Outdated, sexist stereotyping will only deter the very demographic companies are seeking to attract.
What better way for a whisky brand to grab the attention of a hipster than to talk about the one thing that matters to them the most?
The moustache, that universal symbol of hispterdom, now has a new friend in the Johnnie Walker wax collection – a range of three scented moustache waxes each designed to enhance the flavour of the brand’s signature Johnnie and Ginger serve.
Exclusively available at Huckle the Barber in East London, the pocket-sized collection – available in Piperine Pepper, Citrus Essence or Ginger Root flavours – is designed to increase brand awareness among millennials, or more specifically, hairy male hipsters.
Wax your 'tache in three delicious flavours.
This is the third example of Johnnie Walker’s attempt to capture this demographic’s attention through diversifying its range with whisky-related wearables. First came the Heriot Watt-developed Harris tweed infused with the aroma of Johnnie Walker, then the pair of Oliver Sweeney brogues with a secret compartment just the right size for a miniature of Johnnie Walker in the heel.
At first glance each of these creations may seem like a novelty, but could branching its range out into non-consumables that appeal to a growing millennial audience be a clever approach to stemming declining sales in Western markets?
Volumes of Johnnie Walker declined by 3% in North America and Western Europe in 2014, a trend that analysts claim ‘highlights the urgent need for a fresh positioning’.
Quirky innovations like the Johnnie Walker moustache wax may gain column inches in the consumer press – as well as this website – and perhaps result in a handful of sales of the three waxy scents, but a deeper and more substantial appeal to millennials is key if brands like Johnnie Walker are to turn the tide in western markets.
As Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholics drink analyst at Euromonitor, says: ‘Overoptimistically succumbing to the now defunct emerging market mantra, [Johnnie Walker] was being quietly left behind its Irish and American siblings as well as the myriad micro offerings in its core western markets.’
He adds that expanding the brand’s appeal to encompass several drinking occasions, cocktail serves – that are easy to recreate at home – and even extended product lines will ‘make or break key mainstream brands going forward’. The warning has far more urgency for blended Scotch than other whisky categories, which is suffering from a tired image in the shadow of aspirational single malts and Bourbons.
However he warns that brand diversification needs to offer more substance than simple novelty if it’s to have any real effect on falling volumes.
‘Attempting to re-establish relevance to an alienated younger demographic is and will remain important but appearances can only go that far,’ he says. ‘It’s time for radical changes in substance.’
Hairy hipsters: the focus of Johnnie Walker innovations
If it’s really the millennial audience JW is reaching for, surely with increasing numbers of female whisky drinkers, who incidentally are driving cocktail sales in western markets, expanding the brand focus from purely hairy hipsters to include a younger female audience is one path declining whisky brands could benefit from?
Although it’s unlikely whisky-infused jewellery will drastically alter the brand’s sales for the better, it sure would be nice for female whisky drinkers to be recognised as a key demographic alongside hairy hipsters. After all, we may be more difficult to spot without the obvious facial cues, but there are no doubt just as many of us.
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From the editors 04 September 2015
Johnnie Walker has a new expression, finished in rye casks. One question, says Dave Broom: why?