Beyond Branding: How Absolut Elyx Created a Holistic Brand Experience
by Andrew Gibbs on 10/12/2016 | 14 Minute Read
Craft up a logo, create some clever packaging, and you might think that you’ve got yourself a brand. And until recently, this would have been correct. But as Absolut Elyx knows, today’s consumers aren't just looking for an interesting product to take home; instead, they want brands to take them on a journey.
Elyx is not merely another vodka from one of the most well-known brands in the spirit industry today—it’s a luxury vodka that tells a story, from the copper elements to meaningful imagery. Miranda Dickson, Director of Trade & Brand Aesthetic at Absolut, admits that making a quality vodka won’t suffice in today’s market.
“People demand more than that—they want to know where it comes from and why it’s a premium price—why they should purchase it basically. Therefore we set about creating a fully immersive experience that explains who we are and where we came from and why we wanted to create Elyx.”
After attending the Elyx Experience in Sweden, we sat down with Dickson to learn more about the importance of developing a brand experience, what considerations were made for their newest vodka, and how they bring Sweden to the rest of the world.
1. We are living in the age of brand experiences. What is the Elyx brand experience, and how is Elyx more that just a Brand/Product? How did it come to life?
Having worked in the world of vodka for 20 years and been lucky enough to travel all over the world visiting many distilleries, I have had a great deal of exposure to spirit “brand experiences,” both educational and recreational.
We wanted to create the ultimate vodka experience and not only show people how we make Elyx from start to finish (and that the way we make it makes THE most difference) but also to provide a platform to enable all our guests to create their own relationship with the brand and make their own memories on the trip.
Today is not enough simply to make good quality vodka—people demand more than that—they want to know where it comes from and why it’s a premium price—why they should purchase it basically. Therefore we set about creating a fully immersive experience that explains who we are and where we came from and why we wanted to create Elyx.
Sweden is such a unique place to have the opportunity to take people to and it’s the the home of our brand, so to build a 3D surround sound brand experience with the backdrop of Swedish culture and countryside was an obvious choice for us.
2. What inspiration was taken from within the original Absolut brand, and what is the personality and essence of Elyx? How do you express it visually?
Many people often ask us why, as the owners of the number one imported vodka into the USA, we would want to create another vodka. In the words of Paul Ricard, the founder of the company Pernod Ricard, “You have to know where you have come from before you can know where you are going to”—and it’s the huge breakthrough success of the brand Absolut that has in fact inspired us to create Absolut Elyx.
We took time to examine every element which has contributed to the success of Absolut and redefined it in line with the consumer of today. From the way in which we make the vodka itself to the cultural positioning of the brand, Elyx really is the very essence of Absolut vodka and without our in-house knowledge and expertise learned through working with Absolut we could have never created Elyx. We were inspired by the Absolut bottle when creating our bottle for Elyx—it follows the language for being short and we are disruptive not only in our size but also in the colors and shape. We have taken a move not to be tall and showy, like many ‘super-premium’ vodkas, but rather small and rather understated.
3. How did you come up with the Elyx brand name and what is the difference between a "Super Premium Vodka" and Elyx, a "True Luxury Vodka"? What separates Elyx from other Vodka Brands
The name Elyx comes from the word in Swedish for luxury, “lux,” and we are a true luxury vodka.
The term “super-premium” is a term which has been made up by a marketeer and has no value or meaning—it’s a label that can be applied to any vodka brand, no matter how it’s made, what it’s made from or where it comes from—there is no control over the use of the term and it’s become a label commonly adopted only by price point. Generally vodkas which retail for $25+ and are 40% ABV classify themselves as “super-premium.” We believe the term is super abused, and many vodka producers are simply putting bad quality spirit in a tall frosted bottle and self-labelling “SUPER-PREMIUM.” Such vodkas are often associated with a bling somewhat superficial lifestyle—in some cases they have become symbolic of an excessive lifestyle and flaunting of wealth.
We do not associate Elyx with any of these traits. It’s for this reason that we believe we are a luxury brand and we deliberately choose to stand away from this crowd of “super-premium” brands. We believe that luxury doesn’t just stop at quality. We believe that for a brand to be truly luxurious it must also have integrity. The way Elyx is very different from the way most other vodka brands are produced—for a start we are a single estate vodka—every drop of Elyx is made from Winter Wheat grown on one single estate in the South of Sweden.
This allows us to have complete quality control and traceability of our product from the very beginning. Most vodka producers (99%) buy raw spirit which they then simply rectify to their own recipe—we are producing our very own raw spirit, in house to our exact specifications in order for us to obtain the precise flavour profile we want for Elyx. When we are making our raw spirit we also do something very unique—we add sacrificial (because we only use them once) copper packets into the column—this causes something called, copper catalysation, which essentially contributes to the removal of fusel oils which leave unwanted aromas and taste—it also is the first step to producing the silky smooth texture of Elyx.
We then use a copper vintage still from 1921 to rectify our homemade raw spirit. This still is forged entirely by copper and completely hand operated – no computers are used in the manufacturing of Elyx – something which is very rare indeed. The copper still can only be operated by the master distiller himself, Krister Asplund and a few of his colleagues in the distillery. The spirit is tasted and assessed throughout the continuous distillation process – where the distiller decides whether more or less steam is needed, for example, in order to obtain the desired flavour of Elyx.
Unlike many brands which are heavily filtered to remove taste and flavours or have sugars or flavours added to them, nothing is added to Elyx before bottling—it’s gently filtered through a natural filter. The taste and flavour or Elyx is crafted entirely at the hand of the master distiller. This approach to vodka making is very rare.
The Absolut Distillery is the only carbon neutral distillery in Europe and we work very hard to ensure we respect and care for our environment. We also believe that it’s important for a brand which claims it has integrity to act with integrity and for that reason we have an agreement with water charity, Water for People by which one week’s safe water is supplied to someone somewhere in need for every bottle of Elyx sold in the USA. Sweden is a country with abundant water supply and the word vodka itself is a diminutive of the word “voda” or “woda” meaning water in Slavic languages. Today more people have access to mobile phones than safe water, so it made sense to us to give something back.
Elyx is currently the only vodka in growth priced above $25.
4. Why are elements such as the choice of glassware, copper, or the Elyx Pineapple so important to tell the story of the Elyx Brand?
We chose copper as a key connector for our brand because of the important role it plays in the production of Elyx. It then made sense to make bar tools and cocktail cups from copper. Whilst we take our cultural point of view very seriously we also believe in having fun and have the ability to be playful which is why we started making cocktail cups in the shape of pineapples, flamingos, owls, and peacocks for example. The pineapple is the universal international symbol of hospitality and friendship, and therefore it made sense that’s where we started. We have many different cups which are not only fun and enjoyable to drink from but also have a meaning—the bluebird symbolises happiness for example.
Unlike many other brands we made a decision not to place our logo all over our cocktail cups and bar tools—instead we have made them from copper! Taking influence from Japanese bar tools—widely regarded as the best in the world—we have designed a range of copper bar tools for bartenders and use at home. We expanded our range into copper cups, punch bowls, and a range of crystal coupes. People have loved our things so much we are just launching our website www.Elyxboutique.com where people can buy all our copper barware and cups.
5. Tell me about the Elyx Brand Houses and the different Pop-Up Brand spaces you have created, and why are they so important to telling the Elyx brand story?
Unfortunately we cannot take everyone to Sweden so we have created a suite of assets to amplify the Elyx Experiences here in the United States. We have a pop-up kit, which is literally an Elyx world in a box (well a truck!) which we use for large scale events and shows. We also have an Elyx House in Los Angeles which is really the ultimate brand home. Situated in the Hollywood Hills we have combined the Elyx look and feel—which is an eclectic mix of rich opulent colours, textures and fabrics juxtaposed with more raw, pre-loved vintage pieces. Copper features strongly and leads the colour palate of greens, pearls against wood, stone and natural elements. By creating a brand home here in the US we have created an environment of ultimate hospitality with no branding. It gives us the perfect backdrop to entertain and host and welcome our guests into the world of Elyx—a space to learn, eat drink and embrace Elyx.
6. What is the impression you want to give with the Elyx brand, and what experience did you aim to create with Elyx's packaging design?
We wanted to create a vodka brand which looks very different from our competitors in the same way Absolut did when it launched in 1979. Since copper is a key element in production it made sense for us to incorporate copper in the design of the bottle—hence the copper rods up the side and the copper cap. We have had so many positive comments about the bottle and it has won numerous design awards.
7. What is the emotional connection you try to make with Elyx consumers, and how do you want them to interact with the Elyx brand?
We believe we have created a unique proposition with Elyx. We have learned and been influenced by Absolut, the most famous iconic symbol of pop culture in the world of spirits. We believe Elyx is the symbol of popular culture today in the same way Absolut represented a movement in the 1980s.