How important is provenance for vodka brands?

4th August, 2014 by Richard Woodard

The current vodka marketing trend is for brands to make a big song and dance about their provenance and heritage, but do consumers actually care? Richard Woodard asks


Vodka marketing is moving away from production methods to focus on communicating provence

About a decade ago, the advertising for Grey Goose vodka was a straightforward affair: straplined “The World’s Best Tasting Vodka”, it drew attention to the brand’s top ranking in a 1996 taste-off by the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago. It even included a list of 30-odd brands, featuring their marks out of 100, with Grey Goose sitting proudly at the top.

In 2014, that bold assertion of quality looks increasingly dated – after all, the proliferation of awards means that most brands of any consequence can point to a gold medal here or a 90-plus score there. In line with the consumers who are its target, vodka marketing has become ever more sophisticated.

And about time, says Claire Smith, head of spirit creation at Moët Hennessy-owned Belvedere. “Vodka today is globally distilled and variously defined, perceived as neutral and lacking character,” she argues. “This perception has been driven in no small part by the proliferation of aggressively distilled, neutral grain spirits that were introduced into the US in the 20th century. Provenance is one way to describe why our vodka tastes the way it does.”

Defying perceptions

Late last year, Grey Goose unveiled a new global advertising platform, Fly Beyond, focused on the (somewhat romanticised) story of the vodka’s creation, plus its ingredients and production. With a sumptuous cinema ad directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, there’s lots of talk of the artisanal use of Gensac spring water and Picardy winter wheat; brand owner Bacardi even opened artisan bakeries making “Grey Goose pain” in London and New York.

So is this the new face of vodka marketing, swapping messages of purity and multiple filtration for allusions to heritage and provenance? More importantly, do consumers care?

Oleg Yegorov of Russian Standard would respond with an emphatic “yes” to this last question, arguing that the impetus for this change has come from the consumers themselves. “More than ever before, consumers are taking their consumption and brand purchase cues from friends or other non-advertising sources,” he argues. “Social media is playing a huge role in determining what people buy. Consumers are researching their brands and, relying on the internet, they can determine pretty quickly through other consumers’ brand experiences what is real and what is not.

3 Responses to “How important is provenance for vodka brands?”

  1. Jon Hildreth says:

    You missed the opportunity to speak of the provenance of Sidney Frank’s new vodka, American Harvest, made from organic winter wheat from a very green farm in Idaho and water from the Snake River aquifer.

  2. Doug Howell says:

    Provenance, or any other form of differentiation, is critical when presenting to retailiers as more and more products compete for, what seems like, less and less shelf space. I don’t believe advertising “features” of a product to a consumer is as effective as communicating ratings or “Best of…” reviews from reliable and well know sources. Features are simply facts and have no relevance unless put into context for the retailer/consumer. That’s why we teach new salespeople to use the “Features AND Benefits” to give context of why a fact about a brand or item may be important to the retailer consumer. It’s basic, but it works in a one-on-one setting.

  3. William says:

    I agree with all comments above but as we say “field to bottle ” needs to focus on the best ingredients and not just the origins of those ingredients , if we all did this I firmly believe we could all drink better .

    Happy sipping


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