Jim Beam tackles heat wave with 'Refreshionals' campaign promoting highball cocktail

By Barry Levine

Fewer than 1% of bar and restaurant menus include the highball, and only 22% of consumers 21 or over have tried it, the brand notes, citing food industry research firm Datassential

Dive Brief:

  • A new campaign from Beam Suntory's bourbon brand Jim Beam is utilizing "professional refreshers" to sing the praises of the Jim Beam & Ginger Highball cocktail, a mix of chilled bourbon, ginger ale and ice, according to information provided to Marketing Dive. The campaign, called "The Refreshionals," launches this week and employs a real-life A/C technician, pool maintenance worker and refrigerator specialist, who say they find the drink refreshing.


  • The summer campaign — the first for the brand from digital agency R/GA – includes short-form social video, custom GIFs, paid media, free Jim Beam Highball swag for online fans and experiential programming at bars in various markets.


  • In selected cities where the weather is hot, users will be asked to tweet at Jim Beam with three relevant emoji, like a thermometer or a glass, for the chance to win an official highball kit of highball glass, t-shirt and, in some areas, a discount coupon for Jim Beam.


Dive Insight:

By tying at least part of the social campaign to cities experiencing a heat wave, the brand could ride on the coattails of a subject that will be top of mind for those residents. Blistering heat is expected to hit two-thirds of the U.S. over the next few days, according to multiple reports, a fact that is likely to see people looking for ways to stay cool.


With this campaign, Jim Beam is promising to help consumers feel refreshed while trying to increase the popularity of the highball, a known but not often consumed type of cocktail that typically consists of an alcohol base mixed with soda and ice. The goal is to boost whisky drinking in summer, a season often associated with cold drinks like sangria, beer and margaritas, and arrives at a time when alcohol consumption overall is declining.


Fewer than 1% of bar and restaurant menus include the highball, and only 22% of consumers 21 or over have tried it, the brand notes, citing food industry research firm Datassential. That means that at least a fifth of alcohol drinkers know of the highball, but have few opportunities at commercial establishments to partake.


The campaign is the latest effort by Jim Beam to focus heavily on driving engagement by providing value to consumers through digital marketing, in this case with a focus on experiential marketing, social media content and a contest, all tactics that have widely embraced by marketers this year. Last December, for instance, the brand partnered with Budweiser to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Prohibition's repeal with speakeasy-style parties across the U.S.


"Refreshionals" suggests Jim Beam's use of digital marketing is evolving to have a bigger focus on providing value to consumers whereas some past digital efforts focused on gimmicks. For example, in late 2017, it unveiled a limited-edition smart decanter that dispensed a shot of its bourbon when a user spoke a special voice command. The previous year saw the release of the "first drinkable wearable," a Jim Beam Apple Watch that couldn’t tell time but did have a built-in, collapsible shot glass.


The use of real-life people in the campaign is a switch from the brand's previous use of celebrities like Mila Kunis, who has appeared in the brand's TV ads. The change could help the brand engage with consumers at a time when many are looking for more authenticity in marketing.