Funny thing is, here in the alcoholic beverage giant’s own headquarters town, BF execs tend to run silent, run deep.
For instance, after the sale of most of the Brown-Forman wine portfolio back in 2011, the company’s brand-management org chart was completely redrawn. Yet the local media, with the exception of that pesky Insider Louisville, had nary a word.
Nationally and internationally, it’s a whole different story, so to speak.
Brown-Forman long ago mastered conventional advertising and marketing.
In 2012, the company appears to be writing the book on digital brand building. To do it, BF execs are working with all sorts of new advertising firms, though none is local.
The New York Times ran a long piece last month about Brown-Forman brand Southern Comfort liqueur running television commercials created through a crowd-sourcing initiative rather than through a traditional advertising agency.
A whole series of “Lingo Cop” television and social media spots were developed with Poptent, a Los Angeles-based firm specializing in crowd-sourcing ads for major marketers.
The TV versions are scheduled to run for five weeks on cable channels such as Comedy Central, ESPN and FX, as well as on “Saturday Night Live.”
The ads are based on the ordering lingo in bars, such as, “I want a JD and coke,” JD being shorthand for Brown-Forman’s top seller Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. In place of Jack Daniels, customers order “SoCoLa,” or Southern Comfort and cola.
Requests are known in the liquor industry as “bar calls,” and they are the ultimate crowd sourcing. Customers pick up on other customers’ calls, creating organic drink crazes.
Whether the “Lingo Cop” ads are funny is beside the point. The ads were essentially created by Southern Comfort fans.
From the NYTimes piece, “The Untraditional Origins of a New Southern Comfort Ad,” by Media Decoder writer Stuart Elliot:
Rather than use traditional models, like teaming up a copywriter and an art director at an advertising agency, crowd-sourcing comes up with ad concepts in collaborative fashion via the Internet. The Poptent initiative for Southern Comfort was developed without the input of the Southern Comfort creative agency since 2001, Arnold Worldwide, a unit of the Havas Worldwide division of Havas. That is because executives at Brown-Forman, the Southern Comfort parent, had earlier decided to part ways with Arnold and undertake a search for a new creative agency. “In the interim, we wanted something for TV,” said Jason Kempf, United States brand director for Southern Comfort at Brown-Forman in Louisville, Ky., and thought that “Poptent could bring us a fun, relevant, creative campaign.”
Here’s the crazy thing … the commercials developed through Poptent were created by RezFX – a three-person media-production company in Fort Wayne freakin’ Indiana.
Crowd-sourced commercials for other brands like Doritos have also come from small companies and agencies way off MadAve, according to the Times piece. Which is sea change for BF, where traditionally global ad/marketing giants ruled.
Which begs the question, why aren’t Louisville’s touted ad agencies getting consideration? We’re talking huge amounts of money here.
Brown-Forman pumped about $10 million into its Jack Daniel’s Christmas blitz last December.
Could be because Brown-Forman is going international with a vengeance, hiring firms in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for new roll-outs of recently acquired brands such as Maximus vodka and old brands such as Finlandia.
Trade websites are reporting Weden + Kennedy in London is the new creative lead on Finlandia vodka for Europe and Africa, regions that account for more than 70 percent of Finlandia sales. W+K got Maximus Vodka back in February.
Oh, well, another trend passes us by ….