Marketing Lessons Learned From Vodka

It’s not very often that you hear someone say there is a lesson to be learned from vodka. However, that’s exactly the case in the example I want to share today.

While alcohol is nothing new to the United States, surprisingly, vodka has only been here since Prohibition was repealed in the 1930’s.

The first attempt to get vodka in the US market was by a Russian immigrant with the Smirnoff brand.

That attempt failed, and it failed bad.  When you look at the market share held by vodka today (#1 in the spirits market, holding a strong 26%) it’s amazing to imagine a time when merchants had trouble getting it off the shelves!

Nevertheless, American consumers wanted nothing to do with the new liquor, and the immigrant eagerly sold off the rights to Smirnoff for $14,000 to the Heublein Company.

Shortly there after, Heublein re-launched Smirnoff vodka, and experienced sweeping success.  Bottles flew off the shelf, and the groundswell resulted in steady growth- vodka sales have increased steadily for nearly 70 years, going from a paltry 6,000 cases in 1939 to 44 million cases in 2004.

So what was the difference?

What Heublein did wasn’t a magic trick– it just involved some clever marketing. Heublein promoted the vodka by finding complementary products with which to consume the product.  The first popular cocktail product combined ginger ale with the vodka, and was known as the Moscow Mule.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the Screwdriver and Bloody Mary quickly followed.

So what does this mean for your business?

Are there products and/or services that you can package with your existing products and services to make them more palatable, or more valuable, to your customers and prospects?

What is your Moscow Mule?

Finding the answer could be the difference between modest and exponential growth.


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