American Marketer

Events / Causes

John Walker & Sons targets young millionaires in Asia-Pacific yacht tour

September 24, 2012


Scottish brand John Walker & Sons is inviting select guests in Asia-Pacific on board a branded yacht to partake in activities that will explore the history of the brand and showcase the new triple malt John Walker & Sons Odyssey.

The path of the John Walker & Sons Voyager yacht follows the original trade routes taken by ships that first distributed its whiskeys around the world. John Walker & Sons’ strategy combines one-on-one interactions with brand centric-entertainment with a goal of reaching the surge of millionaires under the age of 45 in Asia-Pacific.

“The new generations of luxury spirit connoisseurs in this region are fundamentally different from their predecessors and from other luxury consumers globally,” said James Thompson, chief marketing officer of Diageo Asia Pacific, Singapore. “They look for distinctive character and a rich brand heritage, and they want the brand to stand for a social value for them.

“We call these people ‘true progressives,’” he said. “What is more, McKinsey data has shown that 80 percent of millionaires in China are below 45 years of age compared with 30 percent in the United States and 19 percent in Japan, so both social and economic trends are favorable to the growth of luxury brands with real provenance and craftsmanship.

“John Walker & Sons Voyager represents a very tangible opportunity for us to demonstrate our almost 200-year heritage and fully immerse guests in a world where whisky is at the core of a luxurious and sophisticated lifestyle.”

John Walker & Sons is owned by Diageo.

Rocking the boat

The brand will host select consumers, brand partners and influencers on the John Walker & Sons Voyager yacht beginning in September. The ship will travel to nine ports of call including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and India over five months.

The experiences will center on the brand’s craftsmanship, heritage and innovation as well as the new Odyssey whiskey. The bottle commemorates the 80th anniversary of the whiskey decanter created by Sir Alexander Walker that was made for travel by ship and moved to match the motion of the sea.

John Walker & Sons partnered with high-end food and beverage, design and entertainment companies to plan the programming on the Voyager.

The brand’s goal is to offer affluent consumers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that reflect their achievements and lifestyle, per Mr. Thompson.


On-board events range from one-on-one interactions to large-scale parties.

Guests will interact with experts on whiskey and other lifestyle topics such as fashion, dining and travel.

The Voyager contains four areas for guest use. These include the Voyager Sundeck entertainment area and bar, Odyssey Reception area, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Game Changers Lounge and Around the World suite.

The Blue Label lounge was designed under a partnership with menswear label Alfred Dunhill. Technological touch points allow guests to learn about the brand.

Much of John Walker & Sons’ strategy centers on bringing the brand experience to top markets.

Previously, it produced a limited number of Diamond Jubilee aged whiskey bottles to commemorate the British Queen’s 60th year on the throne that it marketed via an international tour to broaden visibility.

The tour most likely strengthened John Walker & Sons’ status as a luxury brand since the special-edition whiskey was priced at $162,380 per bottle (see story).

“We see Voyager as an unparalleled opportunity to tell our stories in a powerful way, create exceptional experiences for our loyal customers and ultimately reinforce Johnnie Walker's place as part of a luxury lifestyle,” Mr. Thompson said.

Digital close behind

John Walker & Sons is also creating a digital component of the yacht tour.

Authors, photographers and illustrators from Asia-Pacific will contribute to an online travel guide that mimics the original guide commissioned by the House of Walker.

The first “Around the World” travel guide was created nearly 100 years ago with the help of John Walker & Sons global distributers who each contributed a chapter on their country, per the brand.

The new version of the travel guide is found at The brand will post content from contributors that discusses each city from the Golden Era to present day.

Shanghai article in Around the World

Guests can experience the recreation of the travel guide in the Around the World room on the yacht.

“A ‘golden era’ of marketing is ahead of us with technology having fundamentally changed how consumers obtain information,” Mr. Thompson said. “Between the seismic changes in the media landscape and the fusion of entertainment forms and retail innovation, brands need to find new ways to engage with consumers in a manner that resonates with them.

“In addition, the rise of peer-to-peer influence means luxury consumers are seeking out ideas and inspiration from a range of networks, online and offline,” he said.

“What that means is marketing campaigns have no choice but to be integrated across previously isolated disciplines and available for consumers to engage with on their terms and not, as before, at the convenience of marketers.”

Final Take
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York