Hailed as the most widely-distributed brand of Scotch blended whisky, with a market presence on nearly every single country in the world, Johnnie Walker, originating in Scotland of 1865 and now current subsidiary to British alcohol beverage giant Diageo, is one of the most recognizable of its kind even to non-drinkers. Almost anybody would recognize its distinctive logo, depicting the silhouette of a man in 19th Century fashion of a jacket with coattails, white trousers, riding boots, cane and top hat, on the bottle regardless of label. All of a sudden, the company is making a special logo gender change.
As CNN tells it, Johnnie Walker is launching a “female” version of its iconic Black Label Whisky with the male silhouette replace with a woman, also dressed like the original figure. In addition, this special edition Black Label blend will carry the brand name “Jane Walker”, completing the shift. A press statement released by Diageo read, “As a brand that has stood for progress for nearly 200 years, Johnnie Walker is proud to take this next step forward by introducing Jane Walker as another symbol of the brand’s commitment to progress.” Jane Walker will be priced at $34 at bottle.
The reaction to this “feminization” of a long-established and popular brand has garnered the expected mixed reactions. Many were positive of this special edition variant of the whisky brand; however a lot of other dissenters, especially females, were roundly insulted by the initiative and have vented their frustrations on this “patronizing” gesture on social media. Communications consultant Diana Pardo wrote on her Twitter: “I don’t see this as a symbol of gender equality. All I see is a marketing strategy to increase sales.”
Complainants were further irritated by a follow-up statement by Johnnie Walker executive VP Stephanie Jacoby, a woman herself. “Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women,” Jacoby had said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand.” But counter-critics have called out the irate female community for expressing offense no matter what is done or not about male-centric branding.
The hubbub over Jane Walker comes in the wake of a wave of branding feminization across several global brands. In January, major country musician Reba McEntire was tapped by KFC to be the first female portrayer of founder and image ambassador Colonel Sanders.
The special Edition Jane Walker Black Label whisky bottles will become available in the US starting March, launching simultaneously with the start of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Johnnie Walker has pledged to donate $1 for every bottle of Jane Walker sold to various women’s rights organizations, with limits estimated at $250,000.
Photo courtesy thestar.com