We appreciate that vodka is a crowded and competitive category, so we can't blame Van Gogh Blue for embarking on a new campaign to woo women. We're just not convinced that the ads will appeal to the target demo, assuming they're going after career women, as the print campaign aims to titillate (exhibit A, right).
The vodka brand's pitch to women in the 25-44 demo is “You, unbottled.” We'd love to know who "You" is, and if this provocative and cheeky campaign will seriously attract women to choose Van Gogh Blue next time they order a greyhound — maybe Van Gogh would prefer they order a dirty vodka (martini)?
Another ad features a woman with long legs, martini glass in hand, and the caption: “I like my vodka straight but my friends can go either way.”
Of course, the branding strategists at Van Gogh would argue that they're just trying to “stand out in the clutter and glut,” as Jonathan Bleiberg, COO and president of Van Gogh vodka and gin distributor Luctor International tells the New York Times.
He also blogged about the campaign, "leave the kids with the babysitter, and join the party." So this is aimed at moms?
Clearly, there's a disconnect with the Van Gogh vodka brand, which bears the tagline "Creating a masterpiece one bottle at a time" and the new campaign trying to lure women to its Blue variety. The 80-proof triple wheat vodka bills itself as a premium brand, priced around $27 per bottle in the US.
“It’s exceptionally smooth, but there are a lot of vodkas that are exceptionally smooth. I play in a field of giants. I don’t have the marketing resources and the money,” says Bleiberg, referring to competitors like Grey Goose, Ketel One and Belvedere.
Focus groups in Ohio, South Florida and Georgia to solicit candid feedback from women with questions such as “what do you like to do when you let your hair down? How do you let off steam?” They also organized in-home parties to gauge attitudes about drinking and defining a ‘ladies’ night out.’
Subsequently presented by the agency to management in a Van Gogh Behavioral Scrapbook, the results were “eye-opening.” Women crave escape from everyday roles and want to feed “the fun, silly, colorful and sometimes wild side of their identities; feel like themselves before the real world got in the way; and remember that “underneath the social roles, women are still women.”
Women are heavy social media users, so the Scrapbook cited Facebook examples like: “O.M.G. I So Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Gonna Sell My Kids, which has almost 111,000 people who like it, and It Wasn’t My Fault, the Vodka Made Me Do It, with more than 217,600 people who like it.”
Naturally, Van Gogh is also trying to reach women on its Facebook page, and on Twitter, where it recently tweeted: “@TeresaBasich Next time you want vodka, may I suggest a Cosmojo? http://ow.ly/2nRgO. It's like sippin' sweet liquid courage.”
The brand's hot-pink Twitter page features a bio location of "Ladie's Night" and describes itself as: “Come unbottled with the only triple wheat premium vodka that’s guaranteed to be smoother than most of the men you meet out at the bars. Okay, all.”
If it's trying to become the alcohol brand of choice for the post-Cosmo-imbibing, post-Sex and the City sophisticated women's crowd, the effect is more of a cheesy pick-up line delivered at one of those ladies' nights it's trying to infiltrate.
The agency behind the campaign, Engauge, sees it as liberating. “There is a need for women to shed their everyday roles,” says David Grzelak, Engauge's executive director for behavioral brand planning. “By going out, you shed the suburban wardrobe of mom or the professional wardrobe of work and bring out the fun, colorful side.”
OK, OK, we get it. Van Gogh Blue, "You" want to be edgy, playful, and generate buzz. Heck, if Perrier can be a tease, why not vodka? But as Volvo recently found in Europe, billing your brand as naughty can sometimes come to naught. And your pick-up lines need a little more finessing - think suave, like this guy.