[dropcap1]J[/dropcap1]ust this past week we were invited to join Johnnie Walker as they announced their new, joyful journey in aligning their vast portfolio of variants to the young, ever changing market and promoting a more joyful approach to their infamous stride.
Truth be told, when I first received my exclusive invite to the event I wasn’t sure whether it was REALLY for me. I had never associated myself with the brand. Mind you, I love my liquors and enjoy them thoroughly. But you know, Johnnie Walker’s offerings are the kind I would take home with me when I visit the parents. My dad loves himself a double of the Gold Reserve. Strictly on the rocks.
Back to the event, the mandate on Johnnie Walker’s agenda is how Joy Will Take You Further and how progress doesn’t have to be an endless uphill journey, and in fact doesn’t ascribe to our previously held belief that working hard will lead to success, and success to happiness, but that the formula is actually the other way around. Along our journey, the okes at Johnnie Walker have discovered that in our constant push for progress, we miss out on something truly crucial – the enjoyment in the progress we are making, and that this enjoyment further fuels progress. Ahead of the introduction of the campaign, I sat down with Loyiso Sipayile, Marketing Manager at Johnnie Walker for a wide-ranging interview about the brand’s present and future – the news of the day, a Joyful journey and a few whisky cocktails, seemed like a good way to kick things off.
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The interview has been edited for clarity. Recording available to listen below.
I can see that the brand has quite refreshed itself. It has a fresh approach that even I – as a young person – can relate to. What is your main objective with this campaign?
There are two things we’ve seen within the market; The biggest challenge we had with Johnnie Walker is progress. We have progress at the core of our campaigns and we love to see the individuals that enjoy our brands do exactly that. We’ve had ‘keep walking’ as our slogan for the past 13 years and its not going anywhere. Ultimately, each and every person is in a situation – regardless whether you’re rich or poor – where they want to improve their lives [for whatever the reason]. And what we have seen with JW is, as a brand that started the trend back then, when it comes to the whisky premium space; even with Hennessey, even with the likes of beer, everyone is basically talking about the same language; progression, progression, progression. But when it comes to differentiation it doesn’t make any difference anymore cause ultimately when it comes to alcohol the functional benefits are the same. So what is the key about us and this campaign? Its all about how we then refresh, or how do we reboot the understanding of JW in the consumer’s mind. In doing so we actually go back to what JW is all about. So in framing from a strategic point of view; what we’re doing is we are putting the spring back in our step, because we at JW we are all about keep walking. And for each and every individual you have a stride, right, and in doing so (actually) we are humanizing the brand, we are embracing the human spirit. Because human spirit is all about celebration and we are celebrating ordinary people, or people that are making an impact within their own lives, and within their communities.
When it comes to success, we are less pedantic. We are thus allowing consumers to define success in their own right. Because ultimately this is what the campaign is all about. What we are saying is that those that find joy in the journey are those that are progressing the furthest in life. So, if you are an individual that has a positive outlook towards life, then you are bound to achieve them.
[quote_left]We are thus allowing consumers to define success in their own right[/quote_left]
And then the choice of a garden. How did you go about choosing the concept of a boardroom meeting IN a garden?
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Basically we are presenting joy in a garden. We created this feel within a garden hoping that the surrounding is going to bring joy to the late afternoon. In doing this, inspiring people to reassess what they’re doing in their lives and make it personal for every individual so that when they walk away at least they understand that when they wake up tomorrow its within them to keep walking and make things happen.
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Now, for someone that has never (ever) had the chance to enjoy any of the JW brands, let’s say a beginner, where would you say I should start?
[laughs] One of the key things about whisky is that back in the days it was different, it was serious; don’t ever mix it, just have it with ice to open up the flavours and add a little bit of water. But the key ultimately goes back to it being up to you as an individual. Within the house of walker we have 6 variants that are all amazing, what’s important is all our variants depend on where you are in your life, or in your progress. You may find that Black appeals to you more, or you may find that red is more of a favourite to you because of the vibrancy and smoky flavours that are experienced from the variant. So it is very much open. What’s important is consumers need to interact with the brand, and see what appeals to them.
There are so many cocktails in today’s line-up. Now this is an eye opener for me, whisky? In a cocktail? Its practically unheard of
There are quite a few cocktails here and we thought we should share the fresh perspective so that the consumer can learn of the many options they can enjoy their favourite JW variant. We also wouldn’t want to alienate the consumers. Ultimately when you define the variant that is suitable for you it needs to be based on your tasting pallet as a consumer and interaction with the brand.
I have heard many stories where younger people love Red (label) more and then again the older generation would say they love Red more so you can’t really tell. Its essentially up to the consumer.
What happened to Green (label?)
Green was a singular malt whisky. So what happens is, you find that we have blenders that focus on one variant. So we’ve had to move away from single focus malts and in doing so we had to introduce gold and platinum but then we are all about branded whisky. Its been more than 3 years since its discontinuation and funny enough most people still ask about it. But we’ve had to strategise and look at our portfolio and make changes according to the market.
It won’t be coming back?
That I cannot confirm nor deny at the moment (laughs), but what I can say is that we have more, selective/limited edition premium variants that we are looking at introducing into the market at a later stage (hopefully).
We have looked at your new brand direction and campaign, how are you going to introduce this to the consumers out there?
Great, so we have a classical through-the-line campaign that when you go the store you are going to see the same JW look and feel you’re used to but we are going to have consumer promotions where we drive consumers to interact with us and they stand the chance to win an exclusive, amazing experience. And also, we are very much about mentorship this is where we are going to be demonstrating how joy can actually shift your performance with whatever you are doing – regardless if it business or personal. We’ve acquired some outstanding outdoor sights around the Sandton, Rosebank, Hyde Park, KZN and pretty much all our focus/target market areas as well as partnerships with Gagasi FM and Kaya FM where we will have our hosts bring in people that are making that impact I referred to earlier to talk about and share their experiences. These are individuals that are not known, and can inspire others with their positive outlook.
[quote_right]we are very much about mentorship[/quote_right]
Talking about getting people on these platforms, how are you to find the people to feature on the shows?
The beauty about JW is that we get numerous requests on a daily (laughs) from different people. We went to introduce this campaign to the regions and everyone was excited about it. And people are already talking about it. And people want to be part of it. We will eventually get to the phase where we can define the people can that can actually represent the brand, and in return use their stories and bring them forward. We are creating a cultural movement that helps us move forward, joyfully. *PM