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This is a self-funded case study using our Innovation Testing solution.
It’s been a long time coming, but two American giants have finally teamed up to offer what some are describing as the ‘definitive’ version of one of the world’s most iconic pre-mixed alcoholic drinks — Jack & Cola. The combination of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Cola has long been a staple of many dark spirit drinkers, but previously they’ve had to make do with a seemingly generic mixer.
Jack Daniel’s has now interchanged that cola for none other than Coca-Cola, to provide a beverage for perhaps a more discerning drinker? But that left us curious; what exactly does the addition of a branded partner add above and beyond its generic equivalent? Just how much would this partnership contribute to the product’s on-shelf visibility and its ability to motivate shopper behavior?
To find out the answer we A/B tested it — which, in non-research speak, is just to say that we showed separate groups of people (who fit the same demographic profile) a version of JD & Cola with generic cola labelling, and another with Coca-Cola branding. Applying our 3Cs methodology to analyze the results, this type of experiment enables us to isolate the branded collaboration’s exact impact.
First things first, JD & Cola is a hugely popular drink regardless of whether it’s offered with a branded cola partner or not, being enjoyed for its premium quality and convenience. However, this positivity was enhanced when Coca-Cola was revealed as the mixing agent, helping the product better attract interest on-shelf — even though the dual-branding didn’t lead to it being viewed as any more distinctive.
Jack Daniel’s and Coca-Cola are household names, being well-known and well-trusted. Being leaders of their respective categories made this collaboration a seamless fit; even surprising some that it hadn’t already been done. The original JD & Cola is highly distinctive with its predominantly black and white aesthetic, and little of its recognizability was lost with the introduction of Coca-Cola red. With both brands’ color palettes and areas of expertise aligning, it made for a well-balanced package.
The introduction of Coca-Cola drove considerably stronger perceptions of quality, taste, refreshment, and being a ‘classic’ beverage. Greater levels of relevance and credibility subsequently improved the product’s perceived suitability for a wider range of occasions.
Collaborations offer an enticing path for brands – an opportunity to generate buzz and excitement, to build salience amongst a broader audience, and to leverage the credibility provided by partners. While already a category leader, is it not more befitting for Jack Daniel’s to also be paired with the leader of an adjacent category?
This is an interesting question, and one which regularly faces marketers — what exactly does a branded partner offer in addition to a generic alternative? Does it completely wash over consumers or is predisposition multiplied? The truth is that no two situations are the same, but having strong brand synergies goes a long way to building a successful collaboration.
With these two brands competing for leadership in their respective categories, combining forces elevated the product’s appeal — providing reassurance that consumers wouldn’t be making any sacrifice to quality or taste. Much like getting the most value out of a celebrity endorsement, a brand partnership must feel like an appropriate coming together of personalities and expertise. Done successfully, and the end outcome is greater than the sum of its parts.