SVP and Director of Innovation, Consumer Planning and Global Marketing Services
Ted Hissey is senior vice president and director of innovation, consumer planning and global marketing services for spirits and wine producer Brown-Forman, marketer of brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Korbel, Chambord and Finlandia. Hissey oversees new product initiatives, market research and marketing services that support B-F’s brands on a global basis. Hissey spoke to eMarketer’s Debby Garbato about how B-F is using digital media to promote new and existing products.
eMarketer: Why is digital media a good complement to the alcohol segment and how does it play off of the category’s social nature?
Ted Hissey: It plays into it well since alcohol has always been a social category. Word-of-mouth has always been critical in driving awareness of new and existing brands. Social media lets us bring some scale to word-of-mouth. Another thing that’s really good is that most social media vehicles are very targetable. From an efficiency angle, it’s a great way to reach people by age and other demographics.
eMarketer: How does digital help you better target adults 21-plus?
We make sure our messages are directed to people over 21. Our legal department is very strident. But digital has made us put a process in place that helps us get legal approvals faster. In the old days, if you developed ads and TV spots, you had plenty of time to get the necessary approvals.
“When we launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey in the US ... we got a query from a customer in Germany asking, ‘Can we taste it?’ Nothing is local anymore.”
eMarketer: Which brands best lend themselves to digital media?
Hissey: We do a lot with our bigger brands like Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort. But even brands where we do less total ad spending are allocating a good deal of their budget to digital.
eMarketer: How do you approach a brand like Jack Daniel’s, which is huge and appeals to a very wide variety of consumers?
Hissey: Yes, the Jack Daniel’s target is fairly broad. But how we approach it with digital is not much different from our approach with traditional media. Most digital media companies can provide us with great data on demographics. Whatever the target, there is a way to reach them.
eMarketer: Can you give an example of how you use Facebook with Jack Daniel’s?
Hissey: Jack Daniel’s has over 3 million Facebook fans worldwide. When we advertise on Facebook, we may want the message to go to consumers ages 25 to 35, or we may want to go after women or older consumers. If somebody ID’s in their profile that they’re Hispanic-American, we can target them that way, too.
We also do posts that go around the world. When we launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey in the US, we had people in Mexico and the UK saying, “What about us?” We got a query from a customer in Germany asking, “Can we taste it?” Nothing is local anymore.
eMarketer: How do you approach important groups like millennials and older consumers?
Hissey: There are quite a few people who are 40, 50 or 60 and are very active in digital. Digital is a great way to reach them. But we have to advertise to them [too]. Millennials in particular are important to our business. At that age, people will often establish lifelong brand habits. Right now, that age group watches lots of TV, particularly reality shows. While traditional media is a big part of the mix, they certainly overindex in social media. But we don’t forget about traditional.
eMarketer: What about marketing to Hispanics and all the different ethnic groups, who often have specific tastes in beverage alcohol?
Hissey: The US is very ethnically fragmented and it’s a challenge. The country is becoming more diverse every day. What we try to do is have a message that can communicate to most, if not all, of the population. Then, we dig deeper from a media perspective into certain multicultural groups.
eMarketer: Brand image is very important in alcohol. How do your digital efforts support that?
Hissey: In a couple of ways. Each brand has a well-defined brand image and personality. Whatever we do, we will be very consistent with the image and personality. If you read Jack Daniel’s’ posts, they are all written in the same style. There are tight guidelines on what is the “voice” of Jack Daniel’s. All mediums will use that voice. It’s well-established. We are trying to create a voice for all the brands.
“If it’s just something boring that people can get anywhere, you’re wasting your time.”
eMarketer: How are your digital efforts tied to in-store or on-premise promotions/activities?
Hissey: For legal reasons, we can’t direct people to specific retail accounts. But all websites have product locators. If I want Comfort Cherry, I can find out which stores in my area have it. We also announce promos via social media—like Jack’s birthday or a new product. We get that message out on digital and social platforms.
At point-of-sale, there may be QR Codes that can be downloaded for more information about the brand. Recipes are the most popular. A lot of our brands also have information about the distilleries, as in the case with Jack and Woodford Reserve. We can also link a video to a QR Code, but it has to be valuable, interesting, entertaining or useful. If it’s just something boring that people can get anywhere, you’re wasting your time. There is also the risk of the shiny-new-toy syndrome. [We have to ask if an initiative] is really achieving its objective. In the digital world, consumers become bored fairly quickly.
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