Lina Martinez on Johnnie Blonde, the new Johnnie Walker innovation

Lina Martinez discusses her role as Johnnie Walker Brand Manager, how new innovations help continue to drive interest in brands and how ‘Johnnie Blonde’ is demystifying the pre-conceptions of Scotch.

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What has your Diageo experience been like since joining the company?

One of the things I love most about Diageo is that constant learning and evolving is celebrated. Prior to taking on the role of Johnnie Walker Brand Manager, I worked across two different teams and oversaw seven other smaller but mighty brands within our Scotch portfolio. The transition from these small brands to Johnnie Walker has been truly rewarding and eye-opening. To move from a “build-a-brand-mentality”, to sustaining and propelling a well-known brand such as Johnnie Walker, required different strategies and executions on larger scales. There have been incredible learning curves along the way that make the experience even more exciting. I’ve had to look self-doubt and fear in the face and just keep walking!

Tell us more about your current role as Johnnie Walker Brand Manager?

I am responsible for ensuring that our strategy is driven across the brand experiences we engage our consumers with, our programming is amplified digitally across our social channels and that we develop the right tools for local teams to use on the ground. I make sure that we have one consistent look and feel to recruit new audiences into the brand.

Explain how Johnnie Blonde came about and what it has been like behind the scenes to get this to launch and into consumers hands?

We’ve seen large trends with consumers gravitating towards Tequila, North American Whiskey, and ready-to-drink serves, so we decided it was time to launch a new product. Johnnie Blonde helps demystify the pre-conceptions of Scotch and make an approachable blend that is smooth and easy to drink on its own but is also great in cocktails.

After months of developing the campaign activity, it’s very rewarding to see your product hit the shelves, along with the selling tools you helped to develop. It’s even more rewarding to hear that both consumers and trade gatekeepers are reacting well to the new product.

Tell us more about your involvement in this launch.

I transitioned into this role at the tail-end of the planning process for Blonde. Despite this, I was still able to evolve our strategic approach to launch in market where I helped to finalise our programming and lead our partners to execute the plan.

While in the testing phase for this innovation, I worked very closely with our commercial planning and activation partner, local teams and creative agencies to ensure the six-month test was properly supported. The launch involved sampling events, PR, local influencers and paid media support. We are managing a new brand ambassador programme that ensures the education of our whisky is the priority amongst trade and consumers.

What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of launching a new innovation?

It truly takes a full team to successfully launch innovations. With so many products out in the market, securing buy-in from internal and external stakeholders may be one of the most challenging parts in launching our new creations. However, it is one of the most exciting parts of the process.

Demonstrating the business opportunity is one thing but developing the right rallying cry to get others as excited as you are is vital to make the launch successful. The whole innovation process is very rewarding, and this feeling is further intensified when consumers react positively.

How do innovations have a personal impact as well as affect business performance?

On a personal level and from a brand marketing standpoint, innovations allow you to focus on your entrepreneurial spirit. As Johnnie Walker brand manager, I am responsible for building belief in the new product offerings, to ultimately determine whether it helps recruit new consumers into our brand trademark. Essentially, I’ve been given the opportunity to own and build a brand within Diageo, which is basically a brand marketer’s dream!

On the other hand, from a business standpoint, innovations are strategic tools to help continue to drive interest in your brand throughout the years. Johnnie Walker is an iconic brand, but it would not have reached its 200th anniversary if it were not for its ability to continually adapt to consumer needs over the past two centuries. Through product innovations, you can evolve your offerings to suit the new needs and taste preferences of consumers, ensuring that your brand stays relevant despite cultural changes.

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