In an effort that it tweets “celebrates progress in Women’s Rights,” Johnnie Walker yesterday broke the seal of silence on a new limited edition Scotch in the U.S. that it’s calling Jane Walker.
“Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women. It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand,” Johnnie Walker vp Stephanie Jacoby tells Bloomberg’s Jennifer Kaplan.
“Interested in getting into scotch, but feeling a little scared of the manly dirt-tasting brown drink? The makers of Johnnie Walker are here to help!,” observes Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel. “Yes, nothing feels as inviting to me, personally, as a logo featuring a lady in jodhpurs and being informed that Scotch is ‘intimidating’ to women.”
Then there’s this: “PSA to brands: Unless it’s a product intended to be used ONLY by women (i.e. menstrual products), STOP making products ‘for her’: #JaneWalker #BicForHer #LadyDoritos,” tweets @mareejones.
And @DeeSliabhLiag, who identifies as both a World Cocktail Championship gold medalist and a marketing manager at The Sliabh Liag Distillery, writes: “I can’t be the only one who finds Diageo’s attempt to recruit women to drink whisky a bit patronising and frankly lazy, I didn’t think we needed special lady whisky for our delicate little palettes.”
“The launch in March marks the first major change to the brand’s ‘striding man’ logo in over a century and comes as Diageo and peers try to attract more women drinkers,” reports Reuters’ Martinne Geller.
“The Jane Walker launch is the latest part of the brand’s ‘Keep Walking America’ push, which began in 2016. The campaign is an attempt to speak to a broader audience, with ads spotlighting Latinos and veterans,” Bloomberg’s Kaplan writes. And she points out that London-based Diageo, which owns the brand, will have a board that is 50% female by April and “also is calling on advertising agencies to put forward at least one female director as part of any work pitch.”
The release announcing the news peers backwards in explaining an already strong presence of women in the company.
“Women have played a significant role in the brand's history dating back to 1893, when John Walker & Sons purchased the Cardhu distillery from Elizabeth Cumming. Cardhu is one of the single malts that comprises Johnnie Walker Black Label and is considered the heartbeat of the blend. Elizabeth Walker, the wife of founder John Walker, was also fundamental to the creation of their own blended whisky, working alongside John and their son Alexander in the original Walker grocery shop. Today, nearly 50% of the brand’s 12 expert blenders are women, with female leadership across marketing and C-Level executives.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Saabira Chaudhuri reminds us that “the marketing stunt comes on the heels of a Diageo campaign called #LoveScotch, which has splashed pictures of attractive young women drinking Scotch together across billboards, social media and magazines in dozens of countries.”
The campaign — along with some sweetening of other varieties of the brown stuff — has been somewhat successful. “The share of U.S. whiskey drinkers who are women ticked up to 29.6% in 2016 from 28.2% in 2010, according to Nielsen,” Chaudhuri reports.
“As whiskeys have expanded and experimented with new flavors, such as honey, maple, cinnamon and apple, it has helped attract more women to the drink,” Danny Brager, who heads Nielsen’s U.S. beverage alcohol practice, tells her.
But this goes several strides further. “Thanks to Jane Walker, ladies can finally drink scotch,” reads the hed over Maura Judkis’ piece in the Washington Post.
“Perhaps if they put a woman on the scotch bottle, then Ladies like myself would know scotch is an appropriate choice. I believe the term is ‘pandering,’ but I am just an intimidated Lady, so correct me if I am wrong! In fact, a lot of companies could do this. I have never had Frosted Flakes because of Tony the Tiger. The Geico Gecko gives off too much masculine energy. Do not get me started on Mr. Peanut,” she pleas.
In a note at the end of the story, Judkis points out: “This article is satirical. And, according to the news release, ‘Johnnie Walker will be donating $1 for every bottle of the Jane Walker Edition made to organizations championing women’s causes’ — which is nice, but creating gendered packaging for women and saying they are intimidated by scotch does not really further that goal, does it?”