Women and young people – the new whisky growth areas


Are whisky producers missing a trick not focusing their marketing efforts more on women.

Jack Daniels ad

I know, there have been a lot of stories about whisky and women in recent years. Of course women drink whisky – that should not be surprising to anyone. However, I still find it intriguing that producers and their advertising agencies are still predominantly targeting men.

Men still make up the majority of whisky consumers in the UK – up to 80 percent of whisky drinkers are men. That only tells part of the story though – take a look at what is happening in other countries.

In the US, women are drinking more whisky. Companies like Campari have initiatives designed to accelerate that trend. Campari is behind brands like Glen Grant, Bowmore Islay and Wild Turkey. Their US operation runs a “Women & Whiskies” programme aimed and getting more women to drink whisky. Jack Daniel’s is also trying to get its share of the female whisky market with its “Spike the Cookies” campaign – see picture above.

In other countries, upwards of 50 percent of whisky drinkers are women. Whisky is a popular drink among women in France and Russia as well as in Latin American countries and in East Asia.

In the UK, the “cocktail culture” has been an increasing phenomenon for several years now. Whiskies are often used, particularly the premium brands. American bourbon and rye whiskies are also popular ingredients.

However the marketing of whisky in the UK remains male-orientated – manly men doing manly things and drinking whisky in tumblers.

Take Chivas Regal’s new “Here’s to Real Friends” campaign. It comprises two films about male friendship. There will also be a cultural study about male friendship, the results of which we will find out about next year.

Then there is the Christina Hendricks promotion for Johnnie Walker. It was obviously supposed to be cheesy, but it also is clearly aimed at men – the overflowing cleavage is no accident.

Christina Henrichs ad

No take a look at this retro whisky ad. The message portrayed in this ad is very similar to that in the Christina Hendricks’ promotion.

Retro Whisky ad

Although, ads like this are thankfully only now seen in history books and in newspaper archives.

It just does not make sense that whisky brands are not trying to exploit this large and potentially lucrative market more than they are.

Earlier this year a Scottish student won an award for designing a whisky bottle specifically for women. It is shaped like a wine bottle with mock “male seeking female” ads printed on it.

Is changing the packaging the answer? It is probably part of it. The winner of the design award, Melissa Preston, said while she enjoyed whisky she felt it was a drink steeped in male connotations.

“I wanted to break away from the macho image without being too girly or cliché,” she said.

So it is probably time for whisky brands to start targetting women more, but they should not stop there. The average age of a whisky drinker in the UK is 48, so marketing campaigns should also be directed towards a younger audience.

It is time to make whisky cool and sexy, rather than sedate, gentlemanly and reserved.


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