A growing interest in whiskies among Asian consumers is spreading to China.
India currently represents the largest whiskey market in the world, with 150 million 9-liter cases sold annually. Singapore is number one in global scotch consumption, with each person purchasing an average of 13 bottles each year. South Korea is also poised to become a major whiskey market, thanks to a free-trade agreement with the United States.
This trend is encouraging high-end whiskey manufacturers to step up their marketing strategies on the continent, and China is one of their prime targets. Scotch maker Johnnie Walker is now opening a line of “Johnnie Walker Houses,” boutiques dedicated to educating consumers about the brand. Accompanying them is a new digital campaign: “Johnnie Walker House — World of Privilege,” an Asia-centric membership rewards program designed to attract consumers through social media.
There are currently Johnnie Walker Houses in the Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan, Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. More outposts are on their way.
Johnnie Walker House — World of Privileges debuted in December 2014. The no-cost program offers Johnnie Walker drinkers VIP service at airport shops, a complimentary subscription to the brand’s exclusive quarterly publication, and invitations to Johnnie Walker events, among other perks. The brand claims that 260,000 affluent consumers have already interacted with the program.
Continued retail expansion, especially in the airport sector, will help the brand continue to draw the attention of Asian consumers. Industry expert Al Ries notes that Johnnie Walker’s new promotional offers represent an effort to increase brand visibility on the continent.
“Johnnie Walker is well known in most of the world, but not so well known in Asia,” Ries said in an interview with Luxury Daily. “So it would make sense for the brand to devote more of its resources to the Asian market.”
Ries is skeptical, however, about the brand’s ability to gain traction through its World of Privileges campaign. He believes that ultimately “not enough Scotch whisky drinkers will sign up for the service to make it worthwhile.”
“An affluent Johnnie Walker consumer is unlikely to participate in the program,” Mr. Ries said. “Affluent consumers are looking for ways to conserve their time. They don’t want to waste it checking into a Johnnie Walker Web site for entertainment information they probably don’t want and don’t need. And the other benefits are not likely to attract many Johnnie Walker consumers either.”
image credit: thomas hawk