Johnnie Walker eyes younger and female drinkers with variants push

Diageo is looking to woo younger drinkers to its Johnnie Walker brand with the launch of a pan-European marketing strategy for its luxury variants. 

The Voyager ship from Johnnie Walker and Sons will be used to promote the whisky.

The scotch whisky brand is to roll out online, experiential and on-trade activity over the next 12 months to promote its luxury, super premium variants such as Double Black and Odyssey. It is also planning to introduce elements of its marketing from Asia and the Middle East such as experiential hub “House of Johnnie Walker” as part of the push.

Diageo wants to raise awareness for the rest of the brand’s portfolio. Despite limited activity across Europe over the last decade, the business cites recent product launches as a key factor in its sales defying waning demand across the eurozone. Sales across the Johnnie Walker portfolio grew 7.6 per cent in 2012, according to the International Wine and Spirit Research group, compared to a 1 per cent rise for the category.

Elizabeth Finn, global category director for whisky at Diageo, told Marketing Week the renewed push for the brand aims to appeal to more “contemporary” lifestyles and have a more “unisex” tone, particularly in the UK.  

She adds: “The turning point for Johnnie Walker was the realisation 10 years ago that we should push flavour more. That focused us on innovation and we used the approach to great success in emerging markets like Asia and Latin America. In GB we’ve historically focused on our Bell’s whisky brand. Because our super premium brands have been doing so well against the uncertain economy its real opportunity to push the brand to drinkers who are nervous about whisky and believe they won’t like it.

“We won’t run specific marketing just targeting women, but we recognise that whisky is a masculine category. We’re looking at how Bourbon brands appeal to women through sampling and on-trade activity without feminising the category.”

It builds on last year’s activity where the brand stepped up its pursuit of younger, discerning drinkers with activity around its Gold Label Reserve variant.

Elsewhere, Diageo is planning to ramp up marketing activity for its Bell’s and J&B whisky brands. Last year, it announced plans to invest £1bn in increasing its whisky production as part of five year push to cope with an increase in worldwide whisky sales.

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