Behind Seagram’s 7’s anti-snob marketing approach

In an age of fancy cocktails garnished with everything from infused salt to herbal iced cubes, Diageo is out to prove that there is still room for something as basic as a Seven and Seven. 

The liquor giant has controlled Seagram’s 7 for 20 years, but for most of that time hasn’t dedicated much marketing to the blended whiskey brand, whose reign as the nation’s top-selling spirit ended in the late 1970s. Diageo’s priorities have been elsewhere, such as growing its premium liquor business led by the likes of Johnnie Walker, Bulleit and Ciroc. The company is still relentlessly focused on those high-end brands. But starting about two years ago, it began dedicating a bit more marketing money to Seagram’s 7. The approach targets what it calls “new American heartland” consumers with ads that portray a no-nonsense vibe that runs counter to the snobby cocktail scene that dominates in urban areas.

“This is the Corn Belt, the Grain Belt, the Rust Belt, the Bible Belt,” says Jason Sorley, brand director for whiskey at Diageo North America. “These are consumers that have been left behind somewhat by this movement toward mixology. These are consumers that just want simple times with friends with simple drinks in these casual moments.”

Sorley, who has been overseeing Seagram’s 7 for more than two years, details the brand’s strategy on the latest edition of Ad Age’s “Marketer’s Brief” podcast. It is rooted in a campaign by Forsman & Bodenfors New York called “This is Your Whiskey.”

The effort, which includes digital and radio ads, “celebrates the simple things,” Sorley says on the podcast. And “along the way it also pokes fun at some of the more esoteric trends that we feel border on eye-rolling pretension that the spirits industry has started to embrace over the last decade. We are the yin to the yang.”

For instance, one ad makes fun of cocktails that are garnished with “zest,” “mist”  or “infused,” while recommending a “just-make-the-damn-drink method,” while showing 7Up and Seagram’s 7 being poured into a glass.

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