A brand long beloved amongst those who enjoy the finer things in life, Johnnie Walker offers a wide range of award-winning whiskies, the most famous being its best-selling Red Label scotch whisky. Johnnie Walker sold more than 21m cases of its flagship blended Scotch in the 2021-22 fiscal year, making it the world’s biggest Scotch whisky brand. Johnnie Walker owes much of its success to its brilliant video marketing campaigns. In this article, we’ll take a look at the lessons that can be learnt from some of the best video marketing that the brand has produced over the years.

Focusing on your customers achieves the best results

One of the key lessons that we can learn from Johnnie Walker is that video marketing which focuses on its audience and their aspirations, can be extraordinarily powerful.

The success of Johnnie Walker’s Keep Walking campaign, which was launched at the turn of the millennium, owes in large part to its focus on the ambitions and desires of its audience. Johnnie Walker had seen its market share fall and its sales decline in the late 1990s, and it was clear that there was a real need to improve the brand’s marketing initiatives. Much of the material that had been used to promote Johnnie Walker focused too much on its product range, and it often traded in old-fashioned notions of what success looked like. Johnnie Walker was sorely lacking in brand identity, and it was clear that the video marketing used to promote the brand needed to be radically reimagined if it were to appeal to younger consumers.

The Keep Walking campaign was launched in an effort to right the ship and give the brand a new lease of life as it entered the new millennium. This simple message tied in neatly with Johnnie Walker’s logo, the legendary Striding Man, and it encapsulated the brand’s new focus on resilience, hard work and remaining positive.

The Walk, starring Harvey Keitel, is one of the first video ads in this series. Released in 1999, it provides a grittily inspiring message from a Hollywood tough guy that focuses on personal growth and improvement.

[The Walk – Harvey Keitel – Johnnie Walker] 

Another notable entry is the award-winning Fish, released in 2003. A visually stunning advert, it demonstrates the versatility of Keep Walking as a marketing slogan:

[Johnnie Walker – Fish (2003, UK)] 

This reimagining of Johnnie Walker’s image was certainly bold, and it paid off – sales of Johnnie Walker rose from 10.2m cases in 1999 to 15.1m in 2007, and revenue grew by an impressive 94%, hitting $4.56bn worldwide. Johnnie Walker continues to perform well: it is the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky, thanks in large part to high sales of its Black Label blend.

That Keep Walking continues to form the backbone of Johnnie Walker’s video marketing speaks volumes, and it is a testament to how ads that touch upon human values with universal appeal resonate far more with their target audience than those that simply extol the virtues of a brand’s products.

Find out more about how to build an effective video marketing strategy.

Long-form ads and documentaries are a great way to tell your brand story

The About Us section is often one of the dullest parts of a company’s website. If there’s one thing that Johnnie Walker has taught us, however, it’s that long-form ads and documentaries can succeed where web pages on certain subjects almost always fail.

Johnnie Walker’s 2009 film, The Man Who Walked Around The World, is one of the brand’s best-ever ads – and it is also one of the most famous liquor ads that has ever been made. A single-shot take that runs for more than six minutes, it was an audacious effort that did a fantastic job of bringing the brand’s history to life.

[▶ Johnnie Walker – The Man Who Walked Around The World] 

The sight of Robert Carlyle delivering a monologue about the company’s history whilst strolling down the beautiful hills of Loch Doyne is, of course, a huge part of this advert’s appeal. What fundamentally makes this advert so effective, however, is its compelling storytelling: the tale of how Johnnie Walker went from a humble distillery in Kilmarnock to one of the most recognised liquor brands is a fascinating one, regardless of whether or not you are a keen whisky drinker. With that said, we suspect that a fair amount of Johnnie Walker may have been consumed when the idea of filming this ad in a one-shot sequence was conceived(!)

This theme was reprised in 2020, when the brand decided to mark its bicentenary with a feature documentary directed by Anthony Wonke.

[The Man Who Walked Around the World | Official Trailer | Discovery]

This beautifully shot documentary film is a masterclass in how to tell a brand’s story, from the founding of the brand in the 19th century through to an account of the company’s fortunes during the Prohibition era and the Civil Rights movement. It’s a great example of how longer-form content can be used by brands to provide an in-depth account of their brand story – especially brands with a history that is as rich and as century-spanning as Johnnie Walker’s. If you are interested in learning more about this promotional film, take a look at the film’s website, or view the film in full on Amazon Prime or Apple TV

Find out more about how video can be used in brand storytelling, and learn more about how brands can use documentary-style video in their content marketing. Take a look at our documentary-style video services today.

Tell a story that packs a strong emotional punch

Another area in which Johnnie Walker has excelled is in its emotive storytelling. This 2015 ad, released as part of the brand’s Keep Walking campaign, takes us back to the awe-inspiring scenery of the Scottish Highlands. It tells the journey of two brothers hiking in the region’s rugged mountains and valleys:

[Johnnie Walker – Dear Brother]

Whilst this ad is rather sombre and melancholy, it ultimately concludes with the uplifting, motivational message at the heart of Johnnie Walker: to keep on walking. A departure from the more traditional conception of manhood presented in the 1999 advert, The Walk, this instalment in the series reflects a softer, more sensitive portrayal of masculinity. As such, it is a good reflection of the brand’s ability to change with the times whilst also being consistent in its core messaging.

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It’s time to start walking in Johnnie Walker’s footsteps!

If we were to summarise what Johnnie Walker has to teach us about effective video marketing, we’d be inclined to refer to their iconic tagline – just keep walking! 

Find out more about Johnnie Walker’s video content by checking out their YouTube channel, and take a look at our blog and all of our latest work on our YouTube channel for more ideas and inspiration.

Small Films is a video production company in London. Our team of videographers, editors and animators create all sorts of videos, including awesome documentary-style videos, product videos, testimonial videos, explainer videos and animations that can help bring your brand to life. Do get in touch; we’d love to hear from you!