by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Certain brands just ‘get it’. Just what ‘it’ is, however, is hard to describe: it’s not in any marketing manual or brand bible. ‘It’ is what it is.

Marketing is about so much more than sending out messages through the tried (or tired) and tested channels. Brands that interact with their customers, that add value to their customers’ lives, that give something without asking for anything — not even loyalty — in return, these are brands that ‘get it’.

Ballantine's Boiler Room Stay Tuned South Africa screengrab 3Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky is a brand that has used an imaginative, cross-market, brand-building campaign to create an image that is fresh, new and in tune with the modern generation. The slogan is “Stay True,” and this refers initially to the idea that Ballantine’s respects its roots.

Ballantine’s is an old company, with a heritage that goes back to 1827, when George Ballantine started blending whiskies from all over Scotland, and allowing them to age — something of an innovation, according to the Ballantine’s official history, outlined in a video on its website.

Heritage is important when it comes to something such as whisky, but it’s also important to appeal to a generation of future whisky drinkers.

A companion, satirical video on the site talks about throwing away George Ballantine’s original recipe and creating a rave generation-friendly blue bottle. In reality, the brand has stayed consistent in quality for over 180 years, earning it top awards around the world from whisky connoisseurs.

Ballantine's Boiler Room Stay Tuned South Africa screengrab 2To expand on the ‘Stay True’ slogan, Ballantine’s has teamed up with the Boiler Room, an online community of underground music fans and artists, with an international following. ‘Underground’ music is all about emerging artists who are creating new styles and sounds, as well as more-established artists experimenting with music. It includes such strange styles as Doom Drone, which can best be described as deconstructed heavy metal, as well as the more mainstream, danceable styles such as dubstep, house and electronic music.

The Boiler Room organises Stay True events, from London to Berlin to Austin (Texas), and now even Johannesburg. The most-recent event featured Jozi-based DJs and performers such as Black Coffee, Culoe de Song, Okmalumkoolkat, Black Motion and DJ Shimza. The Johannesburg event was about more than just providing a great club experience for a few fans; the music was streamed live on the Boiler Room site, and a local director was commissioned to produce a video.

Arcade Content director, Lebogang Rasethaba, didn’t want to simply chronicle the event. In researching, he quickly discovered the one thing that unifies all South African music — dance. The video became a documentary about dance — especially urban style dance styles that come out of the township, which complement new South African music. Apart from the DJs and producers involved with the Stay True event, he also interviewed people such as Jarrel Mathebula of the Indigenous Dance Academy from Tembisa, Vinny da Vinci of the House Africa recording label, and Siphiwe Mpye, who was the first spokesperson for Yfm radio, and co-editor of Ymag.

Ballantine's Boiler Room Stay Tuned South Africa screengrab 1These interviews form the basis for an insightful look into the energetic and constantly changing dance scene that is so specific to young, urban, hip South Africans. Unlike the rest of the world, where music styles dictate the dance, SA urban dance drives the music, and is equal in importance. Music producers have to be cognisant of current trends in dance, when they are composing new pieces.

Ballantine’s is being really smart about how it engages with this target market, which is the hip, trendy, urban sophisticate. It participates in events that will be of interest to these individuals, and focuses on people who ‘stay true’ to their calling.

The whisky brand also sponsors other events, some of which are not music-related. For example, Ballantine’s asked world-renowned ‘GIF-ITI’ artist INSA to create a range of 12 totally unique limited edition bottles of its Finest blended Scotch Whisky. Photographed together they make up an amazing animated GIF.

The same artist was assisted by Ballantine’s to create the world’s largest GIF, which was a massive painting on an open space on the ground in Rio De Janeiro. Each day a team had to repaint the image, change a little, and over a series of days it was photographed by a satellite.

So let’s raise a wee dram to the innovative folks at Ballantine’s — for supporting the artists who do ‘underground’, unusual things. The world is a better place for creative thinkers, and the brand is definitely making an impression in the hearts and minds of the fans.

Slainte. Here’s tae ye.

Director: Lebogang Rasethaba
Cinematography: Motheo Moeng & Lebogang Rasethaba
Editor: James O’Sullivan
Sound: Mpho Nthangeni
Producers: Imke Nina Gehring & Jack Hart
Additional camera: Mavric de Beyer
Line producer: Vjorn du Toit
Final mix: Tymon Smith
Production house: Arcade Content


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.

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