The Latest Company Social Fiasco: Johnnie Walker Stepping on a Rake for Women's March

One day corporations may learn how social activism is bottom line averse.

Hot on the heels of the toxic masculinity razor commercial debacle another corporate political decision has reared up. After Gillette insulted an entire gender, and a significant of its customer base, one liquor brand has stepped up to say, “Hold my Scotch!”


Johnnie Walker has come out in support of The Women’s March, and it is not going well. The scotch brand has been an enthusiastic backer of the movement, seemingly oblivious to the various groups that have disavowed the March due to anti-semitic leadership. To date the NOW, NAACP, Greenpeace, Emily’s List, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are just a few who marched off. Things have become so toxic even the Democratic National Committee has cut ties.

But the scotch mavens are touting its affiliation with the hate-filled group, even partnering with them on a marketing basis. On the eve of the March Johnnie Walker tweeted out this collection of posters it commissioned for the event.

The wisdom behind a company clearly choosing sides (note the “Resist” poster selection) is obscured partially by lending support to an organization many are fleeing due to its internal anti-semitic positions. Johnnie Walker may have signaled itself into a corner, as the brand has been an active booster for the movement for at least a year now.

You see the minefield they walked themselves into by the fact they try to follow the messaging of the March, while contradicting the actions of its leadership. The company Tweeted out “Here’s to every voice”, in order to support a movement that has actually stifled voices. The intolerance by some leaders to Jewish people is evident. Also the number of pro-life groups that have been excluded from the March has to be tabulated.


Maybe Johnnie Woke-er would have been better going with “Here’s to the ACCEPTABLE voices”?

This underscores the travails ahead off any corporate entity that chooses to wade into the tall grass of social activism. Johnnie Walker has been backing the Women’s Movement for at least a year, even producing bottles of what it dubbed “Jane Walker” scotch. This was actually just the JW 12 year old Black Label, with slightly-altered bottle graphics and packaging. To suggest this was merely an attempt at marketing off of a social movement holds more weight than mere cynicism.

According to the site:

For over a century, Johnnie Walker has celebrated taking steps forward with our message of “Keep Walking” and our Striding Man icon.To celebrate the many achievements of women and the shared journey towards progress in gender equality, we proudly introduced Jane Walker in 2018.

“Taking steps”, they say, by simply adding a wisp of long hair to the logo and repacking its long-established product. What is remarkable to behold is a company that feels it has latched onto a groundswell movement and tapped a potential new demographic. They rush headlong into this arena but usually ignore what the effect could be on its established customer base. They only look at the potential and do not consider ramifications on the existing customers.

Johnnie Walker has been at this since last February. It went all-in with support of the Women’s History Month and the International Women’s Day. This was spearheaded by the marketing group Anomaly (@Anomaly) which had other intentions for the campaign. According to AdWeek, the advertising campaign was originally designed to capitalize on a Hillary Clinton Presidential victory.


These may seem lucrative avenues for a business, at least on a spreaadsheet. The problem is the past few months have exposed the rampant social problems within the group, and the scotch maker found itself too entrenched. As other outfits less rooted to the movement have been able to extract themselves, the company has far more invested in the Women’s March.

This displays one of the many risks of a business connecting itself to a political organization. Once you attached your logo to the movement when a virulent controversy rears up you find the company itself becomes branded with all of the problems attached.


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