Branding Absolut® Vodka: A Love Affair 25+ Years in the Making

Stay Relevant: Just Because They Used to Love You, Doesn’t Mean They Always Will

Branding works. Seriously. You should listen to me. I don’t even drink vodka, but these ads have captivated my heart in a way that only fuzzy kittens, Oreo’s, Manolo Blahnik’s and MoroccanOil can – and I actually use those products!

Branding Works.

And here is why this particular campaign worked so well:

  1. Seductive photography. Images so real you wanted to eat the paper! These ads were used for marketing one thing—Vodka. They make vodka. They sell vodka—SELL the vodka. If you don’t have good photography of your product, forget about it. Photography sells.
  2. Clever design that makes you think. Absolut print ads were intriguing. The brand collaborated with various artists who depicted Absolut bottles in unique and creative ways. These ads were also sometimes used to promote multiple flavors which left you wondering “what will they think of next?.” This leads us to #3…
  3. An ongoing campaign that leaves you wanting more. Once you’ve seen one, then another, and then another, you find yourself wanting and waiting for the next Absolut installment.

The ad designs were, like the bottles themselves—flawless. Perfectly simple. Captivating photography, imagery, illustration and one bold, white caption at the bottom of the page—fittingly beginning with the word ‘Absolut’—Every. Single. Time. A smart way to insert their product name into all of the ads, considering these were the only words on the page.

And So It Begins…

Let’s go back to the time when I was helping a friend decorate her own personal speakeasy (the bar in her basement in suburbia). We had gathered up the perfect collection of Colorado river rock to cover the front façade of the bartop. And, I had just etched the coolest sign ever on an antique window pane. Now for the finishing touches—Let’s stock the bar!

My mind was instantly taken back to my days of feverishly seeking out, and collecting all of the cleverly designed Absolut Vodka ads. Never being one to indulge in the drink, I still somehow found myself strangely drawn in by these ads and their enigmatic ways of presenting their product in all their print-ad glory.

So much so, that I even bought a book—yes, a book—that was all about this magnificent elixir, and it’s iconic ad campaign that ran for over 25 years.

Now with my friend’s bar project in full swing, I finally had a creative outlet for my “vodka-laced obsession.” After all, if it was good enough for Andy Warhol, then it was good enough for me! I even toyed with the idea that she should paper the wall with printouts of the iconic ads in a grand collage-like fashion. That idea, sadly, was shot down. With the bottles in-hand and the flavors all neatly lined up in perfect harmony, I felt like I was composing a liquid masterpiece. Ladies and gentlemen, this was one heck of a wall-of-branding. (Not to mention, a great plug for the Absolut folks to anyone who visited this suburban speakeasy!)

Centuries-old inspiration.

That Iconic Bottle

With packaging that was inspired by a centuries-old Swedish medicine bottle, the Absolut bottle is a thing of beauty. Its simplicity is both classic and modern at the same time. No label. No hiding their product. Just bold lettering with subtle hints of color for various flavor distinctions.

Branding Works. So, now what?

Even the most iconic brands can fizzle out if they don’t “keep up with the Jones’.” Your branding needs to stay current and relevant to the times. Once you have the attention of your audience, you have to build on it. Evolve into what they want to see and how they want to see it. Absolut launched their iconic ad campaign series to captivate the world’s attention—now they engage with their consumers on a digital platform with things such as their “Absolut Nights” campaign as well as collaborating with current artists and taking pride in diversity.

Branding works. If it can make me long for a product that I don’t even consume, and then go so far as to purchase that product for mere decorative purposes, then it must work! I’m also a great brand ambassador because I love to reminisce and remind people about the good old days when the print campaign was at its zenith. My enthusiasm will almost certainly entice them to purchase that Absolut Perfection.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this topic, please reach out to the NewPoint team. If you are interested in more food marketing topics, please visit our “Intel” page or check out NewPoint’s book: Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain.