Vodka brands seek individuality through entertainment

The global appetite for vodka shows no sign of abating any time soon with 3.8 billion litres sold globally in 2012. Eastern Europe accounted for a sizable 2.2 billion litres (1.6 billion in its native Russia), while sales in the US are equally buoyant, quite literally, as the sector sold the equivalent of 240 Olympic sized swimming pools full of the distilled beverage last year (around 35% of the spirits market).

However, with so many brands on the market – from the growing raft of premium and super premium brands to the boom in flavoured vodka (milk vodka anyone?) - all vying for the limited attention spans of an audience that has moved beyond traditional advertising mediums, netting a point of differentiation increasingly requires brands to ingrain themselves at the heart of consumer’s passion points.

We noted a key correlation between the highest selling vodka brands and music last year, and as the sector continues to expand we are noting a concerted push into broader areas of entertainment, from music and film to art and design, as the key players look to align with content, curators and the creative class to infuse their product with a hefty dose of individuality.

We've seen Stoli Vodka's ORGNL TV platform developing curated content with help from musicians, designers and sculptors, Vodka O supporting independent film in Australia and  Smirnoff searching for new DJ talent via its Masters of the Mix program. However, that is just the tip of the vodka infused entertainment iceberg. 

Here we look at a few recent promos that have taken a distinctively creative, and often brave, route when it comes to content marketing...

NEFT - MUSIC VIDEO PLACEMENT

The Russian-Austrian vodka brand has a massive viral hit on its hands after leveraging a smart slice of product placement at the heart of an ultra violent music video. The short film - shot from the POV perspective you’d normally associate with first person video games - acts as the music video for the band 'Biting Elbows' and follows one man’s journey of graphic destruction in a film that, quite intentional, holds no punches. Branding is kept to a minimum, with Neft Vodka being used to clean a wound early in the video and popping up for a blink and you’ll miss it logo placement on the side of a plane towards the film’s end.

Brand benefits: This is a brave alignment with both film, music and in many ways video game culture, with the 18+ nature of the decidedly NSFW video used to propel it to a staggering 10 million views online. Not one for the faint hearted, but it’s unquestionably a bold use of creative content. 

ABSOLUT - CROWDSOURCED BOTTLE DESIGN

Absolut has a long and established history of aligning with both music and art, especially when it comes to developing limited edition packaging. Notable bottles have featured the iconic and varied work of artists from Andy Warhol to Jamie Hewlett, however, its most recent promo saw the brand handing over creative control of its bottle to fans for the first time. Teaming up with the 2.1 million strong online creative crowdsourcing community Threadless, the brand actively sourced creative concepts for its new limited edition Chicago bottle. The winner not only netted a part of a design linage that dates back three decades, but also received $10,000 and a pass to attend the VIP launch party of the new flavour.

Brand benefits: According to research around 40% of Millennial consumers want to co-create products with brands, and this sidestep away from ‘traditional’ artist endorsement towards a community of creatives see the brand playing directly into the growing ‘Maker’ trend online.

KETEL ONE - GIF ARTIST

The Diageo owned vodka brand recently also turned its attention to the world of art, teaming up with UK street artist INSA on an innovative graffiti project. Tapping into the animated Gif and Vine trend each of the hand created images were photo captured and converted into the world’s first animated ‘Gif-ti’ as part of the brand’s international 'Do One Thing Well’ campaign. The resulting work was used is an in-bar projection at a special launch with additional behind-the-scenes footage charting its creation also released online.

Brand benefits: Ketel considered its placement well here, taking its quirky spin on Graffiti to the heart of Amsterdam’s arts district, Roest with a credible artist in tow. Channeling creativity to showcase and celebrate the passion and skill required to achieve success in a given discipline is cleverly utilised here to echo the distilling expertise behind the brand’s heritage. 

CRYSTAL HEAD VODKA - ROLLING STONES PARTNERSHIP

Dan Aykroyd (he of Blues Brothers/Ghostbusters fame) spends a solid three months of the year out and about promoting his quadruple-distilled vodka brand, helping push the product across 30 countries to the tune of 3 million bottles sales.  Utilising its unmistakable skull bottle to full effect Crystal Skull has teamed up with The Rolling Stones as official vodka brand of the iconic rockers 50th anniversary, developing a bespoke gift pack for die hard fans. The strictly limited pack comes complete with albums, a decanter embossed with the Stones’ Lips imagery and other one-off additions.

Brand benefits: what is key here is how the brand, via a relatively simple limited packaging deal, has aligned with both the musical passion and the deep heritage of the band. This serves to imbue the only six year old brand with roots in the groups’ six decade spanning career, making the product seem much more deeply ingrained in the echelons of rock iconography that its years actually allow.

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