Posted by Abe Sauer on May 20, 2011 04:00 PM
In the crowded marketplace of premium vodkas, a brand really needs to do something special to stand out. For example, a brand can get attention by being the choice of our future sexbots, or as the go-to brand of "vodka eyeballers." Other brands focus more on the bottle than what's inside.
Russian Standard, now planning a push into the US market, has gone all out to create a game of Russian Roulette… on Facebook. But how Russian is Russian roulette?
Introduced in 1998, Russian Standard has been quite successful of late, reporting a 45% increase in sales between 2009 and 2010. Much of that growth occurred in Asia markets such as Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. When the brand introduced a $190 limited edition super premium brand called Imperia Tsar Alexander III at the Hong Kong international airport, the bottles were practically gone before they even hit the shelf.
Meanwhile, Russian Standard dominates at home, claiming well over half the premium vodka market share in Russia. Cracking the American market, where it's now rolling out Russian Standard Gold to duty-free shops, will take a slightly different approach as the US market for $100 bottles of vodka is nearly nonexistent.
The brand's marketing VP has said the company "will invest heavily to bring Russian Standard Vodka’s American market penetration to be commensurate with Western Europe and Russia." To that end, the brand has retained Colorado agency TDA_Boulder to assist in its push into the States.
Russian Standard's brand positioning is "Russia, Russia and more Russia." It's even gone to far as to pick a fight with Stolichnaya by questioning that brand's true Russian-ness.
Now comes word of a high-concept digital campaign that would drive awareness of its Facebook presence: virtual Russian roulette. The social game pits Facebookers against one another in a round of the infamous, deadly game. The "loser's" Facebook account is "executed" and he or she would become virtually dead… or dead, virtually.
At this time the Facebook Russian roulette game appears to be a concept only. But there's no reason to think it wouldn't be wildly popular if formally launched.
The greater concern is if such a game properly represents the Russian Standard brand. Russian Roulette is about as Russian as fortune cookies are Chinese. So while the idea itself is creative, does its fratboyishness really fit the high end image at which Russian Standard is shooting? The United States is already full of stunt booze branding.