Is Johnnie Walker just another phrase for “upward mobility”? For a new global middle class, it sure sounds that way. “There are opportunities in countries around the world to capture a zeitgeist, the sense of momentum,” says global brand director Gavin Pike. The $3 billion Scotch brand contributes about half of parent company Diageo’s total sales volume (Johnnie Walker surpassed sales of 20 million cases for the first time last year). It does this in part by deploying local teams to plumb the collective psyche of its target markets–and then customizing its “Keep Walking” campaign to speak to the new regions’ aspirations. The result: 80% of Johnnie Walker’s 2013 growth came from emerging markets. Recent local efforts include:
Ads show a mountain transforming into a giant and walking off, as urban Brazilians stop to watch. The message, “The giant is no longer asleep,” hits how locals feel about their economy.
In TV spots, a black man in a suit strides through ghostly figures from a newly postapartheid past–as they vote, cheer, or just play rugby. Voice-over: “Our future will not be written by the great strides of yesterday, but by the ones we take today.”
To capture the Asian market’s love of exclusivity, the brand opened a membership club, called House of Walker, in Seoul (its third on the continent), that hosts art, dinners, and, of course, Scotch tastings.