In 1951 Fortune ran an article praising an obscure whiskey brand: Jack Daniels. It was hard to come by, the magazine said, because the makers only produce "as much of this whiskey as they can without impairing its quality, imperiling their financial security or plumb tiring themselves out."
Today, Stengel writes, Jack Daniel's still evokes a sense of pride and authenticity. The swagger built into the brand's ideal has informed its marketing (a recent slogan: "56 men signed the Declaration of Independence, one man put it in a bottle."), as well as its growth. The company nearly tripled in size between 1973 and 1986 by building a bigger distillery on the same site -- keeping its hometown, but fixing its obscurity problem. In 2001 Jack Daniel's sold 6,365,000 cases (a dozen 750 ml bottles each) of its Black Label Tenessee Whiskey. In 2011 that number will be closer to 10 million. If you include the other drinks since added to the brand family, the total comes to more than 16 million.
How its products went from nowhere to everywhere in the blink of an eye.
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