Joy will put me off my drink

2 February 2016
“Blood, sweat and tears will get you there, but joy… (pause) will take you further,” Jude Laws confides to me, almost personally, in Johnnie Walker’s new campaign.
Joy will put me off my drink


What is happening to “Keep walking”? A few years ago, you could see the tinkering going on – worrying signs that Johnnie Walker was losing faith in the property.

But now this. I can just imagine the marketing team presenting their amazing breakthrough. “Walking is good. And it’s been very good for us,” they say. “But now we feel it’s time to take things to the next level. Now we are going to ask people to… hop, skip and jump. The results – not only for the brand, but for people themselves – are going to be wonderful.”

I’m not against being happy when appropriate or positive in general. But I do have a problem when Johnnie Walker becomes immature and naïve. I’ve asked the Rolling Stones to help me explain why.

You can’t always get what you want / You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You just might find / You get what you need

What do we want? We want success. We want to go further. That’s the easy bit. We all know that.

But what do we need? We need to know it requires grit, determination and persistence. That’s the important bit. That’s the life lesson. That’s the depth and maturity of “Keep walking.” 

What you want and what you need are two different things. And what you need may be tougher to accept, but in the long run it’s more valuable. When it comes to drinking a Scotch, either we reach the end of the day and our blood, sweat and tears have paid off – in which case it is worth celebrating with a Johnnie Walker. Or we aren’t there yet – in which case we need to take a break, have a Johnnie Walker and carry on tomorrow.

Now Johnnie Walker is asking me to brush that wisdom and maturity aside because I can go further. Not only that, there is also a short cut. Just be happy.

I’m sorry, that’s just embarrassing.

To make matters worse, there is nothing about the product that supports the claim. Johnnie Walker is not a crème soda. It’s not filled with sugars, happy colours and anti-depressants.

“Joy will take you further.” It’s like the manager of the Rolling Stones sitting down with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and saying, “Look, ticket sales are down. You need to play some Kylie.”

Or it’s like Marlboro deciding that it’s time for their cowboy to come into town, doff his hat, smile at the ladies, bend down and say hello to a few kids. Join in the fun at the rodeo.

Joy will put me off my drink. 

Mark Varder is a co-founder of the brand development agency, Varder Hulsbosch. For more about their thinking, visit

This article was first published by Bizcommunity on Friday 29th January 2016.

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