Blog: Andy MortonTFWA - Diageo prepares for a travel retail journey

Andy Morton | 25 October 2012

Diageo's global travel retail head, Roland Abella, was in a bullish mood last night (24 October).

“I like to take risks,” he said at the unveiling in Cannes of the Johnnie Walker Explorers Club Collection, his company's biggest travel retail launch. “If we fail, then we will learn from it. But, I hope we won't.”

He's unlikely to fail with the Explorers Club, a premium blended Scotch range exclusive to the travel retail sector that claims to tap into the “romance of travel”. The question is: why has it taken Diageo so long to come up with a collection like this?

As Abella said, the strategy in travel retail today is differentiation; trying to give the target Asian and Russian airline passengers something they can't get at home.

Aside from the question of whether non-Western cultures can identify with the Victorian-tinged view of travel Diageo is peddling with its Silk Road, Royal Route and Gold Route lines in the Explorers Club, the collection ticks all the modern boxes. The packaging is colourful, it comes with an off-the-peg story behind it and it's expensive, from US$43 to $159.

After the launch, Abella told just-drinks that “geographies don't mean anything anymore”, highlighting Diageo's one-size-fits-all approach to travel retail and why this new collection is being released in all global markets.

That's not a view shared across the Scotch industry. Morrison Bowmore Distillers said yesterday that regional market trends do seep into travel retail, but it'll no doubt work for the Explorers Club, especially with the marketing clout of Diageo behind it.

"This is our big play for the foreseeable future," said Diageo's Global travel and Middle East marketing director, Steve White. It appears then, that Diageo is setting sail on its own journey.

Fetch me my binoculars. 


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