad feeling a bit happier, and good about the product.
The already trademarked tagline?
People are good for you.
The campaign includes :15, :30, and :60 second spots, and marks the start of a global campaign and brand packaging update for Jim Beam. Set to the tune of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, the spot shows communal singing in a bar, and a single person who comes in, alone, to encounter the singing. The spot is directed by veteran ad-maker Noam Murro, whose work with brands like Chevy and Dodge (the Dodge Brothers). His ads are about people, and classic products.
The campaign also includes a refresh of the bottle design.
The product direction came from the agency Leo Burnett. They won the Jim Beam account from Beam Suntory in September 2022.
The promotion includes a new Jim Beam visual design, created in partnership with the branding and design agency Turner Duckworth, a firm that recently updated the Campbell’s soup can without incident. Turner Duckworth took an evolutionary approach with the brand, updating the packaging, yet doing it it in a way that no-one would notice for the worse.
Advertising Includes, Does Not Offend
The ad features a Cheers-like packed bar filled with people singing Sweet Caroline, in what has become an American sports hymn. The ad manages to achieve an appeal to a wide variety of audiences through the wide variety of people in the bar, not through identifying the product with a single group of people.
This approach, so basic in marketing, ensures that no one watching the ad would be turned off by it. It also posits the idea that drinking alone is not good, a particularly appropriate message after Covid, when the ill effects of loneliness have surfaced.
“Great brands always seem to have a spirit of place about them,” said Matt Lurcock, Creative Director, Turner Duckworth, in a press statement to BrandlandUSA. “Talking to Fred Noe, the great grandson of Jim Beam, we kept hearing about the Beam family porch. It’s where Beam was first bottled and shared, where traditions were born and where folks came together time and again for more than seven generations. Bringing this spirit of the porch together with the unmistakable marks of Jim Beam retained all the brand’s familiarity, but packed it full of warm, honest soul.”
Britt Nolan, the president and chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, said that the campaign “gives fresh energy to a point of view that’s always been at the core of this iconic brand’s DNA: People are good for you. We’re very proud to put work into the world that’s genuinely optimistic and uplifting.”
Jim Beam Global Brand Vice President Veronique Mura called the campaign “going back to our heritage as a brand crafted through the generations by the first family of bourbon.”
Brand Updates, Packaging
Jim Beam has had multiple updates over the decades, with mostly evolutionary changes. After World War II, and for decades, the company sold liquor in promotional collectable shaped bottles, geared to corporate events, news, anniversaries, tourist spots, and sports. These bottles, while not the regular product, forged much of the identity of the brand.
In 2016, the company introduced a square shape to replace rounded bottles, and improved the paper and foil on the labels.
The most familiar version of the brand includes gold, black and white, with a red seal with a B.
The company’s heritage dates to 1795, when the brand’s founder, Jacob Beam, started distilling corn whiskey in Kentucky. His son, David Beam, later took over the family business and began producing what would become known as Jim Beam bourbon.
The brand was the top selling bourbon in the 1950s. The family sold the brand in 1968 to the new conglomerate American Brands, which later became Fortune Brands.
The Jim Beam brand is a key part of Beam Suntory, makers of Maker’s Mark, Basil Hayden and Knob Creek bourbons, as well as the Japanese whiskies Yamazaki, Hakush and Hibiki. The company also makes the Scotch brands Teacher’s, Laphroaig, the cognac Courvoisier, and Canadian Club whiskey.