It’s one of the world’s most popular spirits with more than 4 billion litres sold in 2012. But its popularity is now in decline.
While premium and flavoured vodkas have seen a surge in popularity, drinkers are increasingly moving to whisky for its apparent authenticity, as well as gin as it loses the label of a drink for ‘old people’.
Given vodka is a drink that’s supposed to have no taste, vodka companies must resort to less traditional methods to differentiate their brands.
New research by Associate Professor Catherine Prentice from Edith Cowan University has shed light on what helps Australian consumers make the decision to buy vodka.
Her research surveyed 350 Australians on their attitudes towards vodka in a variety of different subjects. It found we’re basically just suckers for marketing.
The research found branding was hugely important to drinkers’ attitude towards vodka in general, which brands they preferred and how often they would drink certain brands.
“Slick branding and advertising creates a vital point of difference and is a big part of the reason consumers have a positive attitude towards vodka,” Dr Prentice said.
Unsurprisingly, some brands do it better than others.
For example, Absolut Vodka has one of the most recognisable brands of any company in the world.
Vodka companies spend endless hours designing spirit bottles, logos and packaging. While they certainly affect drinkers’ choice of a vodka brand, they’re unlikely to choose vodka because of a fancy bottle if they set out to buy gin.
“To consumers packaging is regarded as a cue to a product’s quality,” Dr Prentice said.
“It directly affects the way consumers perceive the quality of products and their brand, and in some cases packaging has been more important than the product itself.
“The research showed elaborate packaging would only affect drinkers’ choice of which brand of vodka – it has no impact on whether they choose vodka over another drink.”
So those assault rifle and crystal skull bottles are even more of a gimmick than you thought they were.
Country of Origin
Unlike wine and whiskey, the country of origin of vodka makes little difference to drinkers’ preference. This is despite almost universal agreement by study participants that some countries produce better vodka.
“In Australia, most of our vodkas are imported. So while we know vodkas from Russia, Sweden, Poland or France can be good quality we don’t distinguish between them,” Dr Prentice said.
Social media marketing appears to have a big influence on what brand of vodka was consumed. It also influences how frequently they’re likely to purchase the same brand.
“Social media has been acknowledged as being potentially the most powerful tool for marketing brands,” Dr Prentice said.
“When consumers see their friends posting positively about a product or brand, that’s a big influence for them to purchase the same brand.”
“Likewise when consumers are engaging with a brand on social media they’re very likely to remain loyal to that brand.”
In other words, once you’ve ‘liked’ a brand on Facebook you’re much more likely to buy it in the future.
The research was published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.