How Johnnie Walker extended its The Journey series to India

Mission Mars

Johnnie Walker for the first time in its history added an Indian narrative to it’s The Journey storyline. Titled Mission Mars, the brand film is a retelling of India’s greatest space expedition through the eyes of debutant director, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na fame Imran Khan.

“While I was doing the media rounds for Mission Mars, out of around 12-14 journalists I interacted with only 2 knew that Mangalyaan is on the Rs 2,000 notes. All of us have been using this currently without even realizing it. And that’s what exactly the point of this movie is”, asserts Khan. 

In these past four years, our country has achieved something massive and monumental and he feels that all of us should be very proud of this. “We won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 and people are still singing and dancing about it. How about we look at another commendable achievement now. For me, it’s ridiculous that people don’t celebrate this win successful mission.” 

Story behind the story

On September 24, 2014, the Mars Orbiter successfully started circling the planet, marking India’s first venture into the interplanetary space. Inspired from these true events and on the eve of Mangalyaan’ 4th anniversary, Johnnie Walker launched the film on Mission Mars which not just shows the country’s technological progress but also its spirit of possibility and commitment to believing in the impossible. ‘Mission Mars’ is the extension of Keep Walking India celebrating India’s progress and this film produced by Karan Johar and Dharma 2.0.

Insight behind the campaign

When Johnnie Walker set out to do this campaign they were essentially looking for the story of great human progress which is relevant to local culture and something that will connect with the Indian masses. The thought was pushing boundaries of whatever possible, keeping hope and optimism alive and going beyond what stands as ordinary.

abhishek shahabadi“We realized that there is no better way to connect with audiences than local narrative. We have done in the past and continue to do the campaigns around, we thought that this is the right time we need to connect with the consumers that strikes a chord with them and are proud of it. Apart from the brand messaging,  we were looking for a story that India can be proud of,” shares Abhishek Shahabadi, Head of Marketing for the Luxury and Premium Core Portfolio of Diageo India. 

Also Read: Ching’s ‘Captain Ching Rises’ bizarreness has worked for it loudly: Experts

Imran Khan on directing Mission Mars

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Khan has always been a great admirer of science, technology, and space and was also actively following the Mangalyaan Mission back in 2013, curious to know what would be the next step or new developments. Cut to last year, Punit Malhotra, an old friend of his, both were at a party and conversing about work and plans. At that time he was writing the screenplay for a film. At the same time, Johnnie Walker had come to Dharma wherein they wanted to make an ad film celebrating Mangalyaan.

“Punit asked if I would be interested in helming the film and I immediately said Yes! Later the conversation was initiated by the brand, myself and the production house where I pitched them my vision for it”, quips Khan. 

Shahabadi added, “Imran imbibed the brand purpose very well and he has been able to bring alive the whole proposition of progress.”

The trailer had raked in 25 million views.

The BIG role of Digital 

“Johnnie Walker Mission Mars is a national pride story worth sharing and hence has been digital led. The big pillar of this campaign is social,” informs Shahabadi. It is about driving availability of your brand physically and mentally. The brand looks at building a trademark for Johnnie Walker with brand extension but the objective of marketing is the same – it is all encompassing the whole thing and not only advertising.

In today’s day and age, given the complexity of the media landscape – the challenge for Shahabadi remains the same as for any other brand, how do we engage the consumer on a more personalized basis? 

On Making science sound and look ‘cool’ 

IMRAN KHAN MISSION MARSAs rightly put by Khan there is a tendency by and large that we don’t think fields of science and technology are cool enough. In this modern society, not exclusively to India but around the world we don’t really appreciate people for their intellect. He exclaims, “If someone has an 8 pack ab that impresses, but a craft for some technology doesn’t. I wanted to make this film very cool that people should see it and say WOW. Mission Mars is the story of the people of our country who have accomplished it using indigenously developed hardware and software and without outside assistance.

Content Creation in the digital spectrum 

Since the entire content creation space has experienced a massive change in the last few years, people are consuming content whenever and wherever on Earth they want. Khan finds the concept of going to the theater to watch a film by buying a ticket and paying for parking outdated and ridiculous in this day and age. “Today we watch Narcos which is entirely in Spanish and not in theatres as opposed to the streaming services who charge you Rs 300-400 per month and give you unlimited content on mobile phones. All of us as content creators have to be aware that if we don’t change with the time we’ll get stepped on.” 

With more than 50% of spends on digital, Shahabadi states that their strategy is not pushing the brand to the consumer but how to approach them with the right content in an intelligent manner.


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