Sold in more than 180 markets globally, Johnnie Walker is the world’s largest whisky brand and in 2014 surpassed sales of 20 million cases for the first time. Johnnie Walker celebrated in 2015 with its largest global campaign yet, adding “joy” to its long-running “Keep Walking” campaign.
The new campaign, “Joy Will Take You Further. Keep Walking,” highlighted a key move for the brand in its support of individuals’ aspirations, shifting the focus of its message from hard work and perseverance to promoting joy as an impetus for progress. Guy Escolme, Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker, told Ad Age that the campaign is meant to convey the idea “that if you start from a place of happiness, optimism, and joy, it is a big accelerator of people’s progress and success in their lives.”
This new position has come at a time when overall sales have slowed, owing largely to challenges in emerging markets, such as fluctuating currencies, stocks, and consumer demand. In 2014, sales in the U.S. were partly boosted by the successful launches of two innovative products: Johnnie Walker Platinum and Gold Label Reserve.
Recently, Johnnie Walker has been experimenting with technology to captivate consumers. Its parent company, Diageo, unveiled a “smart bottle” with electronic stickers that enable its whisky bottles to communicate with users’ smartphones. Johnnie Walker also introduced a new drinking glass that uses bone conduction technology to transmit sound to the inner ear, allowing drinkers to hear a tune that emits from the glass itself as they sip. Whether “The Boldest Glass” is eventually deemed gimmicky or cutting-edge, it represents the company’s openness to exploring new technological experiences. The company is also fostering some interesting partnerships, like “Join the Pact” in the U.K. with Uber, which offers free rides to people who make a pledge never to drink and drive.
To address its presence in East Asia, the company opened up brand embassy houses in Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, and Chengdu—luxurious tasting centers where key opinion leaders go to sample and learn about whisky. Some 10,000 influencers have already visited the houses, which tap into Asian luxury consumers’ aspirations for global travel and learning. And in Singapore, the company built an interactive website and tablet app that offer millennial consumers at high-end bars and tasting events both entertainment and information about the whisky and the brand. The effort rolls out globally in late 2015 to target a new generation of whisky drinkers.
Johnnie Walker remains strong, despite short-term challenges, with a resonant new campaign that aims to secure the brand’s position within the global pantheon of beloved spirits, for years to come.