With concert halls and event spaces closed to artists and entertainers alike due to the pandemic, many have turned to the only place left to perform: online.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire brand, a cinnamon-flavored liqueur, has joined forces with a group of prominent drag queens to release a web series called Drag Queen Mukbang. The idea, made in collaboration with marketing agency IW Group, is to combine the campy humor of a drag queen brunch with the fascinating allure of a mukbang, an online video genre that involves a host consuming a heap of food as they interact with viewers. And it’s all to raise awareness about how the pandemic has impacted members of the LGBTQ community.
“While Covid-19 affected our industry hard, especially the bar and restaurant community, it hit the LGBTQ+ community as well,” said Fabricia da Silva, field marketing manager of Jack Daniel’s. “Cancellations and postponements of Pride festivals meant that artists would lose one of their sources of income and a platform to advocate for equality and inclusion, while nonprofit organizations providing vital services to the LGBTQ+ community would miss out on funding raised by said events.”
The four-episode weekly web series, which debuts this Saturday on JackFirePride.com, features Patrick Starrr, Gia Gunn, Eugene Lee Yang and Laganja Estranja. Each episode was filmed by the hosts, who, among all the jokes and eating, will discuss how Covid-19 has altered their livelihood.
Apart from showing appreciation for LGBTQ entertainers, da Silva also noted that drag queens possess a certain something that’s able to cut through the clutter.
“We felt that leveraging the craft of these artists could give our campaign the star power it needed to reach our consumers,” she said.
Da Silva’s certainly far from alone in that conviction. Drag queens have become an increasingly common part of both marketing campaigns and mainstream media. This year alone, Sabra released a Super Bowl ad featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Miz Cracker and Kim Chi, Goose Island dropped a new beer made in partnership with another RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, Shea Couleé, and new reality shows TLC’s Dragnificent! and HBO’s We’re Here premiered.
Jordan Star, director of marketing at Q.Digital, the LGBTQ media company behind online publications Queerty, GayCities and LGBTQ Nation, believes the recent rise of drag queens into the mainstream more or less springs from a single source: RuPaul’s Drag Race. Debuting in 2009, the reality TV competition show has gone on to broadcast 12 seasons, showcasing plenty of celebrity guest judges and winning a number of awards along the way.
“This show was sort of a lightbulb for a lot of marketers,” said Star.
Drag queens, Star noted, tend to have loyal followings, meaning their fans are likely to engage with ads or posts that feature them. Consumers are drawn to their confidence and diverse range of ethnicities and body types. Plus, their over-the-top personalities, outfits and facial expressions also make for great memes and GIFs that spread throughout social media.
Partnering with drag queens can create those authentic moments of joy that people crave in the content they consume. But brands seek to add greater meaning to this content and avoid claims of pinkwashing—using LGBTQ individuals solely for monetary gain—by aligning with issues that benefit members of the community featured in the commercials and sponsored programs. Incorporating policies of inclusiveness and equal representation within one’s own business also builds credibility, added Star.
For its Drag Queen Mukbang campaign, for instance, Jack Daniel’s has partnered with the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD and several other LGBTQ organizations across the country to help bring attention and provide support for their causes.