Cease and desist letters are usually designed to scare the crap out of the target. Jack Daniels recently took a very different approach.
It seems a book cover that borrowed heavily from the distinctive Jack Daniels label caught the attention of the company. But instead of embarking on a legal frenzy (which is much like a drunken frenzy, just done sober and without slurring words); the JD legal eagles took a different approach.
A copy of part of the letter is here.
Why they were so kind about it isn’t clear. Perhaps JD thought it was possible the author may get away with it under “fair use” or parody; perhaps they saw it as a good PR stunt (which indeed it is) or maybe everyone who works at Jack Daniels is just incredibly nice. I couldn’t say as the only experiences I’ve had with Jack Daniels’ has been drinking its products and even those instances I can’t remember.
Anyhow, while I think offering to help cover cost for redesigning the cover was a little over the top, the polite tone makes it hard for the recipient to reject the request. Here is a brand owner well within their rights to open up a can of crazy instead being quite reasonable, and heck, even friendly.
Brands like Jack Daniels have huge fan bases and obviously they understand the danger of alienating those fans.
Let’s say the author of the book was JD’s no.1 fan and very active in social networking. He may have seen the book cover design as a “tribute”. Then JD lawyers come down in him hard, rattling their legal sabres. Suddenly good ole’ JD is big bad Jack Daniels, it’s painted as a David and Goliath situation and a social media backlash erupts.
While companies have every right to get miffed with intellectual property infringements, particularly when they are connected with a money-making venture, someone at Jack Daniels clearly hadn’t been sampling the product the day this issue was discussed and a strategy put in place.
Jack Daniels has been receiving very good feedback as a result and a bundle of positive mentions on the web – and its hard to place a value on that sort of coverage. Very well played.