Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey is a poster child for all-American masculinity. The aura of the bongo-playing Texas native oozes authenticity, and his intense and passionate portrayals mysteriously translate into truth and sincerity.
In a time when the social universe smells like solicitation at every click, as celebrity spokesmen slap a message with a “sponsored” label and call it a day, legacy brands are looking to reintroduce themselves to millennials with candor.
Enter Wild Turkey, who’s turning McConaughey into the face of their bourbon brand by signing the 46-year-old actor to a multi-year deal as creative director and chief storyteller of their forthcoming global campaign “It’ll Find You.”
“Wild Turkey has the history and qualities of a brand that depicts the dedication of someone to do something their own way—even if that way isn’t always the most popular,” McConaughey said. “I want to help share their unique story, starting with a new ad campaign that I feel really captures the special essence of this brand while introducing itself like never before . . . When making a movie, you have two hours to tell a story. Here I have 30 seconds to reintroduce the world to this authentic American brand that has helped shape an entire US industry. It will be a very interesting and fun challenge.”
McConaughey has always been interested in the art of the sell. This will be the first time that the sought-after actor, who previously has bared it for brands like Dolce & Gabbana and made driving Lincolns cool again, will write, direct and star in the Wild Turkey ads. As a college student, the Dallas Buyers Club star even interned at an advertising agency.
McConaughey can already be seen in a six-minute documentary chronicling the history of the 161-year-old brand during a visit to the Lawrenceburg, Kentucky-based Wild Turkey Distillery. The first television commercial (below) and McConaughey’s directorial debut was unveiled, too.
“So many times people choose their drinks to fit in and join the crowd,” said McConaughey. “Wild Turkey is about something different. The tagline ‘It’ll Find You’ is at the heart of what Wild Turkey is all about. If you are being yourself, unapologetically doing things your own way, then you are at home wherever you are, and Wild Turkey, well, it’ll find you.”
Melanie Batchelor, vice president for global premium spirits company Gruppo Campari, the parent company for Wild Turkey, joined [a]listdaily to share how McConaughey will usher in a new era of bourbon.
How did Wild Turkey go about identifying Matthew McConaughey as creative director? What was the selection process like?
We’ve set out an organic process to find someone who could become a spokesperson since 2014, and that’s when we first met with Matthew. We rebuilt the distillery, we built a number of warehouses to lay down more barrels, as well as a new state-of-the-art bottling facility. We’ve made a lot of investments in the brand, and when this opportunity came to us, given Matthew is such an authentic guy and someone who makes his own individual choices, he was a really perfect fit for our brand and the values that we have. We got really excited about the idea which went way beyond him being a celebrity spokesperson. Since then he’s been out to the distillery several times and built a really good connection with [father-son distiller duo] Jimmy and Eddie Russell. It’s just one of those things that evolved out of this period of time and we’ve gotten to a place now that we’re really excited with the collaboration.
What’s the message Wild Turkey wants to get convey? Who’s the audience you’re trying to reach with this reintroduction?
What we want Matthew to do is really help convey what the brand is all about, and what he saw when he came out and spent time with the Russells. Wild Turkey is a very authentic product—it has a very bold taste. It’s not the obvious choice; we’re quite a small brand. Over the years, the brand has had a revival. But for those people who know it, they really appreciate that Jimmy, who is our master distiller, has always made Wild Turkey exactly the same way. No matter what trends have come and gone, he’s always stuck with what he thinks is the right thing to do and the right way to make bourbon. We’ve set ourselves to celebrate people who also have that conviction to make their own individual choices, and not just follow trends. Matthew seemed to be the perfect fit to help us tell that story and for that real hint of what we’re going to be communicating during that campaign. He’s been absolutely engaged. We’ve had lots of discussions and debate over the last 18 months, talking about the campaign and how we needed to modernize the brand. He’s really processed a lot of things differently and been a great listener when we explain the brand’s background. It’s actually been a really great process, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
What is the integrated marketing campaign with McConaughey designed to accomplish for the Wild Turkey brand?
We want to reintroduce the brand, especially to younger consumers. We’ve been a fairly quiet brand. A lot of people don’t really know what the brand is about. It’s really about how can we tell the story of the brand to more people, quickly. That’s why we’re entering this new long-term partnership and evolving through the campaign.
Can we expect a Matthew McConaughey-branded bourbon in the near future?
We’ve been talking about all sorts of interesting opportunities. I don’t have any more news to share, but as he came in to this partnership, he was primarily interested in the creative process. He’s a storyteller by trade, and he’s a master of his craft, and he respects that Jimmy and Eddie are masters of their craft as well. So the process for us has been, how can we connect and tell that story and that primary objective as we entered this relationship. We’re really excited about his involvement in all aspects of the creative process over the next few years.
Why is conceding creative control to celebrity storytellers a good fit for alcohol brands?
What’s been really great for us is to see how passionate Matthew is around the brand. He knows a lot about the brand history, he’s researched a lot about the people behind it. He got very involved as a creative director and really understands our beliefs, and what we were trying to accomplish, and how we were trying to tell this story about our brand to consumers. I wouldn’t say so much about conceding control but rather having a true collaborative partnership and that’s what’s really exciting for us because I can tell you, unlike many celebrity endorsement deals, he’s been intimately involved in every part of the process from writing the ads to working with artists and selecting music to directing and being in front of the camera.
Brands are also heavily leaning on influencers and social media stars. How is Wild Turkey positioning its influencer marketing campaigns to better connect with millennials?
That’s always been an important part of our marketing strategy, and we’re very lucky with Wild Turkey because while a lot of people don’t understand our brand, a lot of influencers, bloggers and mixologists really understand the quality and our story. We have great relationships with a lot of influencers but I think that Matthew is, for us, the influencer that can give us that draw on a global scale. We believe the influencer marketing strategy is going to be really powerful for the Wild Turkey story for people all over the world.
What are some other storytelling formats and social platforms you’ll be testing with this campaign?
This will be a fully integrated campaign. We’ve been working with Matthew in terms of how we can connect with consumers through all aspects of our media strategy, which a large part will include be social media.
How are you going to judge the outcome of the campaign?
It’s a great time to have a leading bourbon brand in the industry because bourbon is booming in the US and around the world, specifically in markets like Germany and the UK. At the end of the day, as Matthew says at the end of the documentary, ‘if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna be stuck with a whole lot of bourbon.’
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan