In 2012, Absolut worked with electric dance music trio Swedish House Mafia to create what would become an incredibly popular music video that, more than two years later, racked up over 41 million views on YouTube. Despite the numbers, the vodka giant doesn’t view the campaign as a branded slam dunk.
By some metrics, Absolut Greyhound’s marketing effort has worked. âIt has become extremely exciting, dynamic, fun, premium and cool content,â said Jonas TÃ¥hlin, Vice President of Global Marketing at Absolut. Fast business. âIt has become a resounding success on social media. “
To call it a failure would be too hard, he added. âI would never say that,â he said. âI would say I don’t think we’ve been particularly perceptive about this. It’s just cool. It doesn’t tell you about the brand.
Absolut did, however, think of its brand when creating the ad, an evolution of its long-standing collaboration with musicians and artists. Vodka took off in the United States thanks to its presence at Studio 54 in New York in the 1980s. There, the now iconic bottle caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who created the first of many commissioned Absolut works of art in 1986. The story via Absolut Book: The History of Absolut Vodka Advertising goes:
Over dinner one evening, Warhol said to Michael [Roux] that he was captivated by the trick of the Absolut bottle. He reminds her that if he doesn’t drink alcohol, he sometimes uses Absolut as a perfume. . . Warhol offers to paint his own interpretation of the Absolut Vodka bottle. . . When Warhol was done, [Roux] Loved it and thought it would make a great Absolut publicity.
It was the beginning of the collaboration with artists for Absolut’s famous print advertising campaign, which lasted over 25 years. But in a digital, interactive world, relying on a legacy of print media has started to feel too secure, and the company has ended curmudgeon CopyRanter advertising. called âBest print campaign in advertising historyâ in 2007.
TÃ¥hlin points to the media house of Red Bull as the inspiration for the new management. Many brands have since followed the success of Red Bull’s efforts by launching their own media studios and creating original content.
Collaborating with a music artist for the Absolut Greyhound campaign, the vodka company ventured into the world of content marketing, while staying true to its DNA. Unfortunately, the clip didn’t say enough about Absolut. A lot of people who watched the clip believed Absolut paid for product placement. Others had no idea that without the vodka maker, neither the song nor the video would exist.
What was a very popular video was not a very powerful branding message. âSometimes you have to distinguish between what is content that looks cool and content that builds the brand,â TÃ¥hlin said. Absolut Greyhound did not.
Going forward, Absolut is focusing on what it calls an âexperiential strategyâ. Instead of ordering something static, like a YouTube video, the vodka maker asks artists to create experiments. Given that Absolut already has a strong connection to nightlife, having artists host club-type events – where Absolut Vodka drinks are served, of course – will leave a lasting mark on consumers.
The first incarnations of this strategy are the Art Bars, a nod to Studio 54 jours. The artists have one directive: to create the best bar ever for Absolut. So far, artists such as Ry rocklen and Charli xcx have created pop-up bars at Art Basil and SXSW.
The connection to Absolut is most evident in the bars, which are branded with the Absolut logo and filled with Absolut alcohol. Creating a living art project also attracts people to the brand as they remember the interesting experience. This, TÃ¥hlin argues, is more indelible than some 41 million people watching a YouTube video. âAs a brand you cannot create freshness,â he said. “You have to be relevant and real, and that’s not what we did with the video.”