DANA POINT, CA: Jim Beam, the whiskey brand, has seen major advantages from breaking with the conventions of its category and reaching out directly to female drinkers.

Rebecca Messina, SVP/global CMO for Beam Suntory – the owner of Jim Beam – discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Brand Masters conference.

More specifically, she revealed that a “Whiskey and Women” research project helped guide the company towards adopting a new positioning for Jim Beam, one of America’s most iconic brands.

“We found that 30% of the growth was coming from women in a beverage category where no one was talking about women, no one was showing women,” Messina said. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Beam Suntory brought whiskey to women and built a global brand.)

Alongside a meaningful business case, there was an ethical imperative to embrace an audience long neglected in a traditionally male-dominated category. “I just felt that we could do better than that,” she continued.

Mila Kunis, the actress, has served as the spearhead for this marketing effort. And the “Whiskey and Women” project offered a clear rationale for using a female brand ambassador, based on how women often enter the category.

“A male will say this: ‘Let me show you how to drink whiskey.’ He’s going to tell her how to drink it his way,” Messina said. “A female has this little thing called empathy. And she says, ‘Oh, what do you like to drink? That’s where to start.’”

Talking to women “was a very, very simple idea”, she conceded. But to expand the audience of enthusiasts for Jim Beam, Kunis was an ideal figurehead for telling the brand’s story.

Another benefit of this approach: “When we show women drinking whiskey, men will come. But when we show men drinking whiskey, sometimes women won’t,” Messina said.

Coupled with putting women at the heart of ads was a more subtle shift – namely, showing a Jim Beam drinker at a bar ordering whiskey with ice. This habit was common in practice, even if the purists generally did not approve.

“I had to fight like crazy for this thing because people told me no one will want whiskey on the rocks,” said Messina. “It was progress for our company to show people doing what they’re already doing.”

Sourced from WARC