Brand Extension Series: Jack Daniel’s and the Spirit of America


For the first installment of our brand extension deep dive series, we’re looking at Jack Daniel’s and the many avenues that the brand has successfully explored.

With its image of rugged masculinity and tradition, Jack Daniel’s has managed to transcend the traditional producer-consumer relationship and reach a status that most brands only dream about – they have become an active part of their consumers’ lifestyles, and are, in many cases, a symbol for who the consumer perceives themselves to be. In this way, Jack Daniel’s is similar to other rebellious, all-American brands, like Harley-Davidson or Levi’s. However, among its peers, Jack Daniel’s has seen unprecedented success with its non-alcoholic products.



Because of its status as a lifestyle brand, Jack Daniel’s expansion into clothing and other material products feels natural. With such a strong brand character, it makes sense that fans of Jack that strongly identify with the whiskey would want to wear t-shirts and hats displaying the classic logo. The brand’s prominent presence in decades of pop culture has really helped in this area, too – from Jerry Lee Lewis’s country hit “Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7” to Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK”, generations of celebrities have publicly praised the whiskey.



But how does a love of whiskey and a rough-and-tumble lifestyle translate to mustard, marinade, or caramel purchases? The company’s first foray into food was nearly 30 years ago, when they launched the Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook, with recipes that heavily featured the whiskey. In 2001, Jack Daniel’s owner, Brown-Forman, licensed the name to Heinz U.S.A. for the first line of sauces and marinades. The idea was that any customer, no matter where they were, could be part of the “Jack Daniel’s lifestyle” – which had come to encompass all things American (and, in particular, Southern), including barbecue.



The timing of this new product release was incredibly important for how successful it became. First, 9/11 created a culture of patriotic consumerism, where buying iconic products that were American-made felt like a responsibility. Jack Daniel’s represented the toughest, most down-home part of the quintessential “American Spirit”, making the brand seem very attractive to shoppers who wanted to support the values that the company represented.



Second, thanks to media like Sex and the City, feminine drinks were gaining a lot of social prominence in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. For many, embracing the Jack Daniel’s brand in all avenues of life was likely a reaction to that, a way of protecting an image and tradition that seemed like it could be slipping away.

Had that first line of sauces and marinades not been so popular, it’s unlikely that Jack Daniel’s could have carried the brand into such a diverse portfolio of products. Notably, the company has been smart with the way that they’ve leveraged the brand name and their existing product line. After all, Jack Daniel’s coffee seems less strange when you’ve already tried Jack Daniel’s cake, just as Jack Daniel’s cake seems less strange after you’ve had Jack Daniel’s praline pecans. The company has rarely produced a new item that didn’t feel like a natural extension of everything that came before it, and this growth strategy has made Jack Daniel’s the brand extension leader that it is today.

Brand Extension Done Right

As we all know, the world of consumer packaged goods is littered with products that just don’t make sense.  The business environment is extremely competitive, and that competitiveness drives brand managers to constantly experiment with new products and innovations.  In many cases, these new products are so misaligned with their brands that consumers are left confused, and often even worse – irritated.  Buzzfeed recently featured a list of some of the most ridiculous (and hilarious) product failures of all time, which is worth a quick read.   Pizza Hut body spray?  Cheetos lip balm?  Yes please!!!

All that said, from time to time you see products that are so well-developed and so well-aligned with their brands that they just seemingly can’t miss.  We recently came across two such products, and of course we wanted to share with you all.  Below are a couple of products that, well, just make sense.

Texas Pete Cha!

Sriracha Brand Extension

We have long been surprised by how few Sriracha products exist on the market.  Sriracha is a Thai condiment that is made from a paste of chili peppers and vinegar, among other things.  It has very recently become one of the most popular condiments in the US, and it’s amazing that no national brands have entered into this market given its size and momentum.  To that end, there is only one dominant brand of Sriracha, which is produced by a little known company named Huy Fong Foods.  That said, Texas Pete, the maker of the #3 hot sauce in the country, is now planning a nationwide launch of its own Sriracha product, “Cha!”

Their entry into the Sriracha market is such a logical brand extension, as they have built a popular niche brand that is closely associated with hot sauces and condiments.  Sriracha is a perfectly reasonable extension for Texas Pete, and will allow them to enter into a cutting edge and growing product category, with precious little competition.  While nothing in life is guaranteed, how can this not work?

Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut Butter Cup Brand Extension

In January 2014 Nestle will be taking Butterfinger into the peanut butter cup world.  While peanut butter cups are a fairly crowded field (dominated by Reese’s, no doubt), we love this brand extension almost as much as the Texas Pete Sriracha (almost).  Butterfinger has built incredibly strong brand equity as a crispy, peanut buttery and chocolaty candy bar.  Seems to be a natural fit to extend this reservoir of brand equity while introducing the loyal Butterfinger fans to a new chocolaty and peanut buttery product, in a category that should be very familiar to them.  Nestle intends to introduce the Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups with a Superbowl ad, and we cant wait to see it (and to try it ourselves).

Enhanced by Zemanta