LEARNING ABOUT ICONIC AMERICAN BRANDS ON A ROOFTOP IN BEIJING
Jack Daniel’s like most brands faces the challenge of gaining relevance amongst the marketing noise created by larger, richer competitors. Music is a typical first step many brands take to connect with young adults. The most common way of doing this is to sponsor a headline-‐grabbing act and slap your logo on every flat surface. We were presented this option in China, but that is not the Jack way. After some digging, we found a potential solution in the small but emerging indie-‐rock scene. My market visits involve auditing consumer behavior up close, where they gather, observing their experiences and trying to understand their motivations. Put another way, I want to understand the “why” behind their choices. Fast-‐forward to a rooftop of a bar in a Beijing hutong where I met with bands with names like Queen Sea Big Shark and Hedgehog. They spoke passionately about music, touring and their need for sponsors to sustain their vision. But they were not idealistic artists sacrificing for their art; they were marketers with an eye towards business. They talked about the need to limit their exposure to create demand, the role of marketing and the value of associating with the right brands. Although searching for sponsors they weren’t looking for quick or easy money from companies looking to slap-‐on logos. They wanted to associate themselves with brands that shared their values and had credible ties to music. Getting to the “whys” requires getting below the surface, getting past the things everyone else sees. While these men and women “badged” themselves with Levi’s, Jack Daniel’s and Converse they also talked about their place in music, recognizing the genuine connections these brands have with music. More importantly, they recognized the power in adopting these iconic brands as their own and sending a message that they shared the same values.