Johnnie Walker is the world's top-selling whisky, and the single most valuable spirits brand worldwide with retail sales estimated at $5.5bn in 2019, according to Impact Databank, on volumes of 18.1m cases. That's $800m more than the next most valuable brand (LVMH's Hennessy cognac). However, the Covid-prompted shutdown in travel retail and bars and restaurants resulted in a big hit to sales during 2020. Johnnie Walker was more directly affected than any of Diageo's other top global brands, with volumes down 20% in the year to June 2020. The brand's greatest strength is an extensive worldwide profile unmatched by any of its competitors. Sold in more than 200 countries, Johnnie Walker doesn't lead the whisky sector in any of the key spirits markets, but is a major player in all of them. It is especially strong in Asia, an important whisky market, where it is Diageo's biggest brand. The brand's top individual market overall is the US, followed by the global duty free travel sector. Another key strength is its long-established and widely recognised brand identity: the Striding Man logo concept and "Keep Walking" tagline has featured consistently in its marketing for at least two decades. The whisky is best-known for the main Johnnie Walker Red Label, priced at around $25. This is accompanied by a number of varants including Double Black (around $35), creamy Gold Label ($80) and highest quality super-premium Blue Label (priced at $225 per bottle or more). Diageo also regularly launches limited special editions. The Blue Label 1805 edition, of which just 200 bottles were issued in 2005 to celebrate the double centenary of the birth of the first John Walker, can be purchased for offers in excess of $20,000. More recently, Diageo released a limited edition 'Jane Walker' whisky for women in the US, followed by several editions tied in to the 'Game of Thrones' TV series. In some territories, the group also markets ready-to-drink single-serve spin-off brands, including pre-mixed Johnnie Walker & Cola and Johnnie Walker & Dry. The brand traces its history back to the first Johnnie Walker who established a distillery in the back room of his grocery store in Kilmarnock, Scotland, in around 1820, in order to produce whisky for sale in jugs. John Williams is global brand director for Johnnie Walker and other Scotch Whisky brands at Diageo.
Capsule checked 13th October 2020
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Who are the competitors of Johnnie Walker? The next best-selling premium whiskies by value are Jack Daniel's (Brown-Forman), Crown Royal (Diageo), Ballantine's (Pernod-Ricard), Chivas (Pernod-Ricard) and Jameson (Pernod-Ricard). See Alcoholic Drinks Sector index for other brands and companies
Historical profile information for Johnnie Walker
Adbrands Social Media 24th May 2018: "110 Years". Cute animation in the latest spot from Crispin Porter Bogusky Brazil for Johnnie Walker. This must be one of the few brands left that can still today make its original mascot, the celebrated Striding Man, the core of its advertising without seeming hokey or lame. That's an immense benefit since there are so few other ways you can advertise alcoholic spirits without falling foul of the regulators. We winced slightly at some of the decade-themed musical cues but the overall effect is very nice.
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Mar 2018: In what may be a step too far for equality, Diageo announced a limited edition variant of Johnnie Walker to tie in with International Womens' Day and Women's History Month. The Jane Walker Black Label edition features the familiar "striding man" brand mascot recast as a lady in top hat and tails. Retail price for the edition will be $34. Diageo said it will donate $1 from every sale to women's charities in the US. The reaction on social media was mixed to say the least, with several female commentators calling out the promotion as a cynical and patronising marketing ploy.
Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Sep 2015: Ads of the Week: "Joy Will Take You Further". Anomaly's first big global branding campaign for Johnnie Walker adopts a very different stance from most other alcohol advertising, which is usually moody, serious, aspirational. This, on the other hand, is just raucous upbeat fun. Or rather JOY. Old school whisky drinkers will probably hate it, but we think it's a bold move, more like a spot for soft drinks than hard liquor. Various celebs help out, including Jude Law (in what look like out-takes from that JW Blue Label spot he did for Anomaly last year) and Jenson Button. Refreshingly different.
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Mar 2015: Impact Databank published its annual ranking of the world's Top 100 most valuable spirits brands. Johnnie Walker retained its commanding lead at the top of the table, despite an 8% slide in value to $5.2bn. The Diageo brand has suffered the effects of a clampdown on luxury spending in China as well as political turbulence in Russia. Smirnoff held second place almost $2bn lower at $3.4bn, but long-standing #3 Bacardi slipped back to 5th at $2.5bn. It was overtaken by Hennessy cognac ($3.1bn) and Jack Daniel's ($2.7bn).
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Dec 2014: Bartle Bogle Hegarty lost its stewardship of Diageo's Johnnie Walker whisky after a 15-year partnership. The new agency is MDC's Anomaly, which had already slipped onto the roster earlier this year with a lavish film for Johnnie Walker Blue Label starring Jude Law. Now Anomaly gets the whole business. "A new and exciting era lies ahead for Johnnie Walker," said Guy Escolme, Johnnie Walker global brand director. "In Anomaly we believe we have a partner who will help us take fresh strides with stunning creative that will support the brand's future global growth."
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