Why Jim Beam picked a woman for its Whiskey ad?

When Jim Beam, the iconic bourbon brand, unveiled its new brand face in 2014, many advertisers were thrown in a state of shock. It was not only against the expectations but against the conventions and the industry-norms as well. It made beautiful US-actress Mila Kunis its newest spokesperson while a cowboy or country rock star seemed to fit the bill.

The 30-year-old actress also went on to say that she has been a big fan of bourbon in general. She got featured in two new Beam ads lasting for over 30-seconds, and five other videos that ranged in duration from 15 seconds to over three minutes.

The new tagline of the new global campaign and commercial, of course, was right to be read as “Make history”.

It drew so much attention that Rebecca Messina, Global CMO for Beam Suntory – the owner of Jim Beam – chose to discuss this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Brand Masters conference.

About the campaign

The bold move on the Jim Beam’s part was designed by FutureWorks. FutureWorks was then a new entity arising after the merger of StrawberryFrog (New York), The Works (Sydney), and Jung von Matt (Hamburg, Germany). It was a definite attempt to appeal to millennials. The whiskey brand could foresee major advantages from breaking with the conventions of its category when it reached out directly to the female drinkers.

Messina revealed that this campaign was ignited by a “Whiskey and Women” research project. It guided the company for adopting a new positioning for Jim Beam.

Women & alcohol

The research found that over 30% of the growth was coming from women in a beverage category and that no one was talking about women there. Considering showing women in ad-commercials was a more distant thought.

Jim Beam was ready to tread on the lines that would not only lead to meaningful business, but established an ethical imperative that would embrace an audience long neglected in a “traditionally male-dominated category”.

The “Whiskey and Women” project offered a clear rationale for using a female brand ambassador and the beverage company picked Mila Kunis, the actress, by observing how women often enter the category.

The company is diluting the role of men who often tell women ‘Let me show you how to drink whiskey.’ Messina added that “A female has this little thing called empathy. And she added that the idea of the campaign is to tell women where to start.

How easy has it been?

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

She mentions 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”.  So, picking a female face has played a double-role in pushing the beverage sales.

Breaking ad-conventions

However, putting a woman at the heart of the ads was more of a subtle shift. It showed a Jim Beam drinker at a bar ordering whiskey with ice. Many purists disapproved of featuring this even though it has been a common practice at the bars.

Messina fought crazily for this to happen. But she remained clear-headed and hoped that showing what people already do will only prove to be progressive for the company.