Interview Transcript

How did you look to bring the history (of Jim Bean) to life in a different, more modern way, at Beam?

That’s the key, the idea of timely and timeless; it really plays out in some of these brands. They have been something, forever. It’s not my job to tell the family that that’s not what they stand for. This is what they stand for. My job is to help them present themselves in a way that’s going to connect with today’s consumer. You do that, in meaningful ways, in knowing what your job is. If the job, at the time is, we need you to recruit a new generation of drinkers. You could have a job, which is, we need to drive the frequency with the drinkers that we have. It could be, we want to bring in a more diverse group of drinkers, be it female or whatever it may be. We want to appeal in a new country that we haven’t really been important in. All of that is going to form your strategy. We want to bring something new to market. We want to do something at a different price point. So many different things are going to play into that.

Then you are going to use your channels at hand. We did a few things and the team there is still doing it, and the new leadership will do an incredible job. Because our home place was so important, we made a case to invest in updating the distillery experience. We really wanted to emphasize home and place, which is so very important in spirits. They come from the land. We have those living people. That was a whole big piece of our strategy. There’s a whole movement of people wanting those experiences; it’s an experience economy. More and more people than ever were going to experience the Bourbon Trail.

Then you would do story-telling around that. We put out some big films that told the story of the families, through prohibition. In the case of Maker’s Mark, they also understand the consumer very well and they knew that the consumer loves horse racing and those important moments, in what we were able to do, around the Breeder’s Cup and other important moments like that. In tradition and things that have stood that brand up for so long. It all comes down to knowing who your consumer is, what they care about and how that matches your brand and what you care about and what you are trying to do.

What was your biggest challenge in connecting with those younger consumers, with a whisky brand, like Jim Beam?

I think, a few things. If you’re a new brand, you’ve got a clean slate. You can just decide, this is who I am and who I’m going to attract, out of the gate. If you are a legacy brand – this could be true for a Coke or so many brands in the world today – you could really be about, this was my father’s drink. Things like that, those are things that you want to shed. I’m lucky; I thought my parents were pretty cool. But not everybody thinks that and consumers also want to be empowered to make their own choices and don’t want to be dictated to do something like we used to be, or at least like my generation might have been. Sometimes you have to contend with things like that which are, it’s my father’s drink. That wasn’t really one of our biggest fears, at Beam, but it’s an example of a barrier that a brand could have that you have to work with. You can have some fun with that, too.

I think Oreo has done an amazing job, too. I think it was in China, where they are were trying to show an Oreo and they showed, generationally, it was the little kid teaching the grandfather, how to eat an Oreo and dunk it and everything. It’s a complete departure from when you are talking about spirits, but there’s a way to work with these things. That’s where insight matters. You’re not going to do much without insight. I think it will be pretty weak without it.

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