How Absolut Became the #1 Premium Vodka in the World

Monique Danao
Monique Danao
June 29, 2017
2 min read
How Absolut Became the #1 Premium Vodka in the World

In this article

Absolut can be found all over the world.

From a night out in Singapore to a beach bar in Miami, you'll be sure to enjoy an Absolut Vodka.

But, Absolut did not originally dominate the industry.

In the 1980s, the brand only had  2.5% of the vodka market and sold about 10,000 bottles.

Fast forward to 2017 and Absolut is leading the pack. It is the #1 premium vodka in the world and the #1 vodka in Global Travel Retail. It also sold 10.9 million cases worldwide.

How did the brand dominate the industry? For starters, it launched a series of creative and artistic promotional campaigns to capture the world's attention.

1. Launched 1,500 different print ads of the Absolut Bottles

absolut vodka print ads

Absolut became an iconic bottle when it piqued the interest of Andy Warhol, who created Absolut's famous print campaign in 1986. According to the Absolut Book: The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story, the campaign began when:

“Over dinner one night, Warhol tells Michel [Roux] that he’s enthralled by the artfulness of the Absolut bottle. He reminds him that while he doesn’t drink alcohol, he sometimes uses Absolut as a perfume . . . Warhol proposes painting his own interpretation of the Absolut Vodka bottle . . . When Warhol was finished, [Roux] loved it and thought it would make a great Absolut ad.”

After the campaign, the brand collaborated with various artists who depicted Absolut bottles in unique and creative ways. The print campaign became so successful that the brand launched 1,500 separate ads over the course of 25 years!

Before the campaign, Absolut had 2.5% of the vodka market and sold 10,000 cases. After the campaign ended in the late 2000s, Absolut imported 4.5 million cases per year and had 50% of all imported vodka in the US.

So, what's the moral of the story?

Differentiate your product's presentation in a variety of ways and create a product that feels unique and one of a kind. By doing so you'll be tugging on people's scarcity mindsets, the results may just surprise you.

2. Absolut Nights - created unforgettable brand experiences

Absolut launched "Absolut Nights" events to give their consumers an unforgettable night.

”Over the past year, we’ve been able to engage firsthand with our consumers while seeding the definition of what it means to have an Absolut Night—a night built on epic moments of reinvention and imagination—through a series of worldwide events and multi-faceted advertising, PR and digital campaigns,” Nicholas Guastaferro, Absolut’s director of marketing, said in an interview.

The campaign was accompanied by a series of digital ads.

In the 30-second video, "Anthem," the video narrates how their consumer's passion for absolute nights inspire them to create vodka with absolute quality.

In the second video, "Make Your Nights #AbsolutNights" the video narrates how #AbsolutNights are unforgettable nights that truly connect you with the people around you.

"By infusing the unexpected into the ordinary, ‘Absolut Nights’ aims to inspire nightlife lovers to use the night as their canvas to explore what the future of nightlife looks like,” said Joao Ramirez, VP of Marketing.

3.  "Absolut deadmau5," - created a virtual reality gaming app

What if you combined vodka, VR, and electronic dance music all in one game?

This is exactly what Absolut did when it partnered with Grammy-nominated electronic music producer, "Absolut deadmau5," to create a virtual reality gaming app.

Game players take the role of Deadmau5 and go on an epic night out. They begin their adventure in a garage and they play several interactive mini-games in a dance club or a concert. Along the way, they dodge crazed fans and security guards, with the assistance of Meowingtons or cats.

"That was an experiment to get our feet wet with VR and see what we could do with the boundaries of the technology, and still do something close to our heart with nightlife,"Afdhel Aziz , director of Absolut Labs said.

The brand partnered with Deadmau5 because he was a fanatical gamer with 3.6 million Twitter followers.

"Deadmau5 was very closely involved in the creative direction of the whole thing," Aziz said. "He went back and reworked the track once he saw the visuals. He knew the kind of vibe we wanted."

The free game could be played with VR headsets such as Facebook's Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR headsets. For gamers on a tight budget, the game could also be played on a customized Google Cardboard viewer that costs $17.95.

4. Collaborated with Artists to Create Art Bars

artist collaboration

Absolut has partnered with artists to create Art Bars. These pop-up art bars are located around the world and feature Absolut's logo and alcohol.

"A Grain of Sand" Art Bar by Caravan features a desert landscape installation built from recycled cardboard and paper materials. Caravan is composed of artists such as Ivan Parati, Mohammad Shameel and Emanuela Corti.

“Absolut offered us the incredible opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the project and develop a complete concept from the furniture to the menu. As designers, we have enjoyed the unique experience of being part of a vibrant team and atmosphere!" said Artist Ivan Parati.

absolut vodka
Image: Absolut

Another installation is "Night Court" by Ry Rocklen. It is located at Art Basel, Miami Beach. It was inspired by tropy modern furniture and built out of trophy parts.

“Night Court is at once a bar, a performance venue, a sports arena and a showroom for Rocklen’s new line of furniture, ‘Trophy Modern’” states the Absolut website.

By creating artistic art bars, Absolut is able to grab the attention of its customers through organic means.

5. Launched LGBTQ-themed Absolut bottles

Absolut Pride Rainbow

Absolut's decision to take pride in diversity has led the brand to launch limited-edition LGBTQ-themed bottles.

The bottles feature brushstrokes of a rainbow flag. The brush strokes are intended to convey a handmade look,  which is consistent with the brand's artistic heritage.

"Absolut’s bold creativity and historical championing of the LGBTQ community has always been its point of difference, and with this year being the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, we’re proud to promote diversity once again,” said Adam Boita, head of marketing at Pernod Ricard UK.

The new Absolut bottle will be released in July 2017 in 6 x 70cl cases.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve learned from Absolut’s success:

  • Differentiate your brand
  • Launch unforgettable brand experiences
  • Use virtual reality
  • Collaborate with artists
  • Support an advocacy
Monique Danao
Monique Danao

Monique Danao is a writer and content creator with an expertise in marketing and SEO. When she's not writing, you'll find her enjoying funky food, listening to music and marketing startups.

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