Discover the secrets behind Johnnie Walker’s successful creative effectiveness journey

Learn how to develop creative assets and communications that drive growth, distinctiveness, meaning and relevance.
23 November 2022
Keep walking
Lynne Deason

Head of Creative Excellence, UK

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Johnnie Walker global sales are up by over a third and for the first time ever it surpassed 21 million cases globally1. Increased marketing investment in the brand is a factor, but what makes the difference is that the spend has been put behind highly effective advertising, amplifying the impact of the investment.

Johnnie Walker’s journey is an excellent example of how to deal skillfully with one of the biggest predicaments facing many marketers today: How to achieve differentiation and maintain your meaning and relevance to consumers, while maintaining an established brand platform. And how do you achieve this on a global scale, ensuring you’re locally and culturally relevant, while at the same time consistent across the globe and over time? The brand’s ‘Keep Walking’ campaign is multi-award winning – including three Kantar Creative Effectiveness awards this year, one in each category (digital, static and TV) – across different countries, cultures and stages of market development. Astounding!

Johnnie Walker, Keep on Walking


Chris Goddard (Global Marketing Director, Johnnie Walker), Sally Smallman (Global Planner, Johnnie Walker) and Camilla Harrisson (CEO Anomaly), candidly shared their journey and tips for success with me in this webinar and Q&A session.

Here are some of the key recommendations from the discussion:

1. Nailing the brief

The most effective advertising is born from a stellar, single minded, inspiring, unambiguous creative brief. Tap into culture to evoke emotional resonance and imbue the brand with contemporary meaning and develop creative that engages your audience. Expect to work at it, you won’t get it right first time.

2. Get out of your marketing bubble

In Sally’s words: “It’s too easy to be in an advertising and marketing bubble and think that we can assess a piece of work in the way a consumer would… we can’t, we really can’t…often some of the things we learn through our testing, when you look back at it, it’s so obvious but it’s having such a fundamental impact on how people are engaging with the work”.

3. The importance of being distinctive

Camilla encapsulated this beautifully: “To build really successful long-term, omni-channel, enduring distinctivity for your brand… you need a holistic view of the ingredients of your brand and how your brand is going to show up”.

4. Success comes from blending creativity, intuition and precision

Sally brought the essence of this to life when she shared her view on how Diageo operates: “We are a business that really values creativity, but at the same time we really value precision. That might be precision in terms of getting to a really great brief that everybody is aligned behind, it might be precision in terms of the consumer input we get as we go through the creative process or precision in looking at how effective our advertising has been in the past and making sure that we’re improving our ROI year on year”.

5. Local and global teams walking together in the same direction

Chris shared how the partnership between local and global teams helps unlock the magic that drives growth: “We expect local markets to feed us powerful insights in a way that we’ll never get, and we expect local markets to build a consistent coherent global brand. When those things come together, that’s where the real magic lies”.

6. Ensure every encounter is effective and is authentic

Chris is passionate about this. He talked about the brand’s enduring consistency: “Keep Walking and all that it stands for has been with Johnnie Walker for over 20 years which is remarkable… a testament to the power of what progress is about. It’s as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, if not more. The skill for us as marketeers is not to mess around with the fundamentals, but to figure out how you keep that core truth relevant”. He added: “It would be a mistake to make a wonderful 30 second tv ad and then assume that that’s going to have a fantastic effect as a 6 second piece of social. It doesn’t work like that.”

7. People power. Trust, honesty, and the right team

In addition to these practical tips shared by the team, their bond, the admiration, respect and trust that they have for each other shone through. When asked to distill their key learnings from this journey and what they would do to ‘Keep Walking’ in the future, it was what they all focused on. Sally talked about the benefits of “giving everyone a voice and empowering them to use their voice, show up with respect and positivity”. Chris agreed but shared that it’s important to “protect and nurture the idea with a small squad and don’t open up too much to everyone’s view.” Camilla talked about the importance of “shared conviction about what you’re doing” and the need to be “really honest; there will be speed bumps and curve balls whenever they arise, know that you will get over them and have the courage to use your voice”.

At Kantar we thrive on relationships like the one we have with the team at Diageo and Anomaly, where we are trusted advisors and experts who are an extension of the team. Our experts give recommendations and guidance that are used to optimize marketing effectiveness in a way that has a fundamental impact on outcomes.

We have developed an actionable guide to this webinar content to help you plan your creative journey. To request a copy, or to learn more about how we can work with you, please reach out to your team at Kantar or get in touch.

Watch the full interview in our on-demand webinar.

1* Diageo preliminary results, year ended 30 June 2022
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