For the past eight months or so, Jimmy Fallon has been popping up on my television talking about Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon in their It is what it isn’t campaign. After eight months, I have the same opinion I had at day one: I just can’t see this campaign being a success.
I commend the effort. You certainly can’t wear a pink oxford shirt instead of a blue oxford shirt and call yourself an innovator. It isn’t easy to stand out advertising spirits. Everybody can’t tell an inspiring story like Johnny Walker and expect sales to skyrocket. If you want to do something amazing, you have to do something really different.
A well-regarded brand of bourbon hiring a late night talk show host as spokesman is really different, but it’s the classic square/rectangle case: All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All extraordinary ads buck the norm, but not all ads that buck the norm are extraordinary.
Here’s the copy in full.
It isn’t Hip Hop. It isn’t Heavy Metal! It is definitely not Techno. So why is Maker’s Mark® a hit with so many people? Maybe it’s because even though we’ve never been cool, we’ve always been us – a full bodied whiskey that’s remarkably easy to drink. Just call us the unplugged bourbon. To quote our founder: “It is what it isn’t.™”
He describes a brand that is consistent. A brand that is true. A brand that has never wavered from what it believes in. On its own, that sounds pretty damn good.
The problem is that the messenger makes the message utterly unbelievable. That’s Jimmy Fallon talking. That’s Jimmy Idiot Boyfriend Weekend Update Tim Tebow to Jesus Christ Fallon! He’s a celebrity. He’s cool. He’s funny. We’ve never been cool, we’ve always been us? It just isn’t believable. He’s reading copy that suggests he grew up sleeping in a bed with a white oak cask for a headboard. You gotta love the guy, but at this stage in his life he was not meant to deliver a marketing message for a Kentucky bourbon. I hate to say it, but he is what Maker’s Mark isn’t.