Absolut Nightlife Evolution: 5 Questions With Nicholas Guastaferro, Absolut US

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Absolut is continuing its quest to re-establish the brand as a nightlife bellwether. A new iteration of its two-year-old Absolut Nights marketing campaign features video ads that focus on millennials’ nightlife activities and the launch of its HOPPR mobile party-networking app in Los Angeles in addition to its original nexus in New York City.

One element of the campaign is a 30-second ad that shows customers enjoying nightlife activities such as watching fireworks and drinking—with a voiceover that begins: “You know those nights? They’re the nights that become a day… Absolut Nights.”

So in contrast to last year’s Absolut ads, which focused on actual pop-up nightlife experiences in New York, Johannesburg, Berlin and Sao Paulo, “We’re moving away from talking about what it means to have an Absolut Night and asking consumers to tell us what Absolut means to them,” Nicholas Guastaferro, Absolut director of marketing in the US, told brandchannel. “We’re making it much more personal.”

Guastaferro wants to evolve, not significantly change, the direction of the Absolut Nights positioning because it seems to be helping the brand: Sales by the Pernod Ricard-owned, iconic vodka brand have been ticking up lately in the US after declines in each of the previous two years.

brandchannel talked with Guastaferro about the evolution of Absolut Nights and the brand’s overall progress in the US:

bc: Tell me about Absolut’s improving sales performance lately.

Nicholas Guastaferro Absolut

Nicholas Guastaferro: We’ve been excited about the brand’s performance, and we attribute quite a bit of it to the focus around Absolut Nights. It’s been a rallying call for the brand and has helped us translate the brand for on- and off-premise customers. Over the past 24 months, our sales are up by 5.8 percent in [states that bureaucratically control liquor sales] and up 2 percent in Nielsen measurements. The control states’ figures come in earlier.

bc: How are you evolving the campaign now to keep the momentum going?

Guastaferro: We are showing a greater range of usage occasions and moving away from the brand perspective to show consumers telling their stories. This is more relatable to a lot of consumers. We also are placing a lot of emphasis on the social perspective, and launching our own digital platforms as part of that.

For instance, this includes the launch of the HOPPR platform. We’re having runaway success with that. We did a soft launch in late November and early December in New York around the holiday party season, and we just relaunched two weeks ago with a continued focus on reaching out to digital influencers.

Absolut HOPPR

bc: Is HOPPR still just in New York?

Guastaferro: HOPPR is to party going and party throwing what Tinder is to dating: It bridges the online and offline world. It helps you go to new parties and new places. At the Coachella festival in Palm Springs [Calif.], we just continued what we did in New York, with influencers, and with the VIP parties that surround the festival, and with headliners such as Calvin Harris and Guns n’ Roses. It was an absolute destination for the urban creative millennial, with lots of parties, and we were very much a part of it.

We invited consumers who otherwise couldn’t have attended those events to go in through HOPPR. We’re driving inclusivity and hoping to instigate a more open world…across borders, barriers and labels. It was an opportunity for us to launch in LA. We’re formally rolling out there in May, but we’re already building and transacting.

Absolut

bc: Some reports say that one reason for Absolut’s sales recovery in the US has been less emphasis on new flavors you’ve introduced in recent years and more focus on Absolut Original. Is that right?

Guastaferro: We continue to focus on Absolut Original. Category flavors became very broad and played in a number of different taste segments, some of which were very confectionary. We’ve decided to focus on Original and our core citrus flavor range that includes citron, mandarin and ruby red. It’s a great way to tell our quality story and play to our heritage of having created the citrus segment in the category. So we’ll focus on our existing flavors there and, down the road, on innovations there.

For example, hibiscus flavor plays a strong role in our portfolio, too, because it’s a great tool for bartenders but we’re focusing there on the right product with the right influencers. From a trend and communications perspective, however, we’re focusing around citrus flavors and Original.

Also, along with where a lot of urban millennials are going these days, we’ve launched a product through measured rollout, Oak by Absolut, which is essentially a barrel-rested vodka [blended from] three different types. It delivers a subtly smoky flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel, and each barrel adds to the unique taste profile. It allows us to connect with consumers who are loyal to vodka but who are experimenting with different flavor profiles and branching out to some brown spirits.

Absolut

bc: I noted that you will be releasing another TV commercial this summer that refers to your “one source” story about how every bottle of Absolut sold around the world is made from what’s harvested, distilled and produced in a small town in Sweden. Why does that remain an important part of your brand story?

Guastaferro: Quality is inherent to what we are as a brand. Over the past 12 months, we’ve leveraged influencers who are “makers” to tell our quality story, such as a bitters maker, a chef, and someone who does bespoke clothing. It’s relatable to their followers because they’re already going to this influencer for quality.

The new TV commercial will be effective in bridging the quality message to our Absolut Nights campaign: Starting with a quality product means you’re able to deliver an impactful night. And we’re bridging both worlds from a communications perspective—one goes nicely into the other. It’s a seamless spot that connects with nightlife but begins with a quality product.

Absolut Electrik bottle


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