The Power of Average: Johnnie Walker Storyselling

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Johnnie Walker John Smith CommercialStoryselling uses the power of stories and storytelling to sell your product or promote you brand.

Stories are powerful because they can help people visualize situations, protagonists, villains, etc. And visualizing helps people relate. It draws emotions.

In a beautiful display of Storyselling, Johnnie Walker has released a holiday-time commercial focusing on the main protagonist: John Smith.

If you haven’t seen the commercial, you can watch it now:

The Story of John Smith and Johnnie Walker

The commercial lasts half a minute (31 seconds to be precise). But those 31 seconds pack one hell of a story. Let’s take a look at some of the messages this ad sends:

  • John Smith is a guy.
  • John Smith is average in most aspects of his life.
  • But John Smith is a great friend.
  • Being a good friend makes you worthy of a reward.
  • Johnnie Walker is a great reward.

The story is effective on several levels.

Why It’s Effective 

First of all, the timing is perfect. During the holiday season many people struggle to figure out what gifts to get their families and friends. This commercial makes it clear: Johnnie Walker makes a great gift.

But it’s not just a gift…it’s a reward! This is something you give to someone special; to someone who is worthy of it.

But worthy and special doesn’t mean you need to drive a Lamborghini or look like a super-model.

While other brands take the rich and famous approach to their advertising, this ad is completely different. Even the most average of people can earn this reward by doing something that anyone can do – be a good, loyal friend.

This is something that anyone can achieve without having a large bank account, a nice car or good looks.

And who doesn’t want to be a good friend? I’m sure there might be a few grouchy people out there. But for the vast majority of people, being a good friend is a virtue they try to achieve.

This makes you want a bottle of Johnnie Walker for yourself – even if you don’t plan on giving a bottle as a gift to someone else.

Why It’s REALLY Effective

Now let me get to the main reason that this commercial, and this story, is so effective…

The story is focused beautifully on the target audience of Johnnie Walker: men.

John Smith is a man. John Smith is an average man. In a society that focuses on man’s monetary success, this ad appeals to something that doesn’t require it. Yet, it is something that every man tries to be: a good, loyal friend.

And it awards men the ability to do something many of us otherwise have trouble doing: saying thank you to your friends for being who they are. Hence the tag line: “say it without saying it.”


Your Two Cents

What did you think when you watched the ad? Do you think is an effective story? Do you think that this is a good example of storyselling put into practice? Are there other examples of good storyselling you have come across? Let me know below.

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4 Responses to The Power of Average: Johnnie Walker Storyselling
  1. Jens P. Berget

    Hi Eugene,

    The commercial is awesome. I don’t watch many of alcohol since it’s not legal in Norway. But I do watch them online.

    This reminds me of the book All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin. We as marketers are telling people what they want to hear based upon their world view. Men don’t say things like “I love you” to friends, so giving rewards like this is something we all want to do without saying it. And it’s targeted to average men.

    I especially like the AXE effect, it plays on humor and what most men
    want – women :-)

    • Eugene

      Alcohol commercials are illegal right? Not alcohol? :) .

      There’s a few AXE commercials that are pretty funny too. Every once in a while I’ll search out “banned” commercials because those are usually the ones that push the boundaries, but also are the ones that are the funniest or most creative.

      • Jens P. Berget

        That’s right, it’s the commercials that are illegal :)

        But if you look at the prices of alcohol, they could have made it illegal as well. At a restaurant, a regular size beer is about $10 and up :)

        • Eugene

          Oh man! I thought NYC was expensive…but wow.

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