Whiskey Innovation Radar

Many industries mistakenly connect business innovation only with product development or traditional R&D. In fact business innovation has a much wider range of applications. Business innovation is about New Value, not New Things, it is relevant only if it creates value for customers – and therefor for the firms.

Innovation can take place in any dimension of a business system and, when innovating, companies must consider all dimensions of its business system (“The 12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate”, 2006). A closer look at the 12 dimensions of the innovation radar can be found in this article.

Johnnie_Walker_Blue_Label_Scotch_WhiskyMy question for today is: Can the words ‘innovation’ and ‘whisky’ appear in the same sentence, and if so, how?

Customers – Solutions – Value Capture

Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
Mark Twain

Let’s talk about Whiskey.

The society’s prevailing attitude toward whiskey: It is a man’s drink. Whiskey is associated with strength and strength is associated with powerful positions, strength and power both have masculine associations. Whiskey is a “considered” drink, you need a good reason to keep at it. It’s “a deliberate choice, compared to the frivolity of ordering a Cosmo, for example”. The perception rising from there is that if you can take a hit of this challenging drink, than you are tough.

Until recently the message of all whiskey advertising campaigns was clear: real men drink whiskey. It’s a sort of the brotherhood where women are not welcomed.

Jameson’s printed ad campaign featured old-fashioned illustrations of men doing manly things like arm wrestling in a tavern or duelling on the streets. The only women captured in the pictures are local prostitutes. The Chivas brotherhood campaign celebrated “Men who seek and conquer the finer things in life”.

clip_image002 But times have changed and women have had to break with traditional roles to have a voice in the ‘man’s world”. The number of women having equal executive positions with men has been growing significantly over the past decade. There came a right time to reposition the product by focusing on underserved customer segments and redefining value capture on the market and to stop ignoring women’s market and sexism lingered at some ads.

Other research had shown that both men and women consider whiskey-drinking women as “sexy, tough and independent”. And women are very well conscious of that image. Angelina Jolie, who rides motorbikes and flies planes like one of the boys without sacrificing her sex appeal, is an excellent example. And whiskey seems to have a similar effect. “In some ways it’s a rebellion against the ultra feminine, which has gone out of vogue because it represents tradition, docility: the good girl. Somewhere along the way, misbehaving became sexy” (Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas).

Marketologists working with various spirits companies, conducted researches and came to the conclusion that women will respond to messages intended for men, but men will not usually respond to messages aimed at women. In fact, women watch adventure films, but how many men really enjoy rom-coms, girls play with Ninja Turtles dolls but boys don’t play with Barbie). It does make sense for whiskey companies to stop their historic practise of ignoring women as potential customers and focusing on men only segment.

The most recent Johnny Walker Blue Label commercial directed by Jake Scott, still being a part of their traditional “Keep walking“ campaign, is appealing to a female audience by featuring all girls sweetheart Jude Law, dancing or chilling out on a yacht with the beautiful Mediterranean landscape as a backdrop. While men consider it as a boring six-minute film that would have been bad enough in 90 seconds, women all over the world simply love it.

The Gentleman´s Wager

Branding – Offerings – Solutions

“Keep walking”
– Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is also a  good example how one can leverage a brand in creative ways, by communicating a promise to the customer. Branding was a relatively unknown concept in the 1860s when Alexander Walker, John Walker’s son, decided to take his father’s blended scotch global. He intuitively took several decisions which affected the brand success to this very day.

He chose the squared shape of the bottle and the labels (angled to 24 degrees) which helped to fit more bottles into the shop shelves and display more information on a label. Johnnie Walker’s iconic “Striding Man” logo was first introduced in 1908 and survived until modern times. Later JW made its homework on studying consumer behaviour in order to better understand the psychographics of its customers, to identify what matters to them most. The Striding man on the logo reversed the direction moving forward to the future. It also became a silhouette rather than a portrait, so anyone could identify itself with the figure marching forward toward their dreams. Subtle but meaningful change!

Brian Radics, scotch whiskey director at Diageo North America, the F&B conglomerate that owns Johnnie Walker, said in a recent interview that “‘Keep Walking’ has become a unifying theme across the world. The slogan has embedded itself into local cultures, and consumers have adopted it as an idea and as a call to action.”

Through research, we were able to understand that personal progress was more than just a note on a resume,” Radics says. “We found that success is no longer linear … It’s about the journey and the experiences.”

It is also about storytelling, a powerful marketing tool, which is able to create an emotional attachment to a brand and help to remember associations. Stories come alive in our heads and we want to know what is going to happen next. Stories are how we assign meaning to things: humans are “creatures of context” and are always looking for ways to put things in an organised way.

How to do it

To utilise business innovation in the best way for a Whiskey brand, or for other products, it is important to consider all twelve dimensions of business innovation. To decide which of the twelve are relevant to work with, one can use sweet spot analysis to develop a strategy that takes both competitors position and actions, the target markets desires and interests and the firms own capabilities and existing strengths into account. In today´s complex world it is important to use the relevant management tools to find the right way to navigate.

1 comment

  1. Rather unexpected point of view to the Whiskey industry, investigating on how to only talk to the specific audience and to ignore on purpose the rest of the costumers. But this marketing is done in a smart, clear and subtle way… but provoking.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

nine − seven =