14 Nov 2013

Jack Daniels targets hipsters with film

73 miles south of Nashville you’ll find Lynchburg Tennessee, the town where every drop of Jack Daniel’s whiskey is made.

It’s a small town full of history and big characters, so it’s fitting that Jack Daniel’s made a documentary-style film to tell the stories of the people behind the town behind the whiskey. 

The 11 minute online documentary is a great piece of storytelling brimming with nostalgia and a sense of old-school wisdom. 

It’s aim is to provide an insight into the people responsible for making every drop of Jack, and to give an identity to an otherwise anonymous town. 

It’s the first short film from Jack Daniel’s and is part of the brands positioning as The Independent Spirit. The brand aims to release a series of films in the future, the next will be Independent London.

“Jack Daniel’s celebrates those who embody the independent spirit. Who have integrity. Who stand for what they believe in. People who have the confidence to follow their own path and do things their own way, the right way. In a new, ongoing series of short films from Jack Daniel’s, we set out to find these people. The individuals who embody the independent spirit and are unapologetically forging their own trail. Why? To celebrate them. Because, quite frankly, someone should.” 

The film has been screened at two film festivals The Louisville International Festival of Film and the 16th annual Memphis Film Festival. It has also been released on YouTube and Vimeo and will also be hosted on the Jack Daniel’s website.  Jack Daniel’s is inviting people to submit their ideas and city to be featured in an upcoming film. 


This is a great piece of storytelling. The characters are charming, authentic and a joy to watch. This film gives you a real sense of the community that Jack Daniel’s lives in. 

The film is disarming and evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. This is the home of Jack Daniel’s, this is the town and the people that it comes from. Through their stories you see the heritage and history of both the brand and the town. 

This is nothing new for alcohol brands which have played on history and heritage for years and the story of the town behind the brand has been close to JD’s branding for years. 

However, the film does a great job of tying the two together and in doing so entwines their pasts as well as their futures. But here in lies the problem for me, watching this film I couldn’t help but wonder about Jack Daniel’s future, I mean, where is the brand going? 

This film delivers a rich history, but it is history, these are the guys who’ve been there for years – in some cases more than 70 years - they represent the past, the heritage and history of the brand, but where is the future, where is the new guard of young guys and girls who are taking on this heritage and driving it forward? 

The film left me with a wonderful sense of nostalgia, and a sense of yearning for the days of old, this idea that the old ways are the good ways. But it also presented a town of old men, full of memories and it left me wondering who will make Jack Daniel’s when these guys are gone? 

What will become of the town of Lynchburg? Presumably there’s a whole new generation there, but we didn’t see them. By gazing back into the past, I was left without much optimism about Jack’s future, which I’m sure was not the point. Yes the old ways are the good ways, but there’s also a need to look forward. 

I’m hoping this was partially the point though. As I watched it I found myself questioning the relevance of this film, who on earth was it was aimed at, and just how would it find an audience - let alone the target market. 

Then it hit me. This film is targeting Hipsters. The bearded, suspender wearing, drinking whiskey from a jam jar, perhaps while strumming a banjo, nostalgia-fueled community fond of championing all things old and charming. 

This is a movement that is painstakingly attempting to make all things old and retro cool again (for more on Hipsters see BuzzFeed’s fabulous article The 24 Most Hipster Things That Have Ever Happened) This penchant for nostalgia, vintage and retro is extremely popular with the ever illusive 18-35-year-olds.   

Hipsters are the driving force behind the proliferation of speak easy wine bars and whiskey dens, retro graphics on everything and the explosion of beards. 

To date only cider brands have really excelled at targeting this market, but I’m interested to see how Jack Daniel’s does with this target market, particularly because the brand is not really a whiskey and technically more of a bourbon. 

Clearly much like the men of Lynchburg Tenessesse, the Jack Daniel’s drinker is aging and the need to target new younger drinkers is crucial for the brand.  However Jack Daniel’s has always been a tough brand to sell, everything about it is rooted in the town it comes from and its sense of history, which is making the brand increasingly irrelevant to new young audiences. 

The big challenge for Jack Daniel’s is finding relevance and appealing to young hipsters. This is no mean feat, especially as they battle increased competition in the category from an explosion of new smaller independent brands. The growth in whiskey globally is on the rise and that means there is a major increase in competitors who are are more authentic and relevant to the target audience. 

A big established brand such as JD might not  be the label of choice for the average hipster who is no doubt looking for a more authentic retro bottle design and graphic label. In my mind JD is a brand linked to country cowboys and rockstars - which is another area that JD is looking to push to make it relevant to young audiences. 

However if Jack Daniel's is to have a shot at relevance playing on its heritage and story is one way that it may appeal to the nostalgic retro loving hipsters. This is also clearly the thinking that has driven the independent spirit positioning too.  

This is Jack Daniel’s play to appeal to a new young audience with a preference for independent labels backed up by the heritage and history of the good old days. 

Will it work? I’m not sure. The proof will probably be in the next video ‘Independent London’ if JD can find a way to make the brand relevant and interesting to the young and stylish of London, then they might just be onto something. 


A charming piece of storytelling with a very ambitious agenda. This branded entertainment series is one to keep an eye on. 

  • I give it 3 stars. 
  • Brand: Jack Daniel’s 
  • Creative company: Arnold Worldwide 



Jeremy Garling

16 Sep 2014

Danielle I liked your review as much as the videos...I went through the same journey as you about relevance. Really enjoyed your the telling of the story of their telling of Jack's story.

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