Inside Hennessy’s branded video strategy

This is part of a series on content strategies for brands as publishers, a deep dive into how brands are building out content offerings.

Cognac, a French drink, has been embraced by the American cultural elite — especially the black cultural elite — since around the early 20th century (this 2013 Slate piece is a great history lesson on the ties between the two). In modern American pop culture, cognac — Courvoisier and Hennessey in particular — has gotten its props in songs, videos, film and comedy.

More recently, however, Hennessey has flipped the script and is returning the embrace.

Hennessy’s latest digital video, for example, was timed with National Dance Day on July 30, and showcased Will “Willdabeast” Adams of the “So You Think You Can Dance” taking viewers through different dance forms as they evolved through the years. It was based on insight gathered by its social agency Laundry Service, which determined that over 70 percent of Hennessy’s 3 million-plus Facebook fans were also interested in dance-related content.

“Video is not only the most robust medium for storytelling, especially for a brand like Hennessy, but also the best-performing content for us,” said Mike Mikho, CMO at Laundry Service. “The video content we do for Hennessy results in the best distribution, sentiment and engagement for the brand.”

“The Revolution of Dance” is the latest in a string of videos that Hennessy has done over the years, which have fallen under its “Never Stop, Never Settle” tagline, first unveiled in 2012. Through its videos, the brand has spotlighted individuals who embody this motto, including influential athletes, artists and dancers that continue to push the boundaries in their respective fields. A 2012 video with boxing champion Manny Pacquiao by agency Droga5, for instance, details the fighter going through his regular pre-fight ritual and is interspersed with shots of his fans crowding around televisions to cheer him on as he enters the ring.

But while initial videos featured heavyweights like Pacquiao, celebrated film director Martin Scorsese and hip-hop artist Nas, the brand has more recently moved toward showcasing influencers beyond celebrities, like artist Gianni Lee and professional BMX cyclist Nigel Sylvester. “There is definitely a shift to showcase a broader range of ‘Never Stop, Never Settle’ stories,” said Jessica Holthaus, digital director of Hennessy’s brand team. “Be it through celebrities, creative influencers, or simply those who are feeding their drive in everyday life.”

The brand creates these videos both in short and long form, and adopts a multichannel approach as far as distribution is concerned, focusing on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even Twitter. It recognizes that a majority of this content is consumed on mobile and prioritizes the “vertical, square video” format, according to Mikho. The idea, with all the videos, is to remain true to its history while remaining relevant to its fans, including millennials.

“We refuse to be the out-of-touch uncle trying to emulate the cool kids,” said Holthaus.“We own our voice and don’t need to sound like anyone else because consumers are smart and can smell imitation from miles away.”

Apart from videos, the brand’s content also comes in the form of colorful still images, GIFs and cinemagraphs. One of its most engaging posts, for example, was a cinemagraph video that it launched to support National Beer Day. The post garnered over 700,000 views on Facebook, 50,000 views on Instagram and over 1,000 total engagements on Twitter.

If it’s on tap, make it on point. Drink responsibly. #NationalBeerDay

A video posted by Hennessy (@hennessyus) on

Hennessy has also started dabbling in Snapchat, where it recently did a video series around the NBA playoffs on ESPN’s Discover Channel. Digital and social media, particularly video, will continue to remain a focus for it in the future — although it expects it strategy to take “many twists and turns.”

“Digital is evolving every second of every day, and you’re not always going to make magic,” said Holthaus.

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