For just the first time, the man in a top hat who appears on Johnnie Walker whiskey bottles will be replaced with a woman.
Diageo, the owner of Johnnie Walker and a giant in the liquor industry, said this week that it would be launching a special Black Label edition in March that features a female logo.
The statement released by Diageo said that the brand has stood for progress for almost 200 years, and the company is proud to move forward to the next step through the introduction of Jane Walker as a new symbol of the commitment the brand has to progress.
With a price expected to be $34, the new special edition bottles will be available on store shelves starting in March across the U.S. to coincide with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.
It’s the most recent effort to feminize a brand that is well known. Last month, Reba McEntire the star of country music, was cast as the first women to play KFC’s iconic spokesperson, Colonel Harland Sanders.
While some applauded the efforts made by Diageo, some women felt it was nothing but cynical or patronizing. One tweet said that this should not be considered a symbol for gender equality, while another said that there was no need for a specific bottle in order to be equal. Yet another said that the new Jane edition amounted to nothing more than a marketing strategy aimed at increasing sales.
Comments made by an executive with Johnnie Walker about the new initiative did not help the situation. Stephanie Jacony a Vice President with Diageo told reporters that Scotch is considered to be quite intimidating for women as a category and this makes for an excellent opportunity to invite women to the brand.
That caused responses that said a woman on the bottle is not needed for them to drink what’s inside.
Others felt that the harsh criticism was taken too far. One tweet said first there are complaints about brand logos being so male-centric, and then someone like Jane Walker is introduced and many cry foul that the company is trying too hard.
Johnnie Walker has said it is donating $1 for every bottle sold of the Jane Walker Edition to organizations championing women’s causes up to a $250,000 limit.