101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Global Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Beam Suntory.
"These brands live in really fun places - music is usually playing, ambient noise or maybe it's a quiet dim light cocktail bar... and then we write a TV script. It's bonkers. Music and cocktails go together."
Janna Reddig, Global Director of Integrated Marketing Communication, Beam Suntory
Janna is an award-winning marketing communications leader working on some of the world's most beloved brands in Chicago, New York, and London on the media, creative and client-side. She holds a track record for developing disruptive communications in an attention scarce economy and transforming brands during critical inflection points to create positive trajectories in market share, effectiveness (ROI), brand equity, and optimized digital presence. Janna has been instrumental at putting the power of music and sound to work on brands such as Doritos, Morton Salt, Pepsi, and, most recently, Maker's Mark Whisky.
Uli Reese: Janna, tell me a little bit about your role…
Janna Reddig: I am the Global Director of Integrated Marketing Communications for Beam Suntory. My role is to drive long-term brand building for Beam Suntory. I work on Maker’s Mark, both Global and US, and Knob Creek, while my colleagues work on the other iconic brands at Beam Suntory – Hornitos, Courvoisier, and of course Jim Beam.
Reese: What are your main responsibilities?
Janna: I have three; the first is establishing the IMC discipline at Beam Suntory and training people up on communications philosophies and processes. The second is to create the global content library for all Maker’s Mark assets based on the global brand positioning, and thirdly, I need to pull those IMC plans through the US market.
As an industry professional you’ve probably noticed within the spirits category (much like fragrance), there can be lazy local product centric advertising as well as a commoditized go-to market strategy. Outdoor, print, and POS are mostly bottle shots devoid of story, and very few brands are using storytelling formats like video and audio. The alcohol/beverage category has leapt past the age of shot girls but bourbon/whiskey still has a long way to go.
Reese: Beam Suntory are number three in the world behind Pernod Ricard and Diageo but there is no brand you can identify because of their sonic footprint. Would it work to have a sound specific central hub?
Janna: It would definitely be of value but I’m not convinced that it makes sense for every brand. Some brands in the category are unicorn successes (like Aperol Spritz and White Claw) whereas others have a lot more distinctive assets and heritage to work with, so I think Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark are the most relevant brands to play in this space.
Reese: What is the role of audio in spirits as a whole?
Janna: There are two sides to that question; where we are today and where we can get to. The category is no longer just old, white men drinking whiskey. It’s a younger, sophisticated, multicultural consumer who is a bit of a foodie, and is motivated to order and share Instagram worthy shots of amazing cocktails, so the implication for the brand’s music identity is significant. It was pretty eye opening when I first worked on the brand. I really liked the stories we were sharing from the distillery as they have never been told but there was no true articulation of an idea. The music exploration only demonstrated how big the challenge was - reinforce category norms (country, classic jazz with male voiceover laid on top of barrel houses) or create something much more contemporary.
Needless to say, the working draft was a bit of a snooze-fest. I think that was the first time that the team had thought about the role of music and sound on the brand.
Music has continued to evolve and underpin our best work. From optimizing TV to partnering with Youtube and Hulu leveraging sight, sound and motion.
Reese: Should a brand step out and say I’m going to take the lead and be authentic?
Janna: What was interesting around our brand persona is that we had to recalibrate whether or not all of its personality traits were still relevant. There were words like ‘gentile’ that don’t belong now. The guiding light was that “we take our bourbon seriously but not ourselves”. There is an approachability aspect met with unexpectedness. We brought in new music [“Good as Gold” by Moon Taxi for the ‘Mark of the Maker’ global campaign] and we saw a huge return. The next debate was whether a man or woman should deliver the script and we landed with Scarlett Johansson as the voice over. That made a huge difference. Not just her distinctive voice but the juxtaposition of masculine visuals with a feminine voice was awesome.
Reese: Do you think brand marketers know what’s coming regarding sonic identity?
Janna: I feel like there are organisations that are passionate about brand building and it comes from the top down. At Beam Suntory, the organization is committed to thinking differently and we are gaining traction internally. I think everyone is excited about the work, and realizes how much can be done and how much potential there is. There is definitely a desire to create a playbook inclusive of visual identity and sounds for the brand.
"Music has continued to evolve and underpin our best work. From optimizing TV to partnering with Youtube and Hulu leveraging sight, sound and motion."
Reese: Why is there this big shift from video to audio?
Janna: Technology and the way people are consuming brands are so fluid now and there is a huge appetite and curiosity for knowledge. Whether it’s TED talks or podcasts there’s a desire to download and take in information. At an individual level, the dilemma is how to stay in touch with everything happening and maintain everything else you are trying to achieve. There are so many hours in the day but audio is helping us overcome this for people. You can drive and read a book. You can work out and get business advice from the best CEOs in the world. It’s another level of media meshing.
Reese: Has the audio world blown up because of technology?
Janna: Yes, and it’s crazy! Based on today’s definition, I didn’t grow up as a digital native. I think I was nine years old when I applied to be part of the technology class. There have been so many moments at college or in my career. Just when you think the world is done innovating something new happens…. hi-speed, ipod, iphone, alexa/siri, machine learning. People are so busy that sound can offer surprise and delight on their mobile phone or in their home. Ironically, it can even offer “noise cancelling/filtering” effects in the world we so desperately crave (meditative, music, podcasts). That is exciting in terms of audio!
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