Johnie Walker shows sizzle CAN sell (if it has a story)

Regular readers will know that one of our rallying calls is “Where’s the sausage?”. We believe that too much of marketing has focused on emotional “sizzle”, and that the importance of good old product, or sausage, has been neglected.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t believe in the power of emotion. Far from it. But it works best, we suggest, when it flows from and reinforces a product truth.

The other caveat is that you need to know where your brand is on the “sizzle spectrum”. At one end we have categories where its all about sausage, and price, such as low-cost airlines. But at the other end we have lifestyle brands and luxury goods, where sizzle is by far the most important thing.

So, when sizzle is what matters most, how best to go about building a brand? Johnie Walker whisky is a nice success story that shows how to strategically develop a brand where emotion is key. The brand and its agency, BBH, recently won the IPA Grand Prix for advertising effectiveness for their “Keep Walking” campaign.The campaign produced stunning sales growth of 48% over 8 years for what was an ailing whisky producer. What can we learn from this example?
Picture 1

1. Sizzle, with a story
The Johnie Walker Keep Walking campaign is very much about sizzle, bringing to life the brand idea of “Personal Progress”. But it is built on a brand truth, in the form of the brand name and the iconic image of the brand’s founder. So, we do have some sausage, but its based on brand history, rather than a functional product attribute.

2. Sizzle that’s hard to copy
The great thing about Keep Walking is that it is hard or even impossible for another whisky brand to copy, as it is based on the brand icon and brand name.

3. Consistent sizzle
The Keep Walking campaign has run in more than 120 markets over eight
years, with more than 50 TV adverts and more than 150 print ads.

4. Sizzle that sells
The great thing about Keep Walking is that each ad is well branded, not because the brand name is splashed all over it, but because the whole thing is about walking, and this is linled to the brand name. Also, there is great linkage between the ending of the commercial and the pack.

5. Execution is everything
For a sizzle brand, execution is hugely important. And each of the Keep Walking films is a mini cinematic masterpiece. Fantastic scripts. Superb casting. Amazing production. Long time-length.

Here are a few.

1. Brand history
This one is more educational, almost a brand idea video, telling the history of Keep Walking:

2. The next one is much more emotionally involving, and features actor Harvy Keitel talking about how as an actor you have to face and conquer fear:

3. My fave is this one with Italian footballer Roberto Baggio, telling the tale of his missed penalty in the world cup, and being brave enough to take another one 4 years later: