Creative Competition: 5 Questions With Absolut Vodka’s Frida Hyséus


Absolut Creative Competition

Absolut is as well known for its support of the arts as it is for its vodka. And now, the Swedish company that has worked with hundreds of artists has launched the Absolut Creative Competition to search for its next iconic artistic collaborator.

The effort encourages participants from all over the world to create expressions that bring alive Absolut’s brand beliefs.

“This artistic nature is part of our DNA, and we want to continue to be a platform for young creative artists to express their visions,” Frida Hyséus, Global Marketing Manager of Absolut, told brandchannel.

Individuals in 20 countries will compete to have their work displayed in iconic locations like New York City’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus—and to win €20,000 (US$22,820).

To celebrate this campaign and Absolut’s iconic heritage, director Oliver Hudson has created films that cover each decade. Each video ends with the question: Are you next?

brandchannel had the opportunity to speak with Hyséus to learn more about Absolut’s art competition, its brand values and its nontraditional sustainability campaign.

For decades, Absolut has featured incredible art by 550 artists on its bottles. What was the thinking behind the Absolut Creative Competition to design the next bottle? 

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Our artistic collaborations started in 1985, working with Andy Warhol. Ever since, we have collaborated with 550 artists globally, resulting in more than 800 pieces in the Absolut art collection. That collection can now be seen at the Spritmuseum in Stockholm, where they display curated shows as part of our legacy.

The Absolut Creative Competition is about making that platform available to a broader audience globally. We’re opening up the possibility for anyone from the participating countries who can be part of this campaign.

That’s taking the whole artistic collaboration into the future and showing everyone that creativity can come from anywhere.

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Can you share more about how art is a natural extension of the brand and part of your DNA?

For us it’s been a natural thing to team up with people who speak their minds and stand up for what they believe is right.

We are very dedicated when it comes to what we believe in—and we support the LGBT community. We actually think it matters that people should be able to love who they choose to love. So we want to be honest and sincere about this belief—and we want our collaborators to feel the same way. For us, it’s a given that we should stand up for the right things and for equality.

That brand value has been embedded in our DNA, and our collaborators share the same values and beliefs. We don’t tell the artists what to do. One of our recent activations—an Art Bar in collaboration with the Art Basel—is really about giving those artists carte blanche to be creative.

If you allow people to express what they truly believe in, then everything becomes much more truthful.

Absolut Kiss With Pride

Absolut LGBTQ Pride

The first jury member is Aaron Cezar, who is the founding director of the London-based creative talent incubator Delfina Institute. When will the next two judges be announced, and why are you staggering their reveal dates?

I am not able to reveal the names just yet. We will announce the second name on Nov. 15, and the third on December 1. We want to keep everyone excited and returning to visit our website.

But the other jury members are big names in the art world, and we are sure this will create excitement around the global creative community. Absolut will help establish the criteria but we won’t have anything to do with selecting the final winner—the global jury will make that decision.

Over the years, Absolut has established itself as a nightlife brand. Do you have anything in the works for upcoming campaigns or promotions?

We are, of course, a brand that is active in the night life. The Art Bars, for example, took creativity into the nightlife with artists developing the bar experience.

But the whole creative part is equally alive and relevant during the day time. Absolut is a very multi-layered brand that is so much more than just a vodka.

We have campaigns, projects and initiatives coming up and with an expanding portfolio, we are developing products that will continue to be relevant for multiple occasions.

Absolut took brand transparency to a whole new level in your “Vodka With Nothing to Hide” sustainability campaign. How was that effort received, and what were the results?

We’ve had very positive consumer feedback. Talking about how the vodka is produced can be a bit boring, so this was a fun and engaging way to talk about our sustainability practices for making vodka.

The first responses were “Wow, are you really doing it this way?” It also improved the perception of the way we produce our vodka and that we are a sustainable brand.

Another detail: Colleagues of mine literally stripped naked to be in the films. The CEO was featured as well. This shows how passionate we are about the brand and how proud we are of the sustainable way we produce the product.

Even though we’re a big global brand, the company is very local. We use Swedish winter wheat, we have our own well water, and every single bottle that is shipped out into the world is produced and bottled in Sweden. And nearly every family in the region where we produce the vodka has a connection to the brand.

So it’s become really important and very personal.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.