CASSIES Bronze: Svedka looks to the future

The vodka brand's "What If" campaign brought aspirational social moments to life.

This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Bronze: Packaged Goods

Situation Analysis:

In 2012, Svedka Vodka embarked on a major innovation cycle in the U.S., aiming to eventually overtake Absolut as the number one imported vodka, but existing brand advertising had become dated and alienating. Svedka was being outspent 10 to one and was not well developed on social media – a key channel with the millennial vodka drinker. Brand awareness languished at 6%.

Insight & Strategy:

In the U.S. vodka market, hundreds of flavour innovations were driving 24% category growth. However, Svedka’s weak brand affinity would necessitate building both the master brand and new flavours at the same time, so it would not be about choosing any flavour, but choosing Svedka. This would entail rearticulating the brand’s “future-forward” equity to millennial vodka drinkers, who live in the “now,” but moving away from the robots used in past creative.


Launched in March 2014 in 16 key urban markets across the U.S. via outdoor, digital and social, “What If” brought to life the feelings, mood and energy of the immediate future with a series of sophisticated, design-focused images of aspirational social moments. Colours, scenes and images were specifically selected to bring the taste and feeling of each particular flavour to life. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were used to send timely messages based on the core target’s drinking habits.


Brand awareness increased from 6% in 2012 to 98% awareness in 2015 among the core millennial target, while sales increased 6.7 %, outpacing Absolut and Smirnoff. Last 52-week sales ending May 2015 increased 5.6%. The 2015 new flavor launches of Mango Pineapple and Strawberry Lemonade surpassed projections by 89%.

Total Facebook likes have grown from 151,000 in 2012 to over 1.6 million. Svedka ranked first or second every week of the summer in 2014 on Facebook’s PTAT scores, a key measure of chatter, with an engagement rate at 4.75%, consistently above the spirits category benchmark.

Cause & Effect:

No changes in pricing strategy were initiated while distribution remained consistent.


Client: Constellation Brands

VP marketing: Diana Pawlik

Brand director: Vicky Arcos

Director, PR: Meryl Van Meter

Agency: Bensimon Byrne

CD & partner: Joseph Bonnici

CD: Dan Strasser

Business lead: Dic Dickerson

Social media manager: Daniella Gullo

Media director: Thomas Shadoff