Johnnie Walker has a new female icon, Jane Walker, the first major change to the brand’s man logo in more than a century
Move over, Johnnie.
The world’s best-selling high-end scotch label Johnnie Walker is rolling out a female version of its legendary logo, but the ultra-feminist marketing move is hard to swallow for some female consumers who are perfectly fine with sipping it from any bottle.
Jane Walker, the new limited edition 12-year Black Label blended whisky, will feature a woman on the label instead of the iconic man outfitted in a top hat — the first major change to the brand’s striding man logo in more than a century and an attempt to cater to ladies.
“Whisky-drinking women are looking for inclusiveness. They want to be invited into a conversation, they don’t need to be specifically marketed to in this way,” Heather Green, a whisky expert and author of “Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life,” tells Moneyish. “Their attempt could be perceived as cynical and pandering. I think people will stick it on their shelves as a novelty, but is it really moving the needle or making me emotionally connect to Johnnie Walker? Not yet. It doesn’t really feel like women whisky drinkers will respond to it.”
Others poked fun at the longstanding stigma that the dark spirit is intimidating to women. “Scotch is so intimidating, just like math! Thank goodness someone is finally making scotch just for ladies!” Washington Post food and culture writer Maura Judkis tweeted.
Scotch is so intimidating, just like math! Thank goodness someone is finally making scotch just for ladies! https://t.co/sbXtlzjI6y
— Maura Judkis (@MauraJudkis) February 27, 2018
And some sarcastic remarks were made about Johnnie Walker following other brands, like Doritos, which announced it would create a “lady-friendly” chip that doesn’t crunch. Doritos’ parent company Pepsi denied the product was ever in the making. And more recently, KFC announced Reba McEntire as the new mascot Colonel Sanders, which has been a male role since the company’s inception. Johnnie Walker, however, isn’t creating a new spirit or changing its age-old scotch recipe, just the logo for a new limited-edition bottle.
“I’m assuming they are bringing out Jane Walker whiskey to chase away the taste of Lady Doritos,” another user tweeted.
I'm assuming they are bringing out Jane Walker whiskey to chase away the taste of Lady Doritos.
— John M (@John_M15) February 27, 2018
When asked to comment on the criticisms around Jane Walker, Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker, noted that it was “proud to champion the effort to bring more female icons to the forefront of culture.”
Only around 15% of whiskey drinkers were female in the 1990s. Now, according to Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women, women represent 37% of whiskey imbibers in the U.S.
What’s more, scotch whisky — seen for years as dominated by male consumers — is becoming more widely received across the board. Consumers bought 2.1% more of it between 2002 and 2017 in the U.S., according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., a trade organization — and Johnnie Walker sales grew 18% last year, surpassing many of its competitors.
And instead of ordering the spirits in cocktails like a classic Manhattan, people want to sip it straight. “Most women are coming in and ordering it neat or with an ice cube,” says Nicky McCutcheon, the assistant beverage director for the Moxy Times Square hotel.
This isn’t the first time Johnnie Walker positioned itself as more female friendly. In 2011, the spirits company appointed “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks as a brand ambassador. And a number of other whisky brands have followed suit in recent years. Jim Beam appointed actress Mila Kunis to promote its bourbon in 2014, and last month, Heather Wilson became the first woman to head a distillery in Scotland called Toulvaddie.
Diageo will also donate $1 to women’s organizations including Monumental Women, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a monument honoring America’s women suffragists in New York City’s Central Park, and She Should Run, an effort dedicated to increasing the number of women in public positions.
“Women are obviously a key community we wanted to support and celebrate,” Stephanie Jacoby, vice president of Johnnie Walker North America says, adding: “At any time, women should be honored, supported and celebrated. Our message is for all consumers, which is that Johnnie Walker as a brand will always support progress and inclusivity and we invite everyone to join us in championing these efforts.”
The bottle isn’t the only place Diageo is looking to include more women. The London-based spirits company will be 50% female employees in April, according to Jacoby. And the company is also urging advertising agencies to bring forward at least one woman director as part of any pitch.
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