Johnnie Walker

A tenacious approach to reclaiming regional brand relevance

Iconic scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker recognised that its global messaging and marketing campaigns weren’t resonating with its Eastern European audience. Alongside DEPT®, the brand sought to address the disconnect with something new, nuanced, and close to this critical market. 

Our answer? Ditching the one-size-fits-all approach and tapping into the unique regional psyche of Eastern Europeans through a campaign we called “Less Talking, Keep Walking”: a marketing push with a distinct nod to the area’s spirit of resilience and action-oriented mindsets.

An unsteady regional footing

For several years, Johnnie Walker was losing relevance in the Eastern European market. From the late 2010s and into 2021, the brand was experiencing a consistent decline in brand equity and becoming increasingly less meaningful to consumers in the area. This led to a sustained decrease in penetration over three years: -3.5% on average for on/off trade combined FY19/21 in key markets, including Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Johnnie Walker was underperforming compared to its two main whisky competitors, which either grew significantly or didn’t demonstrate such a steep decline. 

Things needed to change — and quickly. Johnnie Walker was determined to reclaim its market share in this crucial environment, especially among the 35 to 54 year old age group, which is responsible for 45% of its total sales. 

At the same time, the brand also recognised a white space in its marketing communications that needed to be filled. Most of its messaging demonstrated a pronounced inclination toward a male audience, leaving out a major segment of whisky drinkers.

Altogether, Johnnie Walker came to DEPT® with the need to execute a campaign that would re-establish itself as a culturally relevant alcohol icon in Eastern Europe for both men and women, with messaging that reflected the sentiments and values of people in the region. 

Digging for deeper connections

Connecting with an audience across 14 countries in Eastern Europe is no small feat, and doing so requires a deep understanding of who they are and what drives them to “Keep Walking.” 

This was essential to transform the “Keep Walking” motto into something locally relevant and meaningful, which fostered true inspiration and excitement by fitting into the market’s culture, mentality, and character. So, we asked the audience,“Why do you keep walking?”

The resounding answer: tenacity. 

The unwavering determination to forge ahead, undeterred by challenges. It’s an unstoppable force, propelling the people of Eastern Europe forward. While others engage in endless deliberation, the area’s spirit thrives on taking decisive action.

Enter: the ultimate icon and brand representative

Through the “Less Talking, Keep Walking” campaign, we set out to bring the spirit of tenacity to life in the context of Johnnie Walker’s rich brand history. 

The campaign encourages viewers with its core motto: “Less Talking, Keep Walking,” reflecting both Johnnie Walker’s own action-orientated mindset and the progressive nature of Eastern Europe. To bring it to life, we brought in the perfect person as the face — or main “Walker” — of the campaign: Milla Jovovich. 

 “The campaign idea stems from a very powerful insight that ties in brand, region, Milla, and our audience together perfectly,” explains João Inácio, Creative Director, DEPT®. “Actions talk louder than words and Milla, just like Johnnie, is the perfect example of someone who lets the walking do the talking.”

The Ukranian-born actress starred in the campaign film, which was directed by Paul WS Anderson, known for films including the Resident Evil series (2002-2016), Alien vs Predator (2004) and Monster Hunter (2020). The video blends Jovovich’s confidence and vibrancy with the stylish and exclusive energy of the brand. 

“Less Talking, Keep Walking perfectly describes the approach Milla and I have had in the films we have made together,” explained Anderson. “So it was a pleasure to further explore the boundaries of kinetic action and beauty with the legendary brand of Johnnie Walker.”

As the ambassador for the campaign, Jovovich embodied the core inspiration for its creative direction: the tenacious, resilient, and action-orientated spirit of Eastern Europe.

“The cinematic track and our different scenarios tell a story of relentless progress and creativity, led by an iconic walker in Milla Jovovich,” added Manuel Di Tolve, Creative Director, DEPT®. “We wanted to create a feeling of constant motion; the real walk never stops, so our camera keeps pulling back to match the pace.”

The campaign rolled on in online video (OLV), social media, TV, and out-of-home (OOH), with Jovovich delivering the message in 11 languages. By organically incorporating a narrative around gifting within the script, we were also able to position Johnnie Walker as an excellent gift as well. 

To maximise Johnnie Walker’s local relevance, supporting components of the campaign featured additional locally relevant “Walkers,” including Bulgarian artist Georgi Toshev and actress Anjela Nedyalkova. The dynamic cast of regional icons were included in content throughout the campaign, all based around the same “keep walking” mindset. This further deepened the connection between the Johnnie Walker brand and the people of Eastern Europe by representing and showing appreciation for the area’s culture.

Distilling reclaimed relevance

With a powerful combination of paid and organic reach, our campaign positioned Johnnie Walker as the most prominent whiskey brand in Hungary and Bulgaria and the second most talked about in Romania. This validated the campaign’s impact and solidified its place as a catalyst for sparking interest within these markets.

We saw a remarkable 21% increase in volume and an impressive 32% increase in value compared to the same period in the previous year, consolidating our position as market leaders in our key markets. Our reach surpassed all previous benchmarks established by Johnnie Walker and had a profound resonance with the brand’s vast Eastern European audience.

11.5m

Reach

92k

Brand Interactions

+32%*

Sales Value (*vs. LY Same Period)

Questions?

Creative Director

João Inácio

Discover more

Next Case

Philips