Johnnie Walker’s Fall and Rise into an Iconic Brand
“Fundamental human truth unites people” -Jason Cobbold, Business Director of BBH
Johnnie Walker is one of the most renowned global scotch Whisky brands, with 190 different markets overseas. However, before 1999, this brand didn’t have that firm identity like today.
In 1999, the company Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company, faced 14% decline in sales, requiring immediate measure to be taken. To regain lost sales volume, BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) advertising agency started to organise the situation, and found out that the problem lied in fragmented communication strategies without any unified concept of message.
They set the objective: Step beyond the product category and make the brand a firm global icon than just a whisky brand, like Apple and Nike. In order to set out plan for this objective, firstly BBH tried to combine the original asset of the product with consumer insight. Normally, whiskey category had been associated with masculinity and success. To understand the nature of masculinity further, they conducted some global research that showed a trend: to men around the world, success was internal quality and self-improvement, and no longer about material wealth or ostentatious displays of status. In other words, the concept of success, around at the dawn of 21th century, was more about where a person was going, than where he is at. As a result, BBH came up with the word “progress” to represent their brand identity and the slogan “Keep Walking”.
Interesting thing they did firstly to build up the campaign was to re-establish the brand logo, a “Striding man”.
They found out that before 1999, Johnnie walker brand didn’t use this icon that much in marketing which was first invented at 1908 and had good connotation within, like a man with pioneering or entrepreneur spirit. They changed the logo the direction to head right side, to express that this striding man is moving forward or towards progress. (As normally people write from left to right, most of people consider that to move right side means to go forward.)
After that, BBH came up with a 3 stages strategy to build up the brand mantra. In the first stage, they focused on sending unified message of “keep walking” and sense of progress, giving the definition of it with easy messages first: keep walking no matter what the obstacles are. They used mainly TV commercial, print ad, and outdoor ad.
In the stage 2, BBH gave literal expression of walks for fresher and more surprising expressions on the meaning of what progress could mean.
Through these kind of commercials, BBH tried to keep control in sending unified message “keep walking” and at the same time, give more profound meaning and expansion to the definition they have in the notion of real success and progress.
They say fundamental human value which can be expressed as the urge for progress unites people, thus resulting unified perception towards the brand. As a result of this impressive campaign, the brand’s sales volumes grew by 48% between 1999 and 2007. Sales value also grew by an estimated 94% globally, and it gained almost 6% value share between 2000 and 2007. Thus, this organisational effect united behind the brand with enormous benefits.
People adopted this brand mantra within their lives. Keep Walking phrase even became political slogan. After the 2005 assassination of their Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the people of Lebanon took to the streets. To proclaim their resolve to the world, they carried homemade banners emblazoned with the words “Keep walking” and carrying a local pun on the name Red Label. Also at a March 2008 party conference in Greece, George Papandreou, the opposition leader, proclaimed to party members “We need to continue our pursuit until we achieve our goal”, then exhorted, in English: “Keep walking.”
CIC UK to the world. Reviving Johnnie Walker as a Global Brand. Retrieved from http://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/industries/advertising/advertising-case-studies/advertising-case-johnnie-walker
Campaign. (2008). Close-Up: Live issue – Johnnie Walker: the story behind ‘Keep walking’. Retrieved from http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/862580/close-up-live-issue—johnnie-walker-story-behind-keep-walking
The Brand Lodge Case. How to Tell When You’ve Truly Made an Impact on the Public. Retrieved from http://thebrandlodge.com/case-studies/