Absolut Vodka has been part of the world’s nightlife scene since it was first poured back in 1879 and in the US since 1979 when it was first imported. Execs of the popular Pernod Ricard brand have been spending lots of time and money in recent years to explore consumer trends and envision the future of entertainment and nightlife, and what role the Absolut brand can play to make it happen.
This past July, Absolut launched Absolut Labs, an idea incubator and think tank. The R&D hub has just released “State of Nightlife,” a report on what’s happening in that world with 100 influential nightlife personalities weighing in.
One finding of its global nightlife study was that people missed house parties, an insight that inspired Absolut to throw an epic one on Oct. 23rd in Los Angeles.
Dubbed the Electrik House, the Los Angeles event was one to remember, with drones shaking up drinks at the bar, a backyard concert from Empire of the Sun—the band featured in its Absolut Nights multi-city global activation (above)—and a statically-charged dance floor that had folks’ hair standing on end.
As part of Absolut Electrik, the vodka brand has produced limited edition bottles in silver and electric blue. According to a press release, the Absolut Electrik House in LA “utilized the energy levels of house guests to unlock a series of epic rooms and experiences including a backyard lit by a larger-than-life electrified Absolut bottle designed by Tesla Motors.”
The LA experience was informed by the 100 influencers Absolut turned to while researching nightlife of the future, including promoters, DJs, entrepreneurs and all manner of creative types.
“Absolut has always been about inclusivity and nightlife ever since its launch in New York City in the Eighties, when clubs like Studio 54 and Area attracted an eclectic crowd—uptown/downtown, black/white, straight/gay—everyone could be equal on the dance floor,” stated Afdhel Aziz, Brand Director of Absolut Labs, in a press release.
— ABSOLUT VODKA (@ABSOLUTvodka_US) October 24, 2015
“At Absolut Labs we’re on a mission to make people’s nights better,” Aziz added. “We’re inspired by this report and hope the industry is, too. We’re looking forward to creating breakthrough products and experiences that surprise and disrupt.”
— ABSOLUT VODKA (@ABSOLUTvodka_US) October 24, 2015
It’s also innovating in other ways beyond memorable nightlife experiences. Absolut Labs gained attention for launching Absolut Reality this summer, the world’s first live-streamed virtual reality concert, which used customized Google Cardboard sets to stream a performance by the band Bob Moses.
“That was our calling card,” Aziz told Fast Company. “To say ‘this is what we’re here to do: We’re here to make nightlife better by using art, music and technology in new and unique ways.'” The Lab is partially focused on technology, how it brings people together and, conversely, keeps them apart by creating a distraction, a barrier to actual human-to-human connection.
Aziz also noted that Absolut’s legacy has been built on advertising in recent decades, but it will be harder to do that in the future.
“What’s driving the next 30 years, in addition to advertising, is going to be experiences and content and technology,” he told Fast Company. “So what this research has given us is a really good roadmap to start looking at all of the areas that Absolut as a brand can invest in. Whether they’re small startups, or our Nightlife 100 influencer community, or the general public, it’s an opportunity for them to say what’s out there, and for us to ask, ‘How do you think we can make nightlife better?'”
And don’t worry if you missed the Absolut party in LA, by the way. It’s hosting Electrik London on November 19, a house party it’s staging in partnership with design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast and independent electronic label R&S Records.
Like the LA event, the London venue’s rooms will be transformed into individual parties so visitors can enjoy a range of experiences throughout the evening, according to DIY mag.
Its limited edition blue and silver bottles will be featured at Electrik London too. As The Quietus notes, “Inspired by the blue and silver chrome bottles of the limited edition Absolut Electrik, the collaborative event looks to find synergy between the unexpected – fusing a familiar concept with a future-facing approach, in the hope of creating a transformative experience for an audience in search (and in need) of something new.”
To be sure, Absolut has a lot on its plate these days. November will also see the release of the first major redesign of its bottle since 1979. To help celebrate, brand ambassador Ricardo Dynan will release the recipes for 12 classic cocktails via social media. (Next thing you know, a drone will be shaking one up a your next house party.)
The brand would like to turn up the beat on its financial fortunes, too. Britain’s The Grocer notes that while sales in the UK are up 15.4 percent to £39.2 million ($60 million) in the year ending in mid-July, it is having a rough time globally, particularly in the US, leading to the brand missing its financial targets for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
While the original Absolut vodka is responsible for around 70 percent of sales, the major growth area for Absolut is its flavored vodka line, which includes Raspberri and Mango. Things aren’t quite as rosy as they were back in 2000 when the brand sold nearly five million cases annually.
However, they aren’t as bad as they were back in 1980 when it sold about 10,000 cases … before the ingenious Absolut branding machine, with its designer-embellished bottles creating a collector frenzy, got under way, Adweek notes.