Grey Goose Doubles Down on What’s Important

Grey Goose has been on the decline in recent years, a victim of life-cycle, an ultra-competitive category, and possibly, the realization of many that it just might not matter what vodka you order if it’s an ingredient in a mixed drink and you can’t taste it anyway. Grey Goose is pricey, so why spend the money?

Now,  The Drum is reporting on a new campaign that may be stemming the slide. The brand felt that “Grey Goose’s French, premium heritage was bordering on snobbish and playing against it; too many consumers were saving it for “big, austere special occasions”, creating a void of sales exacerbated by a squeezed middle class and the premiumization of almost every other spirit in the category.”

So they went on the offensive with a campaign exhorting vodka drinkers to “Live Victoriously.” Embracing the ethos of Loreal’s classic “Because I’m worth it,” the new campaign aims at convincing drinkers to shell out the extra bucks because “you’re the celebration,” “every day is your birthday,” and ultimately, you’ve got to “live like you’re worth it.”

Neither the strategy (see Loreal) nor the execution (beautiful Millennials rocking & rolling and living the life) are original, but the spot is fun, upbeat and nicely shot.  More important is how the Grey Goose marketing team addressed its most significant issue head on. No apologies, as drinkers are told that a few dollars here and there should not be a meaningful impediment to heightened self-esteem and a living a fuller life.

But what really stood out for me was buried more than half-way down the Adweek article where Lee Applbaum, the brand’s head marketer, is quoted as saying:

“There are a lot of other ways that we can create disruptive innovation – [we ask ourselves] how can we present Grey Goose cocktails in new and meaningful ways before we necessarily have to exploit brand or line extensions, which is the cheap way of getting at it.”

Rather than mindlessly rolling out new flavors, “Applbaum is…concentrating on the ecosystem around it – namely, the way it is served and presented.” The article does not go into detail on this, other than mentioning a “sub-zero draught tap system” for ice-cold espresso martinis and other drinks.

Ice-cold drinks aside, this is remarkably refreshing. Years of discounting and an overabundance of line extensions have transformed what were once great brands into me too products. As I love to say, my favorite toothpaste (or nearly any other traditional packaged good product) is whatever is on sale at Costco.

Youngme Moon talks about this in one of my favorite marketing books, one that I teach at USC, “Different.”

“…It would be a mistake to assume that product proliferation begets diversity. On the contrary, as the number of products within a category multiplies, the differences between the start to become increasingly trivial, almost to the point of preposterousness. 

Moon goes on to talk about a phenomenon she calls “heterogenous homogeneity,” observing that when companies slice and dice a market into smaller and smaller subsegments, they become irrelevant – not meaningful. The result is commoditization.

“There comes a point in which further augmentation reveals nothing more than lack of judgment.”

If you have any doubt about this, just think about the toothpaste aisle. Dozens and dozens of choices, all various permutations of whitening, cavity protection, fresh breath, tartar control and more. What a mess. Nearly all have the same ingredients, so how is one better than the other?

So it’s good to see Applbaum and his team focus on true brand building, doubling down on the core brand, communicating an emotional reason-why to buy it, and looking for innovative new ways – beyond recipes – to serve Grey Goose.

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