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Sunday
Jan122014

Duty Free Observations

One of my favorite parts of international travel is perusing the liquor department at the airport's duty free shop. It's neat to see weird expressions of brands you know and check out what's available that you normally can't get back at home. One thing that really impressed me about the Cancun duty free shop was the Johnnie Walker Royal Route display. Diageo and Johnnie Walker released what I thought was one of the worst booze advertisements last Spring during Mad Men season. However, their attempt to market their duty free line of Explorers' Club blends is absolutely genius. To me, anyway. It depends on what kind of marketing you're susceptible to. You might be more of an outdoorsy, kayaking, North Face type. Or you might be a classic, old school, whisky and a cigar guy. Personally, I romanticize the jet-setting, globe-travelling, well-dressed businessman. I like to pretend I am one of these guys sometimes. The billboard above was practically calling my name.

"That's me!" my inner child screamed out inside my head. "I have all of those things when I travel: shave kit, iPhone, 35mm camera, nice ties, a leather-bound journal for whisky notes, sunglasses, headphones, and whatnot. The only thing missing is the bottle of Johnnie Walker!" When you head inside to the display it's set up like a lounge in the middle of the store with a girl holding a tray of samples next to a big leather chair. It's called the Explorers' Club: based off the journeys of famous historic explorers, designed for men in constant search of modern-day adventure (the most recent release being The Royal Route). I didn't try the whiskies (as I had gum in my mouth), but I didn't need to. I was sold already. I needed to complete the set. I needed to start with that new Royal Route release. But my inner adult knew when I got home I wouldn't really want it, having 100 other open bottles already. "Sigh," I said in defeat. "Let's go wait by our gate, honey."

Every single one of us is succeptable to marketing in some way. Newbies often gravitate towards connoisseurship and pointed reviews because they want to be in the know. Super geeks usually hate on all marketing because they're too smart to be duped in their mind. But there are, of course, all kinds of brands that market towards that "Hey, we can see you know what you're talking about" type of drinker, too. It's a nice little ego rub. In this case, Johnnie Walker nailed my own internal weakness concerning fashion and travel on the head. I love dressing up in suits and doing whisky business abroad. This whisky made total sense! It made me question who I was by forcing me to ask myself, "Can I really be as cool as I hope to be without that bottle of Royal Route in my suitcase?" It had all the right romantic elements. I don't really care how it tastes, to be honest. I just like what it represents (on the billboard, at least).

Well played.

-David Driscoll