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How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?

Carrie Woodward

Table of Contents



List of Illustrations 4


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers? 8

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Introduction - Brief History of Absolut Vodka 9 Brand Representation in the Contemporary Society 11 Publicity of the Absolut Brand 17 Myths around the Absolut Brand 19 Conclusion 23


Illustrations 26


Bibliography and Credits 30



List of Illustrations



List of Illustrations

A. Figure 1. Ricard, P. (2015) Figure 2. Absolut (no date) Figure 3. Absolut Vodka (1985) Figure 4. Absolut Elyx (no date) Figure 5. Absolut Mix (no date)




How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



1. Introduction – Brief History of Absolut Vodka How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



istilling spirits date back in Swedish roots to the fifteenth century when distilling spirits were originally used for medicine and gunpowder. In 1879 Lars Olsson Smith launched the first Absolut Vodka, “Absolut Rent Bränvin”, it was pure vodka, made from winter wheat. The vodka was prepared in a continuous distillation process. The method retains the flavour of the ingredients and removes impurities. This unique method is still used today (Ricard 2015). In 1917, the Swedish Government monopolised the alcohol industry to control its consumption and since 1955 there is only one retailer in Sweden permitted to sell alcohol, by the name of System Bolaget (Bolaget; Kavanagh 2013).


In 1978, the bottle was redesigned based on the shape of a medicine bottle from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, when vodka was sold in pharmacies

as medicine to cure illness. To increase sales, in 1979 the brand was marketed globally, selling to New York City’s nightlife, since parties were an art form (Ricard 2015; fig.1). The source of the vodka is still traced back today to a factory in a small community in Ahus, Sweden. The vodka is made using local supplies of winter wheat and water from one well, branded as ‘one source’ (Absolut UK no date). The advertising of the Absolut brand has been remarkably successfully with a history over one hundred years and selling globally for thirty-seven years. The brand has adapted its image to suit the audience relating the country and has been innovative and evolved with time, which is why it continues to be a success today.


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



2. Brand Representation in the Contemporary Society he actual object of the Absolut vodka bottle and its contents is the brand visual image. This object is represented as a sign, which is a linguistic message (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.24). The image translates to representations of descriptions (Goodman 1976, p.30). Considering the coding of the denoted message, it will have consequences for the connoted message according to Peirce’s tripartite definition of the ‘object’ as the bottle, ‘sign’ as what it represents and by whom it is ‘interpreted’ (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.22). These representations are based upon sensation, perception and conception (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.3). The denoting message is what it actual is, ‘a bottle of Absolut Vodka’ and the mental image is what it connotes to its audience. As the brand is targeted at western culture the connoted message evokes


sensations of desire from the use of well-designed packaging it represents itself to the consumer as something they want, relating their memory back to past experiences from drinking the vodka in usually fun occasions socialising with friends. These mental image are the signifiers and representations according to Saussure, the signifier gives the meaning and evokes the signified, the mental concept. The connotations are determined by the audience from sociological and ideological perspectives rather than relay arbitrary. The advertisers have made use of semiotics to anchor, canalisation and repression to communicate, it’s eloquence to elucidation (Barthes 1977, p.49). Absolut has designed their websites and campaigns for their products by targeting the audience sociological demographic by country, although the overall targeting is facing at the audiences of western societies.

Absolut uses the medium of photography to communicate the product to the audience as photographs have a sense of the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and authenticity attached to them (Barthes 1977; Sontag 1978). According to Plato theory beauty influences behaviour, this also decodes reality of the truth of the image (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.272). The audience is influenced by a sense of reality from photographs, more so than of a painting or drawing, as it’s a mental image of what the world looks like, a mirror of reality (Sontag 1978). The design of the original Absolut bottle is clear glass, based on a medicine bottle. The bottle’s clear glass displays its content of pure vodka to emulate its natural and pure ingredients. The bottle has an image of Lars Olsson Smith underlined with the text ‘Country of Sweden’ to give credit to its country of origin and the original author of the brand (Ricard 2015, fig.1.). Vodka is associated with Russia rather than Sweden, so placing the country of origin as Sweden clearly identifies its origin. Sweden is known for its purity of clean clear water and hot springs due to its geographical location,

depicting this brand as a purely clean product. The brand label typography ‘Absolut’ is in the colour blue, this connotes feelings of calmness, which also represent its natural source of water within its contents (Ricard 2015, fig.1). This represents Absolut brand values of ‘Clarity’, ‘Simplicity’ and ‘Perfection’ (Absolut 2014). The ‘simplicity’ of the design presents to the audience ‘clarity’ through being able to view its contents, which adds to its ‘perfection’ as a product. Today, the brand sells a variety of vodkas to reflect sociological cultures, which can be viewed online, through a variety of websites set up ‘by country’ to represent that country. This is to advertise to represent the individual countries social and visual culture. On the United Kingdom’s website, it displays a mobile application available to download called ‘Absolut Mixr’ (Absolut UK no date, fig.2.). Other Absolut branded websites by country are United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, China (Hong Kong), Japan, Sweden, Spain, Poland and France. Each countries website is written in English language,


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



original to the brand’s standard advertising language; and English language is one of the main languages used internationally. Absolut is branded in English language, rather than Swedish, due to its international recognition, which started in 1979, when it was marketed internationally firstly to the United States of America. Each website contains some text of each countries language, this is designed to connect to audience with the products to give representation to that given country. Each website is designed to represent the countries visual and social culture, which differ in products being advertised on each of the countries home pages. The United Kingdom is the only country on Absolut websites, which has the ‘Absolut Mixr’ mobile application (Absolute UK no date). Mobile software applications in the United Kingdom are amongst one of the highly accessed software, particularly around socialising cultures. Most adults in the United

Kingdom have a mobile phone, which is usually with them at all times. People have busy lifestyles in the United Kingdom and this is reflected in heavy attachment and use of the mobile phone, as a communication device to access their social life and to stay connected with up to date information (EMarketer 2016). This is encouraging the use of online mixing application to make cocktails with the Absolut vodka. Absolut website for France is the only website, part from English speaking countries, written in its fluent speaking language (Absolut France no date). The ‘Enjoy Responsibly’ link to an English written page with video has been removed, unlike all other countries. There are two reasons for this, the brand has been bought by a French company Pernod Ricard in 2008 (Monaghan 2008); and culturally French people prefer to speak French rather than English. Therefore, marketing the brand in English on a French website would not socially connect with the

French people and may offend the majority of French people as well, as it’s representation would be unclear. Whilst the brand stretches across western societies and cosmopolitan societies in Asia. It does not have a representation via websites by country to promote its products in middle eastern countries. In middle eastern countries advertising of alcohol is banned by law, and it is also limited to certain areas where people can consume, such as hotels. Contemporary fashion and design trends are currently leaning towards hand crafted design, particularly in the beverages industries (BBC 2016). The handcrafted design trend makes its way out of the subcultures into the main stream advertising through popular culture demands (Heller 2010, p.25). One of the most recent products within the Absolut brand is (Absolut Elyx no date, fig.4.). The design of the bottle differs to the original Absolut bottle. The shape of the bottle and the rectangular copper vertical lines on its design relate to Art Deco design period,

originating in France in the 1920’s. Art Deco formed within and from the bourgeois societies to express the luxury of decoration, which reflected power and status within an emerging lifestyle (Hauffle 1998, p.88). The designs were artfully individually crafted using expensive and rare materials like bronze; and the shape and forms tended to be geometric (Hauffle 1998, p.89). The Absolut Elyx Vodka is distilled by hand through a 1921 copper still. By bringing the copper into the packaging design and using a copper still to craft its content of vodka the audience gains a sense of


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



authenticity. Today’s discerning consumer is interested to know the details of the product down to its raw materials, this is a result of products being produced in a mechanical processes due to the high volume of consumption, having a loss of originality through mass production. The consumer now has desire in nostalgia of the crafted products to gain a sense of authenticity from understanding the originality of the product. Nostalgia relating to the sentimental values of past experiences held in memories (Barthes 1993, p.21).


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



3. Publicity of the Absolut Brand ince the brand was internationally marketed to United States of America in 1979, representing itself on transformation and creativity. The brand concentrated its marketing on the nightlife in New York City. New York City, at that time, was embracing change and bartenders used spirits to show their creativity in making cocktails, this is where the Absolut brand had it’s selling point. In 1980, Absolut launched various creative advertisements to continue sell their brand globally.


Andy Warhol admired Absolut Vodka, he took a bottle to parties and wore the vodka as cologne (Absolut 2014). In 1985, Absolut launched its next advertising campaign collaborating with Andy Warhol (Absolut Vodka 1985, fig.3). Warhol’s art work for this advertising campaign operates as a sign, which is allegory, by representing as something it is not (Nelson and Schiff 2003,

p.8). Warhol was famous for his artworks and mingled with celebrities. With Warhol representing the brand this upheld the brand message of its innovative transformation through creativity, since publicity works through social relations, not through the object itself (Berger 1972, p.132). The artwork itself represents Warhol as an influencer, a celebrity icon, people envy his status and glamourous lifestyle. Happiness is viewed through glamour and people envy glamour, and as such want to feel part of it. An influential power to persuade the decision to purchase Absolut vodka, to have an imagination of glamour through the product of living the good life. Advertising persuasively makes the audience feel they are going without, which adds to the desire to purchase (Jenks 1995, p.33). The audience will view themselves as the spectator-buyer, imagine being transformed from buying Absolut Vodka. They will have happiness and fulfilment from being envied

by others (Berger 1972, p.148). According to Sigmund Freud’s Psycho-analysis theory, using glamour to provoke an emotion of pleasure drives behaviour to consume for a similar lifestyle (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.33). The postmodernist feels the sense of the imbalance of thoughts between the unconscious and conscious mind of reality, rational thought. Living in the moment of reality, but powered by dreams. Society is neurotic according to Freud’s theory (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.33). This is reflected through the economy, whether a capitalist bourgeois or a proletariat, idealism subtlety drives the behaviour.

How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



4. Myths around the Absolut Brand he Absolut brand encourages conceptions of glamour through social rendezvous and enjoyment through the creative nightlife. Each website has a variety of photographed products depicted, with a vast amount of photography and videos depicting social scenes. This is advertised to provide a high novelty mix to overstimulated the sensory and cognitive process of the viewers’ decision making, to make the consumer want the lifestyle advertised through purchasing the Absolut vodka (Toffler 1971, p.317). The familiarity of social rendezvous from the imagery, can evoke memories of past experiences of sentimental reasons, which provokes thoughts on the decision to purchase (Barthes 1993, p.21). Repetitive advertising of a product can bring a sense of a mental representation of reality from sensory overstimulation that sets on confusion, which in turn hazes the


line of illusion and reality (Toffler 1971, p.318). Images meditated provoke thoughts of social relationships, which form society’s image of general truth (Mirzoeff 2002). This representation is a disillusion, which masks the real effects of the damaging effects on alcohol intake (Heller 2010, p.21). Relating to Plato’s theory the viewer conveys meaning through beautiful images, they evoke a sense of gentleness, harmony, balance, peace and strength. ‘Looking’ also forms ideas and anticipates probabilities through smell, sound and texture, giving a sense of actual presence, especially in the medium of the photograph (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.7; p.27; p.32). If Absolut advertised imagery of ‘real’ effects of alcohol intake, it would not evoke the same feelings to the audience. Ugliness is harder for the viewer to see the advertising message (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.281). Advertising works in mass media to disillude the audience

from the unpleasant world of reality around them (Heller 2010, p.159). The nasty effects of alcohol would make this product look dubious, which is then harder to promote (Jenks 1995, p.38). This perception is largely avoided and is represented in a way to fulfil dreams (Heller 2010, p.159). Having icons such as Warhol with such fulfilled lifestyles is a great influence to market the product, the audience has a sense to buy into it. Imagery of fun, beauty and social enjoyment are more persuasive to inspire the consumer (Jenks 1995, p.35). According to Marx’s theories on ideology and capitalism, we can relate advertising design to evoke messages to people in the working environments of the western societies, as images are shaped by those in power. Absolut vodka is purchased by both social classes, bourgeois and proletariat in western societies. The product is marketed through images of glamour and luxury appealing to both materialist classes, a satisfied customer isn’t as profitable as a dissatisfied customer (Heller 2010, p.159). Dissatisfaction relating to the need to consume alcohol. Drinking alcohol and socialising is

a long tradition in western societies as an escapism for enjoyment. The tensions within lives in the economic system is high, people are working to consume. Working and personal lives become intense in both social class, so there is a need to follow dreams and desires. Alcohol, socialising and glamour all play a part in western cultures to help people cope within the capitalist society. The social classes need to escape, whilst there is a sense of alienation between reality and dreams. The proletariat working environment can be repetitive tasks, which leads to a sense of unfulfilment. This evokes the mind to day dream into unreality, directing the person to consume and sometimes get in large amounts of debt. Great influences are in the current social economic system to make people consume and buy things which they cannot afford. This has a detrimental effect pushing them into further unfulfilment, which then in turn has a repetitive effect on dreaming and consuming according to Marx’s theory on capitalism (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.13). This drives a wedge between the social classes, which makes the capitalist profit from the


How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



working class, as the perception of reality is blurred. The capitalist consumes for status and materialist values. The proletariat escapes to consume products or drink alcohol in socialising fun environment. Both classes have the same underlying values, desires for pleasure. The bourgeois person needs to get away from the reality of its sorrows in tension in business and family, as some bourgeois families stay together not for love, but for financial reasons. The capitalist puts the economic system at the heart of their lives, so they cannot have deep honest relationships, known as a commodity fetishism by Marx’s theory. The capitalist makes value of the things that have no objective value (Nelson and Shiff 2003, p.382).


5. Conclusion How does Absolut appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers?



uccessful results from well-designed adverts are due to the economic environment of western societies. Considering Marx’s theory on capitalism and ideologies, the economic working environment drives western societies culture from people desires, which are controlled and fed through the sources of advertising. The desires are fed through the media of advertising by the capitalist to make money, in turn the ideology of human behaviour in society drive sales as well, via mass media and publicity driven by the spectator-buyer (Berger 1972, p.134). According to Hegel’s theory people go from one extreme to another to compensate for a prior mistake, these are also factors relating to Freud’s psycho-analysis theory, desire as a driver to consume. If desires are fulfilled, the capitalist society continues, western societies are caught in this circle, and to make a shift would disrupt the economic system. Society’s vision is blurred and confusion between unreality and reality continues, and so the capitalist would not want to drive a shift. The postmodernist society cannot


see what is of truth or can define unreality from what is reality, and this result is from the drive of the economy through the uses of advertising. The Absolut brand excels by the drive of the economy.









Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 5.

Ricard, P. (2015) [Online]. Available at: http://pernod-ricard. com/525/brands/see-all-brands/ strategic-brands/absolut-vodka [Accessed: 14 November 2016].

Absolut (no date) Absolut Mixr [Online]. Available at: http:// www.absolut.com/uk/ [Accessed: 16 November 2016].

Absolut Mix (no date) [Online]. Available at: http://www. absolut.com/uk/absolutmix/mix/ [Accessed: 19 November 2016].

Figure 3.

Figure 4.

Absolut Vodka (1985) [Online]. Available at: https://art. nationalgalleries.org/art-andartists/93233 [Accessed: 17 November 2016].

Absolut Elyx (no date) [Online]. Available at: http://www.absolut. com/uk/AbsolutElyx/# [Accessed: 19 November 2016].


Bibliography and Credits




D. Absolut Elyx (no date) Available at: http://www.absolut.com/uk/ AbsolutElyx/# (Accessed: 19 November 2016). Absolut France (no date) Available at: http://www.absolut.com/fr/ news/ (Accessed: 13 November 2016). Absolut Mix (no date) Available at: http://www.absolut.com/uk/ absolutmix/mix/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016). Absolut (no date) Absolut Mixr. Available at: http://www.absolut. com/uk/ (Accessed: 16 November 2016). Absolut (2014) The Story of Absolut | 178 years in under six minutes. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=TMPLmYnSut8 (Accessed: 16 November 2016). Absolut Mix (no date) Stir it Up. Available at: http://www. absolut.com/uk/absolutmix/mix/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).


Absolut UK (no date) Keeping natural ingredient natural. Available at: http://www.absolut. com/uk/products/absolut-vodka/ (Accessed: 16 November 2016). Absolut Vodka (1985) Available at: https://art.nationalgalleries.org/ art-and-artists/93233 (Accessed: 17 November 2016). Barthes, R. (1993) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage. Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press. BBC Peter York’s Hipsters Handbook. (2016) Available at: http://bbc.in/2fA8jUf (Accessed: 15 November 2016). Bolaget, S. (no date) Available at: https://www.systembolaget.se/ english/ (Accessed: 12 November 2016). EMarketer (2016) How Users in the UK Engage with Mobile Apps. Available at: https://www. emarketer.com/Article/HowUsers-UK-Engage-with-MobileApps/1013504 (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

Hauffle, T. (1998) Design A Concise History. London: Laurence King Publishing. Heller, S. (2010) Pop How Graphic Design Shapes Popular Culture, New York, Allworth Press. Jenks, C. (1995) Visual Culture. 31. London: Routledge. Kavanagh, M. (2013) Available at: http://travel.cnn.com/10-thingsabout-sweden-256186/ (Accessed: 12 November 2016). Mirzoeff, N. (2002) The Visual Culture Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Ricard, P. (2015) History and Know How. Available at: http://www.telegraph. co.uk/finance/newsbysector/ retailandconsumer/4670193/ Pernod-Ricard-bags-Absolut-vodkafor-4.5bn.html (Accessed: 12 November 2016). Sontag, S. (1978) On Photography. London: Penguin Books Limited. Toffler, A. (1971) Future Shock. London: Pan Books Limited. United Nations (2016) Elyx. Available at: http://unric.org/ en/elyx (Accessed: 19 November 2016).

Monaghan, A. (2008) Available at: http://www.telegraph. co.uk/finance/newsbysector/ retailandconsumer/4670193/ Pernod-Ricard-bags-Absolut-vodkafor-4.5bn.html (Accessed: 12 November 2016). Nelson, R. S. and Shiff, R. (2003) Critical Terms for Art History. 2nd ed. London: The University of Chicago Press.



D. Page 9. Art Decor Absolut Nights

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Page 11. 34579 Absolut Nights Berlin186 http://press.absolut.com/ detail/34579%20Absolut%20 Nights%20Berlin186-1259

Page 13. Absolut Elyx Copper Cup http://press.absolut.com/detail/ Absolut%20Elyx%20Copper%20 Cup-1050

LINKS BLOG carriewoodward.wordpress. com ISSUU http://issuu.com/ carriewoodward/docs/how_does_ absolut_vodka_appropriate_

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How does absolut vodka appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers pages For academic purposes.


How does absolut vodka appropriate their brand image to aspire consumers pages For academic purposes.