Research in action – Absolut Vodka

Published by: Bryan Cox

2013.04.26

The alcohol market in Ireland has changed significantly since the onset of the recession in 2008. The pub trade has fallen by over 30% with consumers switching to drinking alcohol at home. With the decline in the market one would expect conservatism on behalf of the alcohol manufacturers and distributors, however new variants of established brands, smaller brands and ‘innovation products’ have been flooding the market in the hope of providing distinctive consumer drinking occasions.

The vodka market in Ireland is a case in point; with an increased proliferation of brands attempting to bolster a mature category. Smaller brands, such as Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard’s ABSOLUT Vodka have been growing share in this maturing category.

When ABSOLUT launched in Ireland in 2008 the market was a different place – on the positive side the Celtic tiger hadn’t even been released from its cage, yet, negatively the vodka consumer was conservative in nature and didn’t often stray away from the one or two mainstay brands. Now we see a reversal of this situation with recession to the fore and experimental consumers more commonplace. During this time ABSOLUT has steadily been building a name for itself and is probably best known in Ireland for its Swedish heritage and its long association with the Fringe theatre festival in Dublin. The brand’s premium credentials and creative personality have set it apart from others brands in this category and offer the promise of something a little out of the ordinary to the increasingly discerning Irish drinker. Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard as distributor for the brand in Ireland has mapped out a robust growth plan over the next few years and has been working closely with RED C Research in order to establish where this growth can best be leveraged.

RED C has adopted a three stage approach in order to measure the success of ABSOLUT and to assist in the growth aspirations of the brand – Track, Impact, Direct.

Track focuses on the key performance indicators for the brand within the target market. Our robust research approach allows for monthly ‘pulse’ checks on brand health – this allows the brand team to take swift and corrective action to bring the brand back in line with growth objectives. The past year has been very successful for ABSOLUT with a significant increase in brand trial. Brand awareness has also increased and has exceeded the ambitious targets set out by IDL. Recent brand campaigns such as ABSOLUT Blank and Unique have been successful in raising the profile of the brand.

Impact moves away from the hard numbers and involves a more holistic assessment of the brand. Impact assesses the market’s changing perception of the brand. For ABSOLUT it is important that drinkers and potential drinkers are not only aware of the brand but also what it stands for. Of course as a brand matures so can its personality. It is important not just for ABSOLUT but for all brand owners to give their brands the freedom to develop and grow naturally from their original being. This is perhaps one of the main challenges for ABSOLUT now which has moved from a niche sized brand associated with the arts to becoming larger and appealing on a broader spectrum.

Direct is an area where RED C really makes a difference in informing brand strategy. An analysis technique called PRAM is used to help inform ABSOLUT on where its focus should lie in order to achieve its growth objectives. The output from this model can be used to set the tone of overall brand communications and helps direct advertising and sponsorship strategy.

RED C’s PRAM analysis technique maps key drivers of brand choice against overall brand performance in order to develop a strategy for growth. The key drivers of choice are identified by comparing endorsement scores given to the brand by brand drinkers versus non drinkers. Of course we will find drinkers have a more positive impression of the brand yet it is where differences are greatest that identifies why drinkers choose to drink ABSOLUT – thereby helping ABSOLUT understand the motivation of their drinker profile. We then map how the market perceives the brand against these key drivers of choice. If we have identified key drivers of choice where the brand performs lower than average we can develop a priority strategy for brand growth.

We conduct this strategic analysis on an annual basis which provides the fundamental input to brand planning and agreement on the key brand credentials to focus on for growth.

Often the challenge from the research side is to get the client to understand how brand growth can be achieved from the point of view of the consumer versus what they have assumed they need to do to grow the brand. The ABSOLUT Planning and Insights and indeed the wider ABSOLUT brand management teams have been very open in this regard and have really taken on board what the consumer is saying in the research.

The net result for ABSOLUT has been increased brand growth. The brand is looking to the future with confidence and has clear direction on where it needs to go to continue to succeed in the future.

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