A striding Jane Walker panders to women leading the way – with Scotch

March is Women’s History Month and the maker of Johnnie Walker is acknowledging this annual designation in a rather odd way. For the first time, their Scotch bottles will carry a female “Jane Walker” label in recognition of women leading the way.

Here’s the thing. I had no idea that Johnnie Walker was a “progressive” distiller. I’m not a Scotch drinker – my adult libation of choice is that of southerners everywhere, Bourbon – but I grew up in the distillery business, so to speak, so I would assume I’d heard something about this official attitude of the company. My bad. (emphasis mine)

In recognition of women who lead the way, we are unveiling Jane Walker, the first-ever female iteration of the brand’s iconic Striding Man logo, in celebration of the many achievements of women. As a brand that has stood for progress for nearly 200 years, Johnnie Walker is proud to take this next step forward by introducing Jane Walker as another symbol of the brand’s commitment to progress.

That statement begs the question – what other symbol is used by the brand in conjunction with “progress”? Anyway, this bottle is a limited edition variety and $1.00 per sale will go to “organizations supporting progress.” How vague. And, how gullible to pandering do these guys think women are? My father was vice-president of sales and marketing for a national distiller when I was growing up and I can’t help but think he’s rolling in his grave over this lame move.

The total donation limit is set at $250,000, with $100,000 committed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund and its Monumental Women campaign. And since you probably haven’t heard of this campaign, it has been set up to raise money for the first monument honoring a woman in NYC’s Central Park. The 23 now in place honor men. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony have been chosen for the honor. You may remember they were the founders of the women’s suffrage movement.

And for a political statement, a donation will be made to She Should Run, allegedly a non-partisan non-profit. I was not surprised to see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spotlighted on the site, though. Non-partisan usually means mostly liberal in today’s political world.

To flesh out the brand’s support of women, there is this about that.

Women have played a significant role in the brand’s history dating back to 1893, when John Walker & Sons purchased the Cardhu distillery from Elizabeth Cumming,” the company says. “Cardhu is one of the single malts that comprises Johnnie Walker Black Label and is considered the heartbeat of the blend. Elizabeth Walker, the wife of founder John Walker, was also fundamental to the creation of their own blended whisky, working alongside John and their son Alexander in the original Walker grocery shop. Today, nearly 50 percent of the brand’s 12 expert blenders are women, with female leadership across marketing and C-Level executives.

To be clear, this is lazy marketing. International Women’s Day has spawned one day a year when there are feel-good stories galore in the media highlighting successful women, as though it is not normal for women to be successful. Slapping a woman on the label or turning a product pink is easy publicity for unimaginative thinkers. One Scottish brewery found this to be the case when it launched a “beer for girls”. So far, the targets (women) haven’t exactly swooned over the special attention. In a satirical move, the brewery wanted to call attention to cheap marketing ploys while making a statement about a real problem – gender inequality in the workplace. At least BrewDog is donating 20% of proceeds towards the future of girls in STEM industries.

  • BrewDog’s approach to tackling the gender pay gap acknowledges the root causes of the widespread underrepresentation of women in certain industries, particularly in science, technology, education and math (STEM).

  • As such, the brewery’s donations will go to causes that address current gender disparities and also seek to boost the number of young girls interested in a future in STEM industries.

This isn’t just a seasonal topic and it’s hard to take this kind of marketing seriously with separating women from men in the name of gender equality. Whether it’s a Scotch for women or a beer, or even the silly less crunchy Dorito (on which some backtracking has been done), the point is, if gender equality is to be taken seriously, it happens with actual action and behavior. It doesn’t happen with the color pink or a female on a label so a company will sell more product and donate to non-specific organizations.

In case you are wondering, alcohol sales are good. Parent company Diageo is doing just fine, thank you.

Whisky brands Johnnie Walker and Buchanan’s climbed 6 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. Menezes said: ‘There’s a renaissance in whisky happening around the world. People are drinking better.

I’m all for companies making a profit and growing markets. The first two rules of marketing to women, however, are don’t pink it and don’t overtly market to women. These companies failed. Most women see through this stuff, guys.