Johnnie Walker Coolly Ignores Ribbing of ‘Jane Walker’ Label

Thom Weidlich 03.08.18


Back in November we wrote about a study suggesting brands shouldn’t overreact to criticism on social media. Last week brought us a good example of a brand doing just that — keeping its stride despite windy gusts from online blowhards. We speak of the razzing Johnnie Walker scotch took in announcing a limited-edition “Jane Walker” label.

Booze biggie Diageo said Feb. 26 it would issue the Jane Walker label in March for Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. On those bottles, the iconic Striding Man logo would be replaced by a striding woman. The actual liquor is the same. Still, the reaction, especially in the Twittersphere, was predictable:

“We’ve had scotch for women over here in the UK for years. It’s called scotch.”

“Get a grip .. this isn’t progress by any stretch of the imagination .. whisky is whisky .. we don’t need wee girlie names or labels.”

“For the first time ever, I wish I actually liked Johnnie Walker whiskey, just so that I could boycott you.”


The Twitterati especially had fun tweaking the brand because earlier last month Frito-Lay was forced to deny a rumor it was cooking up a version of Doritos aimed at women. A New York Post story defending Johnnie and Jane Walker was entitled “If You Think This Is the ‘Lady Doritos’ of Booze, You’re an Idiot.”

On top of Johnnie Walker having to endure the social-media scorching, Stephen Colbert devoted two minutes of his Late Show monologue to the big news. “Female drinkers everywhere will say, ‘Finally a brand that’s condescending to me,’” he quipped. “Truly what the suffragettes fought for.”

The aforementioned study, by Montreal-based market researcher Engagement Labs, found that sometimes there’s a disconnect between what people say on social media and in the real world — or at least that sometimes the social-media furor won’t affect real-world considerations such as sales.

‘Move Forward’

Of the handful of its own tweets Johnnie Walker has posted since the announcement, three are about Jane Walker and do not in any way cower before the criticism. “With every step, we all move forward,” one says.

While Diageo’s move is meant to make scotch more attractive to women, the press release emphasized the seriousness of the endeavor and Johnnie Walker’s commitment to progress. It mentioned that women have been involved with the brand going back to the 19th century and that half of its current master blenders are women. Most importantly, $1 of every Jane Walker bottle sold will go to groups that support women’s causes.

Stephanie Jacoby, the vice president at Johnnie Walker responsible for the move, did an interesting Q&A with (“Jane Walker Backlash Is a ‘Misunderstanding’”). Jacoby touched on the issue of not overreacting to the initial response to a campaign. She said when she and her colleagues launched Jane Walker, they knew it could arouse “some debate,” especially because a high-profile brand invites scrutiny.

But, she said, overall response has been positive and “people are taking the campaign in the positive spirit it was intended. We’re seeing more and more of that, though I think maybe there was an initial kneejerk reaction.”

Yes, Diageo and Johnnie Walker seem to have wisely kept their cool.

Image Credit: Diegeo

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