Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

How marketing technology is helping a 150-year-old brand to tell its story

Jack Daniels Marketing Technology


Right now is an interesting time for businesses as forecasts show marketing departments are going to be spending more on technology than any other area of the company. For Jack Daniel’s, as a 150-year-old brand with a strong consumer focus, technology is helping us out in a lot of ways.

Jack Daniels Marketing Technology

In some cases, technology has a bit of a soft touch and in others, it has a more of a direct impact. One of the most important areas is how we’re connecting online and offline. That could be in the traditional communications realm but also in the world of innovation as we take on some of the new and next technologies around AI and VR.

Media, communications, experiential, research and digital are the areas greatly impacted by technology within our company. We’ve got more than 20 million fans on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms and the media planning side of the business has seen technology jump right into the middle. We’re seeing a convergence of technology, marketing and communications. That convergence is driving multiple consumer strategies and impacting how we are planning media and organizing around key measurements and call-to-actions.

From a consumer brand building perspective, it’s about how our storytelling, eCommerce, CRM and media technology stack fit together to support the long-term strategies we’re planning around.

My technology background continues to pay dividends in areas such as data strategy. For example, with platforms like Facebook, it is as important to understand what data we’re looking to get out of campaigns as much as it is to lean into the consumer targeting data being leveraged upfront.

Marketers embracing technology

Technology presents an opportunity and challenge at the same time as everyone is trying to jump in. When I look at our brand teams, we’re trying to increase data and technology capabilities at both global and market levels to at least be a step ahead. This way, regardless of how mature one of our brands might be in its use of technology, we’ll have the infrastructure to support it.

We’ve taken more than 200 of our marketers through a digital boot camp and they’re starting to take more responsibilities on such as social listening, which is having a great impact on their work. They’re learning how to build programs and reports and we’re discovering there are many opportunities to tap into. Our next step is taking that forward to be more proactive in our strategies.

Part of this is the notion of big data and what we are going to do with all this data that we’re gathering. It’s about trying to rationalise things, to be more intentional about how data is going to be used before going out and finding the sources. This way we’re working from a true north and intention around how data will help us.

It is definitely an area of growth and it’s one we’re tracking from a capabilities standpoint to ensure our marketers are empowered. That is the opportunity: to focus on being less reactive and instead move to more of a proactive state.

The relationship between brands and agencies

One of the more interesting conversations happening right now is about the ecosystem around the brand. For a business such as Brown-Forman and specifically the Jack Daniel’s team, our creative agency partners are trying to build the best assets to help tell our stories. Then, on the media side, there are all the platforms to distribute on. Our media agency partners are trying to leverage data to maximise that.

If you go around that circle, there can be tension because our creative partners have been creating assets the same way for a long time. They’re starting to realise that we, as brands, need better stories and in many cases, more stories in different formats than what we’ve seen in the past. Then there are our media partners that in some cases are looking to go straight to the brand which can turn off some of the media and creative agencies. It’s really about the balance. Healthy dialogue is important and tension in some cases can be good but the goal is not let it become toxic. It’s really about trying to step back and understand what the brand is trying to do and ensure all are working with consistent objectives in mind.

Our media agency plays a role in both efficiency and impact. The power of efficiency we gain from the benefit of having a global perspective when we are working with a Mediavest|Spark or Starcom in the case of the Australian market. We need a partner that can help us reconcile local legislation because, from a legal perspective, we need to ensure our conversations are happening with consumers of legal drinking age.

But the real opportunity is on the strategic side, striving for impact. We are always looking to our media agency partners to help with that. It’s a synthesising of all these inputs because we have the creative agency and what they’re creating, the platforms where stories are distributed and our brand managers who are doing their best to connect the dots for our consumers.

We want our media agency and media partners to help us find the best way to maximise the opportunity and provide feedback on the level of data we’re gathering. They need to be leading that conversation in many ways because of the visibility they have.

Choosing the right technology

We also look to our agency partners to help provide perspective on the right technology for the job.

Many of our agencies are working with global partners and can see the way other brands are doing it, especially brands that are in alcohol beverage but even more importantly brands outside our category that are creating great consumer experiences. Agencies can provide good benchmarks for us on how others are doing it.

We are in a unique position in that we do some planning internally, so for any kind of extended partnership, it needs to work internally as well as externally to provide a system of record that can manage both of these points of view.

That is perhaps one of the most interesting challenges as we try to do more long-term planning and understand what our opportunities are now as well as what are they going to be in five years or even further down the road.

Jason Loehr will be speaking at the 2016 Marketing Technology Symposium.

About Jason Loehr – VP, Dir. of Global Media and Insights at Brown-Forman
Jason has a diverse background building brands in the digital age, ranging from startups to the Fortune 100. His experience has focused on integrating digital with traditional channels in delivering results-oriented marketing strategy across organizations in retail, healthcare, CPG and recreation. He has a strong understanding of data, analytics and engineering aligned with a passion and discipline in user experience, design thinking and innovation.