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Raising (And Stocking) The Bar

Raising (And Stocking) The BarA Tufts Grad Is Helping The World's Largest Spirits Company Reign Supreme At Bars Across The Globe. London.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.07.01] John Keenan takes his drinks seriously -- and for good reason. For the last six years, the Tufts graduate has been the caretaker for some of the world's top brands in alcohol, including Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Baileys, Guinness and Tanqueray. How did Keenan make the world's top labels even stronger? He raised the bar.

"I feel truly blessed to lead a company with such brands," Keenan told a London newspaper. "Johnnie Walker was the first global brand, long before Coca-Cola was out of the U.S."

An executive director at Diageo, Keenan heads the international company's drinks division. His group controls nearly 25 percent of the spirits market in the U.S. alone, leading London's Sunday Times to joke that "Jack Keenan has the largest drinks cabinet in the world."

The newspaper is right.

With over 35 labels, spanning spirits, liqueurs, beer and wine, Diageo is considered the largest -- and one of the most successful -- spirits companies in the world.

But the Tufts grad -- who served as CEO of Kraft Foods International prior to taking the job at Diageo -- has been focused on "raising the bar" even further since taking his post.

His strategy has involved revamping the image of some Diageo's most recognized products.

In 1999, Keenan pumped millions of dollars into updating the image of the company's top whiskey label -- Johnnie Walker. Rolled out in 40 countries, the new campaign revamped Johnnie Walker's trademark logo as part of a strategy to update the whiskey for an audience of young people in their 20s and 30s.

According to a Scottish newspaper, Keenan's group "turned traditional whiskey advertising on its head."

The international campaign was just the beginning for the company, which planned similar initiatives for its other labels including J&B, Tanqueray and Malibu, reported the Guardian.

Most recently, the company spiced up its Smirnoff label, launching a new product called Smirnoff Ice. The campaign -- believed to be the most successful launch in the Diageo's history -- paid off for Keenan and his colleagues.

This week, Diageo -- which also owns Burger King and Pillsbury -- announced that its profits rose by 25 percent, powered in large part by the success of Keenan's division, reported London's Financial Times.

Another high note in Keenan's career, the announcement comes just a month before the 65-year-old Tufts grad officially retires from Diageo.

But don't expect him to slow down.

Tomkins PLC -- a global engineering company based in London -- just announced Keenan's appointment to its Board. In July, one of the U.K.'s leading retailers, Marks and Spencer, also appointed Keenan to a board position.

Images courtesy of Diageo www.diageo.com

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