Problem with “Jane Walker” by Johnnie Walker was brand’s voice clash

What happens when the 3 levels of your brand’s voice clash?


You might have noticed that Johnnie Walker recently released a limited edition ‘Jane Walker’ whisky.

It’s received mixed reactions. Some people have criticised it as a ‘patronising’ and ‘lazy’ marketing tactic. Others have pointed to the fact that Diageo are donating money in support of good causes as part of the campaign.

As more and more brands are trying to win a greater share of female customers, it’s worth looking at the biggest mistake Diageo made, and the lesson any CMO can learn from it.

We often analyse brands on 3 levels – the overarching narrative (the 10,000ft, big-picture view), the way they express that narrative (the 1,000ft view), and the bits and pieces they use to articulate it (‘ground level’ stuff like individual words and images).

When those 3 levels are coherent, you create a strong brand. When they aren’t, your brand is weak.

That’s the problem here. Diageo have changed the picture and the name (ground level things), but they haven’t changed anything else.

Have a look on Johnnie Walker’s website. There isn’t a single woman mentioned in any of the stories they tell. So, when the original press release said that ‘Elizabeth Walker, the wife of founder John Walker, was also fundamental to the creation of their own blended whisky,’ you have to wonder why she isn’t mentioned on the website. At all. Not once.

Imagine how much more powerful it might have been for them to celebrate the role that women have played in the brand. Not just in a press release, but throughout the brand.

So, if you’re about to launch a new product, or if you’re looking at re-positioning your brand, please don’t forget to look at all the levels. Otherwise you might fall for Johnnie Walker / ‘Jane Walker trap.  Remember, It’s no use changing symbols if you don’t change the story.

We hope you’re enjoying International Women’s Day.

Chris and the team

About Verbal Identity

We are writers, strategists and linguistics experts: super-specialists in the magic and mechanics of language. We know how language creates thinking. And how – if you shape the language of your company, your comms and your customers – you shape what people think and do, read more…

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