ABSOLUT Vodka’s advertising campaign is one of the most successful and longest running consumer products campaigns in the history of advertising. The original concept, created by Art Director Geoff Hayes in a bathtub, and perpetuated by several creative notables, has managed to stand the cruel test of time and create the 3rd largest-selling liquor brand on the globe. How has this campaign lasted so long?
On a rational basis, one can cite the fact that for thirty years the campaign has enhanced ABSOLUT Vodka's imagery and profitability. I’m certain also, that on the emotional side, the concept has motivated brilliant creative people to find other breakthrough avenues of execution within the confines of the brand’s advertising tenets. After all, this campaign is a work of art and the collection of ads has become a part of this generation’s pop culture.
Sometimes it is the marketers themselves that prematurely bring advertising campaigns to premature conclusions. Marketers operate in a dynamic world. Whenever they change companies, they want to put their mark on their new company’s brands. This often leads to change for change’s sake. I’ve seen this happen time and time again, (never on my watch). It takes a tenacious marketer (or that marketer’s tenacious boss) to stick to a proven success formula. There is always the argument that “we should fix it before it breaks.” Not in this case.
So what is it that makes ABSOLUT, Absolute? The longevity of the campaign, in my view, is not attributable to the long list of outstanding Brand Managers, Copywriters and Art Directors, notwithstanding their immeasurable contributions along the way. The ultimate credit lies within the management and culture of Sweden’s V&S Group (owners until 1998) and ABSOLUT’s acquirer, Pernod Ricard. The most senior executives of these two companies found the will and the way to push forward with strategic consistency, keeping the campaign fresh and relevant to the target group.
For V&S’s strategic guidance and tenacity, they received $8.9 billion from Pernod Ricard in the transaction. ABSOLUT could not have found a better replacement brand custodian. Here’s a clue to the French liquor-maker’s culture, from their annual report: “We will continue to raise our game so that creativity and innovation are the heart of our model. In ABSOLUT, creativity drives excellence — more inventive than ever, ABSOLUT remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration and passion the world over for the most demanding artists and consumers.”
Last year, in a stagnant market, Pernod Ricard sold over 10 million cases of ABSOLUT Vodka, +6% in volume and +6% in net sales. Well deserved, I say.