Smoothing-Off Jack Daniels

Earlier this year, Jack Daniels announced that they were updating their label design for their bottles.

I always get a little twinge of anxiety when I hear that classic brands are doing things like this. It's rare see something that looks an improvement on the classic that preceded it. I know there are always reasons within businesses that we on the outside don't get to know about. But mostly these refinements don't seem to serve any purpose other than vanity on the part of those currently in charge.

Also, it's worth remembering that what we consider to be classic designs tend to have always evolved over time (as the advert below illustrates, in the the case of Jack Daniels). So why should we stop evolving them now?


The problems come when the evolution starts to lose what we have come to know as the character of the brand. Part of what gave Jack Daniels its character was the overly wordy label, and the almost unnecessary level of detail. That style is a relic of another time compared to most modern brands and labels.

Before the latest redesign
These days, most packaging is stripped back and refined. Modern branding is smoothed-off and slick. You could argue that it has become quite samey in that way, and devoid of character. JD’s packaging was a reminder that this is a product that preceded the invented brand and modern marketing communications.

The new label
The redesign isn’t a massive departure from where they were, and I'm sure that whoever did it (and those who has commissioned it) will assert that it retaines the character of the original. But I'm not so sure. The texture and sheer quantity of information was part of the character, not just the style and colour.

And on a purely selfish level, the new design just looks just that little bit less interesting and characterful on the shelf.

Edited to ad: We quite like the new bottle shape (on the right, below), so it just goes to show, not all change is bad. Probably because it is more idiosyncratic and different to competitors than the old one , which in our opinion is a good thing. And of course, it is the exact opposite of smoothing-off.

7 comments:

Delicious Industries said...

I have to agree, I'm a huge JD fan and was very sceptical when I heard about the new label design.

The old label had a kind of 'undesigned' feel that looked as though it had evolved over the years and been added to along the way without too much thought which to me made it charming and authentic looking.

I don't think the new label is a bad design, but it's definitely lost a lot of charm and character.

Anonymous said...

Smart post. Totally agree.

The big question is why the fuck did it need to change?

Mark Hill said...

One thing to keep in mind is that in the US, its major market, JD is a pretty low-end brand.

In Britain, Jack Daniels is a premium whiskey with an air of old-fashioned Americana about it. A sort of alcoholic version of Coca Cola.

In North America, JD is what trailer trash drink when they want to get a little fancy. It's the drink of choice for bike gangers who sell crack cocaine off the back of a Harley Davidson.

Not exactly what the planners would call an aspirational target demographic.

So, perhaps, a refresh is a good ide.

Sam Roberts said...

What about these? Will they need to be updated too?

Delicious Industries said...

Jack has always been associated with bikers and rock'n'roll in the UK too. That's the kind of americana it's reminiscent of to me, not of good old Uncle Sam.

It's that grass root, hick-ness that made it so popular - the rebels drink and that's why the 'undesigned', a little bit messy label was perfect for it.

It's only a premium brand over here because it's so bloody expensive!

Anonymous said...

What a shame. Just no need.

vinny warren said...

the old label was perfect. as evidenced by all the fucking t shirts that it sold. they will go back eventually. some things are perfect. leave them alone.

@mark hill. i would disagree. it's a very working class brand but that gives it its cool. Jack can never migrate too far upmarket. it would lose its cool and its considerable volume. it's the party time whisky. the only time i ever drank it i drank about ten of them!