Vodka and Alcohol Branding

This is a discussion that started in the post about starting this thread. The question is How much does brand influence people to buy things and how much of it is the product? Can a product survive without a brand or without good branding? Can a Brand survive without a good product?

I think this a perfect topic to start this new thread off. Please let us know what you think the answers to these questions are and remember by brand we mean everything from the graphics to the merchandising.

Can a brand survive without a good product?

I want to say No, but one item comes to mind…

Absolut Vodka.

You never hear anyone talk about how wonderful Absolut tastes, but it’s continually one of the best selling vodkas on the market. 99% of it has to be brand recognition. I know when I was just getting into drinking hard liquor I grabbed an Absolut bottle thinking it was the best. Not so. But what drove me to that decision? The iconic bottle, the wonderful ads (so many that they made a book) it goes on and on. But the stuff tastes terrible. A Stoli, Grey Goose, et al are easily better tasting yet not as successful in terms of sales volume, although they may be catching up because…

The reason why I want to say No, is that no matter how good your brand is eventually people will realize your product is crap (look at the premium vodka shelf these days…) So successful branding may only draw out the shelf life of your product, but it might allow you to make piles of cash in the mean time.

I agree with NURB, as a general rule, though there are exceptions, a successful brand is usually enough to entice the initial buy/try. But if the product doesn’t back up the brand promise, the consumer’s relationship will end there (or soon after, once the brand halo fades)

Now, what happens when there is a strong brand with a good product, but the product descends into the toilet (Cadillac in the 1980’s ???) How long will loyal customers continue buying based on brand, when they know what they are buying is crap? I think these days, with so many good choices and so many well design products, consumers switch brands like Romeo switched objects of affection. Oh Rosaline! :unamused:

I think that they are not selling taste. Taste isn’t their product (Belvedere?) I think they are selling recognizability. Getting into mixed drinks can be intimidating. Your with friends, in a crowded bar, trying to run your game… the last thing want to do is make some unexpected blunder ordering a drink. Absolute has you covered. That is the product they are delivering I think.

Good point, but that depends on who your friends are :laughing: And once I have a few drinks or 100 under my belt, I can branch out to other brands.

I see your point Yo, and it’s a good one. However, I was only looking at Absolut in terms of branding making the product a success, and not the product itself. With branding like that they could sell a ketchup popsicle to a guy in white gloves, or so they say.

i prefer absolut vodka to smirnoff…While on the topic, i was recently in Prague airport, looking to buy some duty free absinthe before leaving. With no frame of reference (i have never drank absinthe before), and all the costs being similar, i just bought the one that looked the coolest and least pretentious.

this one.

I didn’t understand the text on any of the bottles, but this one just appealed to me.

I meant from the standpoint of the novice drinker. You seem to fall into the well experienced category :wink:

Getting OT…

How much does brand influence people to buy things and how much of it is the product? Can a product survive without a brand or without good branding? Can a Brand survive without a good product?

The branding is the salesman and the product is the product.

This reminds me of a bottle of wine that a waiter brought to our table a week ago…
it had braille on it, and the waiter told us the short and sweet story about why the winery is the only one that does this (something about the daughter of his neighbor is blind)
my friend from across the table says “I’ll take it. I appreciate anything with a story.”

so here, is that product, packaging, or branding? or is it all three?

a brand helps give the product credibility, give the customer a sense of security (warranty, craftsmanship, etc)

a product helps build that credibility (or hurts it for that matter)

I know all Shimano XTR components are going to be good because that brand is consistently near-perfect
however, this is because all my experience with Shimano XTR specific components has been excellent, and now I’m a fan of the brand because of the previous products I’ve used

my thoughts…

A product can succeed without a brand.
A brand cannot succeed without a product

at least a brand that is in the business of selling products, we’re not talking insurance companies.
the brand standing behind the product will help. but if the product is A++, better than its competition, and you’re not lazy getting it “out there” is should sell itself.

Think about your first time using a product that you never heard of before (product name/brand name)…

and that product blew your mind with its design, functionality, how it fit your hand, etc.

For me its almost like its a secret, that no one else knows yet. I’ve discovered it.

you go tell your friends “I just bought this amazing ____, and I love it”

your friends “yeah, I’ve heard of that, I’ve had one for years”

The product alone succeeded before the brand had a chance to play into it.

—For me, it was a SIGG bottle. Some things just miss your radar, and they pop up at a different time than everyone else. I was in Switzerland, and was walking past a little shop- I spotted it in a window and stopped. Walked in, touched it, bought it. I read about the brand and manufacturing process later, and liked it even more.

—same thing with my Goorin Bros hat. I never wore hats my whole life, thought they were all useless. I randomly walked in to a haberdashery, spotted a great product, tried it on, bought it. I had planned to remove the tiny little logo. I went online to see if they had other products, liked the brand, decided to leave the little logo on there.

this is one example

I know many people who will go buy anything with an Apple, Nike, Reebok, Sony, Ford logo on it.
in my opinion how the product/brand affects you personally comes down to intelligent purchasing.

I think this area is called industrial psychology, in fact I’ve heard at least two lecturers refer to the science of why people chose products as this lately. But, industrial psychology also seems to be the psychology of the workplace, similiar to industrial sociology. Does anyone else have any thoughts to confirm or deny this?

A couple books I’ve found on this topic,

predictably irrational, by Dan Ariely

and How We decide by johan lehrer.

I’ve actually been interested in learning about the other bad reasons people choose things, for instance,

I usually eat lunch with the sales guys, and we like to go to this little taco stand called zantigo, the food is average, the decor is lacking, the graphic d of the menu boards is basic at best, but we get super excited about this place. I have been interested in why we are buying into this product experience for seemingly no reason.

I have been interested in why we are buying into this product experience for seemingly no reason.

I got to a very similar joint here in Austin myself.

Perhaps because now it’s “Yours” / it not anybody else’s

I assume its not too well known either, so maybe its “Your secret spot” / the secret aspect making it feel more valuable

is it maybe a primarily Latino owned with Latino customers and you are non-Latino? maybe it feels like an ethnic experience

I for one, love the fact I can go into my spot and not hear a word of English, you have to order in Spanish or you won’t get a thing

as you had mentioned…

the food is average, the decor is lacking, the graphic d of the menu boards is basic at best, but we get super excited about this place.

same with my spot.

I never realized I had emotion connected to this little sh*t hole down the street. I took a friend of mine here, and they stated the facts “the food is OK, this was bad, that was good, that sucked, this was decent” etc.

I took a defensive point (I surprised myself) - defending that generic food and restaurant.


I suppose once we emotionally connect positively to a product/brand, we’re hooked to the brand’s products[/code]

I’m more of a gin man myself :wink:

side note…

Grey Goose is not “the best tasting vodka in the world”.
in my opinion, its not even good.

the marketing behind Grey Goose took an OK tasting vodka, and claimed it was the best, without ever earning the right, or being ranked first, ever.

blind taste test from 20/20 compares…
Ketel One
Hangar One
Stoli Elit
Grey Goose
and one economy brand (Smirnoff)

the groups least favorite was… Grey Goose!

The latest rankings (as of Jan. 2009) placed Russian Standard as the world’s best tasting vodka. Grey Goose came at a six-way tie for 11th.

people are paying too much attention to rappers, advertising, and their peers, while not tasting or thinking for themselves.

I’m normally a whiskey drinker… if and when I ever drink vodka, I buy “3” vodka (no, not 3 olives, just “3”).
its a vodka made from soy, its 80 proof, and is the only vodka in the world to earn a perfect 100-point rating ever recorded.
makes Grey Goose taste like a dirty old potato.

…oh yeah, its like $23-$28 per 750ml bottle

I’m a wodka fan myself Taylor… this had better be good … . . but then it couldn’t be worse than Vodka of the Gods.

Available in 50ml bottles; talk about “branding”!

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that both branding and product design are al about presenting something that is not true. Not lying per se, but adding intended characteristics to a brand/product that may not be actually the case.

Think of it this way - the brand perception of something like Absolut is all about the “good quality, cool, good taste”. In actual fact of course there are better quality and tasting vodkas out there.

Product Design does the same thing. A new nike sneaker or a chair design may be such that the design is made to look faster, lighter, more comfortable than it really is.

In short, I’d say that both branding and design are similar in the goal - to make people buy stuff. The discussion about “what makes people buy stuff” is not correct in the sense that it branding vs. product design, but rather that it is in effect perception vs. reality. Design in any sense (be it branding or product) is all about enhancing or conveying those characteristics that people desire and reducing those that people don’t.

Think of it this way- every design brief out there (again, brand or product) is all about how to make the brand/product be perceived as “X”. This could be making a power tool seem more efficient/safe or making a vitamin company seem green/healthy.

In a way, the entire practice of design is all about persuasion and control of perception.


PS. the whole “best tasting vodka thing” I think is also a red herring. Good vodka should actually have no taste. I’m more a Scotch guy myself, but don’t mind either a Ketel One or Belvedere, Grey Goose should the need be. Absolut is for mixing or cleaning stains out of your laundry at best…

There is something amusing when we all attach emotion to the entire experience. Ikea for example is very good at taking advantage of this, where everyone believes they walk out of an ikea feeling like they got a good deal. Be it run of the mill plates, or blank flat pack furniture, people will seemingly regurgitate the ikea catalog back to you when you ask them why they bought it.

This fanaticism has caused tramplings, stabbings and a woman effectively giving away her child as she got crushed during an opening of an ikea in London. Its amusing to me as it seems if you reiterate something enough, people will believe it. Don’t believe the hype.

I think that a brand has to have some kind of validity or authentication behind it otherwise it would not survive. That being said I do not think that every product under that brand may follow entirely what that brand stands for. Sometimes the idea alone is enough to validate a product in the consumer’s eyes. But once you have established what the brand stands for by some means of authentication some of the products in the lineup can “float” by brand recognition only, with not as strong a core identity to the brand.

With all brands that are successful you can find some product or products that validate that brand to a T but not all of the products. Without having some product that actually has any of the characteristics that brand promises the consumer understands that, and the brand does not have any legs to stand on.

Okay, I’m going to jack this thread again for a moment.

Taylor wins. I bought a bottle of “3” last night. Very mellow indeed; no vodka/jet fuel after taste. In fact, very tasteless.

That said, we tried a few favorites; vodka tonic, screw driver, bloody mary, vodka collins. I did not enjoy the “tonic” variation as much; the flavor of quinine really needs something to moderate it.

While I am fan of vodka, it’s still a peaty single malt that I prefer.