Stoli Wants To Raise The Bar With Millennials

StoliThe vodka market is as crowded as a downtown bar on a Saturday night – and Stolichnaya is looking to differentiate.

That’s where the millennial male – a social animal – enters the picture.

“Our key target is millennial men, ages 25 to 35,” Stoli brand director Sarah Gorvitz told AdExchanger. “We call them ‘authentic experiencers.’”

For Stoli, “authentic experiencers” are people who index high in terms of certain lifestyle attributes, including an interest in travel, adventure and food. They also consume the vast majority of their content digitally.

It’s a “very specific and somewhat narrow target,” Gorvitz said, one that Stoli is looking to attract with its ongoing “THE Vodka” campaign, an effort the brand launched in September to emphasize its long history as a purveyor of spirits. Founded in the late 1930s, Stoli is facing more and more competition from younger upstarts in the category, including Belvedere, SKYY, Grey Goose, Svedka and Three Olives, all of which were introduced in the ’90s.

The core idea of the campaign, developed by Stoli’s creative shop The Martin Agency, centers on the idea of the vs. a – why just drink a vodka when you can drink the vodka?

“Stoli is looking to capitalize on and communicate our brand’s history, authenticity and heritage without giving people a history lesson,” Gorvitz said. “The Martin Agency brought these values to life in a way that’s visually appealing, but also has personality, wit and a lot of attitude.”

In addition to a website redesign, out-of-home, print and national TV spots, Stoli developed online partnerships with a mix of millennial-centric publishers, including Esquire, DailyBreak and music streaming service Grooveshark. Stoli also hooked up with Mashable for a series of sponsored articles it called “The Originals,” which profiled influential people and companies, like the founder of Pebble, Blue Bottle Coffee and a fashion startup that 3D-prints wearable shoes from a Brooklyn apartment.

Stoli also created short animated videos designed to be shared socially. The videos, several of which offer a wink and a nod to the LGBT community, were likely part of Stoli’s effort to further distance itself from the Russian government’s anti-gay policies. Gay-rights activists spearheaded a boycott of Stoli and other Russian vodkas in 2013.

AdExchanger caught up with Gorvitz at the ANA Brand Masters conference in Dana Point, Calif.

SarahGorvitzStoliAdExchanger: What is Stoli doing to attract millennial males and their disposable dollars?

SARAH GORVITZ: We did a lot of research to look beyond just the broader insights out there about millennials. They have a need to identify with brands that have authenticity in their communications – brands that represent something real. Millennials do so much research themselves before they think about buying anything. Our goal is to show them that Stoli has a lot to say for itself in terms of history and storytelling.

What are you doing to refresh the Stoli brand?

Stoli is the first premium vodka that was imported to the US. We’ve been in the US for more than 40 years and we’ve been in existence for more than 80 years. That’s rare in the vodka industry, where many brands tend to be young. Our history is a key differentiator for Stoli.

That said, we’re looking to express those values in a way that would be intriguing to millennials, rather than pedagogical. We didn’t want to give anyone a history lesson. What we want to do is remind this target that Stoli has always been here.

How do you think about consumer data?

Data and analytics are generally managed by Horizon Media, our buying and planning agency in New York City. We’re highly interested in what people are doing from a mobile perspective and from a digital perspective, in general. We check in on that on a weekly basis.

What do you track?

At the beginning of any campaign, we pick a couple of key metrics that make sense for that particular effort. For example, [our] “THE Vodka” campaign, running with The Martin Agency, is in the launch phase. Our objectives there are campaign comprehension, user sharing metrics and general engagement metrics. And obviously, we’re also looking at all of the bread-and-butter things that any advertising campaign should deliver, like GRPs and impressions. Part of the challenge is deciding which metrics become important at different phases of a campaign.

In terms of paid media, we collect anything that our media properties will give us and when we get into phase two of the campaign, we’ll begin looking at that stuff with a fair amount of rigor.

And, of course, social also plays a big role. The scale of Facebook is so huge that we consider it like any other media property for us. We can also get such rich analysis there.

How do you gauge campaign comprehension?

We’re using a digital tool from Nielsen called Vizu which allows us to run a two-question survey at the end of some of our digital media to measure campaign comprehension and brand likability.

What do you ask?

First we ask: “Which vodka is known for being the vodka?” That question is clearly about campaign recall and campaign comprehension. The second question we ask is: “Do you consider Stoli to be a premium vodka?” For the first question, we saw a lift of somewhere about 157%. On the second question, the lift was 115%.

How does Stoli approach mobile?

Everything we do has to be optimized for mobile. We also have an app we launched in 2013 called the RECAPP app, which basically acts as a social aggregator which allows people to upload all of their Instagram posts, Facebook posts and tweets to create a sharable asset, a custom video that they can post to all of their social accounts at the end of the night.

“THE Vodka” is about education. RECAPP is designed to help millennials have fun with their night.

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