The first TV spot for Jim Beam Devil’s Cut -- also just the second television ad in the Jim Beam brand’s history -- began airing on March 5.
The new 30-second spot shows a 20-something male first being exposed to the concept of the “angel’s share” (the bourbon lost to evaporation as it ages) in a heavenly setting, then being transported to an old distillery as a voiceover explains that the flip side is JB’s Devil’s Cut -- a “more intense” bourbon trapped in the barrel wood that JB “found a way to unlock.”
The adventurer follows a mysterious, black-leather-clad woman down a steep staircase to a destination that turns out to be a darkly lit, clearly exclusive nightclub below the distillery, as the voiceover explains that Devil’s Cut is a “smooth, slightly sinister bourbon” that “ain’t for choir boys.” The spot closes with the Jim Beam brand’s overall tagline: “Bold Choice.”
Last summer’s launch of Devil’s Cut -- both stronger (90 proof) and higher-priced than regular Jim Beam ($23.99 per 750 milliliter bottle, versus $15.99) --- as well as the decision to include television in its marketing mix, is indicative of a significantly more aggressive strategy underway at Beam Global Spirits & Wine.
Beam is the world’s fourth-largest premium spirits company (spanning brands ranging from Canadian Club Whiskey to Sauza Tequila, Courvoisier Cognac and Ronrico Rum), and the world’s largest producer of bourbon, under brands that include Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Old Crow and others, in addition to flagship Jim Beam.
Beam parent Fortune Brands doubled its size six years ago by acquiring Allied Domecq brands (including Courvoisier and Maker’s Mark), and has since acquired other brands, such as Skinnygirl Tequila. Within its core bourbon business, Beam’s new-product launches within the last two years have included the 2009 debut of Red Stag by Jim Beam (the first major launch under the Beam name in more than a decade), as well as Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, Maker’s 46 and JB Devil’s Cut.
Beam’s focus on investing in marketing and product development for existing brands -- particularly in the bourbon segment led by Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark -- now has further momentum, following Fortune Brands’ strategic moves last year to make Beam a stand-alone company by spinning off its home security business to stockholders and divesting its golf business. Beam has said that it will also be looking to make more spirits brands/company acquisitions – all reflecting an increasingly positive environment for premium spirits, as economy-challenged consumers return to buying upscale liquor, particularly in on-premise (bars/restaurants) venues.
Jim Beam’s first, black-and-white television spot, launched last year and also from agency Strawberry Frog, featured actor Willem Dafoe dramatizing the brand’s “Bold Choice” tagline/theme. Dafoe’s possible life outcomes, based on his choices, were shown in a series of vignettes ranging from a defeated-looking older man alone in a diner to the same man running his own designer fashion label, being a trapeze artist, or debarking from his own corporate jet. Messaging: “Life boils down to a series of choices…before long, the choices you make, and the ones you don’t, become you…Bold choices take you where you’re supposed to be.”
Last summer, when Beam launched Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, independent American whiskey blogger Chuck Cowdery observed: “In the course of about a year, Beam Global has gone from the least innovative company in the industry to arguably the most innovative, and their willingness to bet the flagship brand [Jim Beam] on these escapades makes it even more impressive.”
Prior to its TV spot, Devil’s Cut’s marketing support had included retailer promotions and digital consumer promotions featuring Kid Rock, the spokesperson already on board for Red Stag and other JB promotions/ads.
For Devil’s Cut, for example, Kid Rock surprised “unsuspecting guys” on Twitter, who were having “a boring Friday night in,” by sending them personalized video messages urging them to have a “bold night out” that “unleashed their spirits,” as well as giving them free tickets to his concert in Atlanta.
“Now that Devil’s Cut has been successfully launched throughout the country, we feel that it’s the perfect time to put more muscle behind our marketing efforts by introducing the brand to a broader audience with its first TV advertisement,” Rob Mason, Beam’s senior director for U.S. bourbon, tells Marketing Daily.
For 2011, Beam Inc. reported overall year-to-year comparable net sales growth of 8%, including growth of 7% for Jim Beam, 14% for Maker’s Mark, 20% for Knob Creek and 27% for bourbon brand Basil Hayden (plus 28% growth for Effen Vodka and 486% growth for Skinnygirl Tequila).
Last month, based on the success of its now two-year-old original Red Stag product (bourbon infused with black cherry flavor), Beam launched two more varieties: Red Stag Honey Tea and Red Stag Spiced.