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This book is the "official story" of how Absolut Vodka came to be. Carl Hamilton found that publishing this book in Swedish would cost him his job at a prestigious economics institute. When he published an expanded version of a research project based on a research project commissioned by the liquor company, Vin and Spirit, he lost his job at the Stockholm School of Economics. His book credits Absolut's huge popularity to the "little guys" rather than to the suits at large ad agencies. This book is the Liar's Poker of marketing, revealing the sordid stories behind the official one.
Preface Three Swedes Model Man Invisible Bottles Monopoly Games Gunnar Fired Roostal's Theories Hagar's History Smirnoff Country Elusive Importers Bye - Bye Broman Absolut Vodka Almost Perfect Studio Michel's Reward Epilogue
Posted May 1, 2001
In Absolut: Biography of a Bottle, Mr. Hamilton has written a thorough, fascinating account of how one of the most popular brands in the United States was established in the last 22 years. This book is a must read for anyone who has enjoyed the famous Absolut advertising campaign featuring the bottle shape, and those who want to understand more about the process of successful brand building. I was an executive at Heublein, makers of market-leading Smirnoff Vodka, from 1974-1977, and found this story fascinating for how overwhelming odds against success were overcome. In this review, I will add some perspective that the author omitted. Liquor is one of the most difficult areas in which to create a new consumer brand. The hurdles are many. You cannot advertise on television or radio. Most people are not very experimental in the liquor they will try. You cannot go door-to-door dropping off samples like soap powder. Distribution is very expensive and hard to acquire. Establishing profitability with a new brand can take many years, and there are many failures. As a result, the market leader in most categories in 1950 is still the market leading brand today. For imported spirits, the country viewed as the most 'legitimate' historical source always dominated the imported category. For vodka, what country do you think of? Certainly, Sweden was probably not first in your mind in 1978. Absolut was brilliantly developed, but Absolut was also lucky. As the Cold War continued and the Afghanistan War began, Americans had reason to question their ties to Stolychnaya, which had been the leading vodka import. President Reagan's characterization of the U.S.S.R. as an 'evil empire' certainly aided that perceptual shift. Absolut had been established by that time on a brand platform of being different, a classy version of the Marlboro cowboy. The style of the product, the package, and the advertising all 'whispered' to you about being subtly different while all the other vodkas shouted in vibrant colors with gaudy labels in similar bottles. Interestingly, Heublein used a very similar approach to that employed by Absolut with packaging and positioning to build its mustard, Grey Poupon, into the market leader at the same time that the company was ignoring Absolut. The story of Grey Poupon is developed in part in The 2,000 Percent Solution. What is even more remarkable is that Absolut was developed to be an export brand without a base in Sweden by the national Liquor Monopoly there, which had a strong heritage of keeping drinking under control. At many key points in the brand's development, the Swedes took large financial risks with little prospect of success. Who says that government agencies cannot be entrepreneurial? You will enjoy reading about Lars Lindmark who spear-headed this initiative as head of the Monopoly. But the heart and beauty of this story is how the brand platform, positioning, and the rest were established. The results were astonishingly good, but the process was inevitably messy. Most consumers have not thought very much about how brands come to be like our friends. This book lays out many of the best practices involved. Get many of the tWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2001
Posted March 4, 2001