Are these blogs viral marketing?
January 4, 2014 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Here are three NSFW porn blogs, called: tattoos-n-blondes, i-n-k-e-d-b-i-t-c-h, and s-u-i-c-d-al-r-e-v-e-n-g-e; all are hosted on tumblr, and all frequently reblog each other's posts. Does anyone know: are these blogs actually viral marketing for Jack Daniels? About once every 20-30 images in each, there is a prominently displayed picture of Jack Daniels whiskey, either by itself or being held by a lass. Are these blogs being independently run, but paid by the Brown-Forman corporation? Are the blogs actual sanctioned advertising directly from that corporation? Attempts to ask the blogs via tumblr's messaging feature have gone unanswered.
posted by Greg Nog to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

i don't know anything of those blogs specifically - but they seem very similar to ones i know where they're all run by the same person, or a group of friends, or people in a relationship together. the thing that makes me think it's just people/person who finds jack daniels imagery sexy instead of someone working for jd is all the other brands that show up and the fact that by and large the pictures aren't credited.
posted by nadawi at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a consistent style across those blogs and ones like Cough Syrup, Made of Scars, and dozens upon dozens of others (check out the reblogs/likes) many of which are:

-Black and white photography with plenty of NSFW
-No visible notes/reblogs/tags/etc. (i.e. a cohesive, minimalist aesthetic)
-Lots of dashes in usernames, both between words and individual letters
-Made by teenagers who explicitly state their age in their profile

Now, most of those blogs don't feature nearly as much porn as the ones you linked, or nearly as consistent brand repping for that one item (although they do have brand repping in the same style.) Nor do they have the same personally identifying features as the ones that reblog it or are the sources for the reblogging.

But considering all the interaction with kids who are under 21 and often under 18, I don't think this can be sanctioned advertising for liquor. Maybe it's really, really guerilla advertising (which would explain the lack of identifying details) but the lack of a 2557 regulation compliance sign -- which is the most basic level of CYA in internet pornography -- would indicate that it probably isn't.
posted by griphus at 9:09 AM on January 4, 2014

"Viral" generally implies a decentralized rise in popularity among many unrelated individuals. These blogs look forced (and definitely created/maintained by the same individual or group of individuals). This looks a lot more like a PR firm trying to be clever than actual, unrelated individuals all posting the same thing.
posted by stolyarova at 9:10 AM on January 4, 2014

I haven't looked at these blogs and I ain't gonna, but from the description possibly Astroturfing.

Given the regs about porn, booze, underage persons and the combinations thereof, if this is really a concerted effort by paid advertising/PR people with the sanction of the client, someone(s) could end up in a heap of trouble. I'm aware that sometimes big companies give some agency some money and ask them to "do something" without telling them what to keep the plausible deniability going, but this sounds kinda shitty.

Call me a killjoy, but I'd be inclined to flag them at tumblr. I realize tumblr is the wild west for this sort of thing, but the combination of things you're describing could pull them in on it too.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:23 AM on January 4, 2014

There's a consistent style across those blogs and ones like Cough Syrup

It's worth noting that Cough Syrup contains this post: an ad for Dolly GuaranĂ¡, the brazilian soda pop, in the style of the Jack Daniels label. It plays with the imagery of JD, but without the consistency of messaging focus that the three I listed do; those three seem to restrict themselves to a specific type of sexy-lady-imagery and one very specific brand. If the three OP blogs were just displaying a generalized affection for low-to-mid-range american liquor, I would expect to see the occasional shot of Jim Beam or Evan Williams, or maybe Bud/PBR. It's the clear focus on Jack Daniels specifically that made me wonder if someone is being paid by Brown-Forman on the sly.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2014

I knew a group of people in my 20s for whom Jack Daniels was part of their group identity - there was no other American whiskey they drank, and a bottle of it was at every party. They had Jack Daniels branded stuff, and generally kind of fetishized it. If tumblr had been around then, I could see them coming up with a set of blogs like this.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:39 AM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

but beyond the liquor, there's superman, mercedes, hustler, starbucks, puma, nintendo, nike, cannon, a number of bands, pbr, star wars, chanel, and on and on and on. i agree that it's all the same person (or people connected in some way) - but along with all the other brands, the fact that it's all stolen content (and many that didn't actually start in black and white) and the fact that there's famous faces of people who don't promote jack daniels (and weed smoking and a black and white version of the cover of lolita) makes me think that this person or persons really like jack daniels.

i do some porn tumblr'ing and i can say that i come across a metric asston more jack daniels stuff than any of the other budget liquors. i think they've just been consistently good and branding in a way that encourages other people to pass that stuff around.
posted by nadawi at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

(In other words, people, like cats, are weird. People, unlike cats, are capable of developing intense brand identities.)
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:42 AM on January 4, 2014

Nthing that Jack Daniels, as a brand, is sort of on the level of Coke, DC vs. Marvel, Guinness, or certain car companies, where it's not so much even a company in the popular imagination, but a thing to be a fan of in and of itself.

Especially if these tumblrs are run by underage people -- I remember a high degree of fascination with JD in particular when I was around that age, as well as a few other totally mainstream mid-shelf liquors like Southern Comfort, Absolut Vodka, etc. When I was actually old enough to buy alcohol, I quickly learned that all those brands are actually pretty lame and developed brand loyalty based on what I actually enjoy drinking.

I think what you're seeing is the result of an incredibly strong marketing driven culture aimed at people in this particular demographic (people who are about to be old enough to become liquor consumers), crossbred with tumblr's particular demographic which lies in the same age range. It's the result of PR, but an indirect one.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

So I just looked at the blogs and all of them feature a TON of "brands people fetishize" type content. Two naked women sharing a coke. A woman with a Chanel shopping bag over her head. Another women in Mickey Mouse tights. You're right that Jack Daniels imagery seems weirdly ubiquitous (though given the theme of the three tumblrs I don't think that's unusual), but there's clearly a relationship with brand as a medium happening here that I don't think can be ascribed to "these tumblrs are viral marketing for Jack Daniels". It's more that whoever is making these tumblrs breathes pre-existing viral marketing like it's air.
posted by Sara C. at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2014

I'm not seeing any other brands except pretty incidentally being included in a shot, whereas they all, as Greg Nog says, have these explicit close-ups of Jack Daniels bottles and nothing else, often the same image used repeatedly by the different blogs.
The only explanation that makes sense to me is that this is some kind of guerrilla marketing campaign, although perhaps not officially sanctioned in Lynchburg or Chico or wherever they actually make that stuff.
posted by Flashman at 10:36 AM on January 4, 2014

It's entirely possible that whoever runs Jack Daniels pays this blogger for ad space.
posted by sibboleth at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2014

often the same image used repeatedly by the different blogs.

This is exceedingly common on Tumblr.

I mean srsly I've seen the same Sherlock gifset like twenty zillion times on my dashboard in the past few days despite the fact that I don't watch Sherlock and am not a fan of Sherlock. Viral marketing is basically what tumblr is for. It just seems more sinister when it's a liquor company as opposed to a media company.
posted by Sara C. at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

i don't know if jack daniels is sponsoring this, but...

i doubt it. linking your brand to the concept of "s-u-i-c-i-d-al r-e-v-e-n-g-e" would be just about the worst marketing i've ever seen in my life. i would go so far as to call it anti-marketing, and if someone did this to a brand i owned, i would come after them.
posted by bruce at 11:17 AM on January 4, 2014

I'd be highly surprised if this was anything official. Maybe it's a localized bias, but JD is something of an institution around here and they sponsor a fair number of charity-type events and other things. The tours of the distillery and grounds are all homespun/historical things and they seem to take great pride in the image.

FWIW, they are also extremely protective of copyright. A local distiller had the nerve to package his wares in a squarish bottle with fancy white script and they went after him posthaste.

I'd chalk it up to sort of bad-boy affectation, like black biker leathers, Marlboro cigarettes and whatnot.
posted by jquinby at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2014

I run several narrowly focused tumblrs (like one is only foo object paired with completely unrelated bar object and another is cars/trucks/bikes carrying ludicrous loads). One of my narrowly focused tumblrs involves cars and though the theme works with literally any marque or model (I've got pickups and cars and heavy trucks and even tractors from dozens of different manufacturers) about 10% of the images are Vipers and another 10% are Corvettes simply because the people who own or wish to own those cars are fans of the theme so there are lots of pictures of the theme to choose from. And in fact I could probably post 20 images a day in perpetuity without duplicates on the theme with nothing but Viper's and Corvettes if I was less selective.

As another example if you follow biker tumblrs you are going to see a lot of Harley Davidson logos even if those blogs are nominally about something else. Or if you follow rally tumblrs you are going to see a lot of Stratos pictures even though the car hasn't been made in a quarter century. The branding for some products has been so successful that it has become self perpetuating.

So I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't be surprised if those tumblrs were ran by the same people given the naming scheme and subjects but I'd be surprised if Jack Daniels was paying for the exposure. Especially considering the naming scheme is common as dirt.
posted by Mitheral at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2014

Tumblr injects ads into your stream that look like posts, in addition to the individual tumblrs doing their own ads. Do you know these are not from tumblr itself?
posted by ridogi at 12:20 PM on January 4, 2014

tumblr doesn't inject ads onto your individual tumblr blog - tumblr injects ads onto your dashboard (which is basically an rss of all the tumblrs you follow).
posted by nadawi at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2014

Maybe they are ads, I'm not really an expert on that kind of stuff. But if they aren't ads, the blog owners are probably using the track tag feature to find content. I suspect the people who run those blogs are tracking something like "Jack Daniels+sexy" or "Jack Daniels+girl." I doubt they track any other whiskey, so you get that uniformity of content, and I suspect they just choose Jack Daniels for the reasons mentioned above- it has kind of a cult following that kids find cool.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2014

here's a tumblr dedicated specifically to women wearing jack daniels attire which again doesn't seem like marketing (especially when you scroll enough to find him talking with the women who send him pictures). jack daniels doesn't have to pay for this sort of advertising, people are glad to pay for the privilege to wear their brand and then other people collect those pictures on dedicated pages. i also can't find any evidence that jack daniels is an official marketing partner with tumblr. you'd think if they were doing it on the sly, they'd also be using the traditional methods.
posted by nadawi at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2014

Can't be advertising. As nadawi says, other brands being positively presented is a no-no. Also, rival unbranded products too. I saw a Chanel logo and a bottle of champagne before I saw anything to do with JD's. JD's images also seem rare as % of total pics.
posted by Bwithh at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you know that these tumblrs are run by someone in the US? They could be choosing Jack Daniels because (along with Coke and Mickey Mouse and so forth) it's strongly associated with America, and specifically in this case the whole black leather and bikers aesthetic these blogs seem to enjoy. I bring this up because I vaguely remember Jack Daniels being easily available and heavily promoted in the UK a few years ago, so these blogs' focus on Jack Daniels vs. Jim Beam could be a side effect of really effective international marketing by Jack Daniels.
posted by MadamM at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Brands tightly control their image. While you may assume that associating Jack Daniels and women is something that the company would do, it is entirely off-brand. As someone who has worked to develop visual guidelines for brands, I can tell you that everything is tightly vetted. No one would approve this because they'd be fired in an instant. And the risk is not worth it when these blogs have negligible traffic, publish images that are stolen from somewhere else, and would be completely illegal to associate with as a brand without the proper disclosures. Put yourself in the shoes of the multiple people who work on JD advertising and you'll see that none of them would risk their careers for something that has such a small impact.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 4:14 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

« Older Portable power pack recommendations   |   Babies EVERYWHERE Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.