From Localization to Globalization The Road to the Reversal of the Top Global Vodka Brand

The Road to Reversing Top Global Vodka Brand from Localization to Globalization

Global brands have one thing in common, that is deeply understanding the preferences and needs of local users. It can be said that brand localization has become the “secret recipe” for brands to break into foreign markets.

The liquor brand Absolut Vodka, known as the “global creative marketing ceiling,” achieved global success through a series of localized marketing strategies, from being unknown in the American liquor market to becoming a top brand worldwide in just 40 years.

Therefore, using Absolut Vodka as an example of a brand that has achieved globalization through localization, Guo (the author) intends to analyze its mature localization marketing strategies, hoping to provide reference for Chinese brands going global.

In 1978, Absolut Vodka entered the US market. At that time, the local liquor market in the US was highly competitive, and Absolut Vodka from Sweden needed to compete not only with local American vodka brands, but also with imported vodka brands from Russia.

Therefore, how to increase brand awareness, how to develop marketing strategies that fit the local market, and how to improve brand competitiveness were the challenges Absolut Vodka needed to overcome. They launched a series of “Absolut + theme” marketing campaigns, such as Absolut Perfection, Absolut Clarity, and Absolut Masterpiece. In less than 20 years, it became the leading vodka brand in the US market, with annual sales increasing from 10,000 cases to 11.7 million cases, thanks to its creative marketing strategies.

Image source: Absolut Vodka TikTok account screenshot

After analyzing a large number of Absolut Vodka’s marketing cases, Guo summarized their marketing strategy as: expressing brand values through localization and shaping the brand through cross-border collaborations.

Every marketing and communication from a brand shapes its image and expresses its philosophy to the public. Elin Furelid, the Global Portfolio and Innovation Director of Absolut Vodka, said in an interview with FBIF: “When we enter different markets, we integrate important brand values with local expressions, or spread what we want to express through the voices of local people.”

Localized content

Absolut Vodka’s marketing always revolves around two elements: the brand name and bottle design. It continuously creates various “absolute” topics to attract consumers with changing content and consistent external forms. On the other hand, its advertising creative concepts always focus on close-ups of the bottle, with two English words added below, with “ABSOLUT” as the first word.

When Absolut Vodka entered the American market early on, it presented itself in a new way by launching different bottle designs around American cities and landmarks. For example:

Absolut Wonderland: A plastic bag with a flat drawing and transparent oil, with white snowflake pieces inside, was added to the pages of the Absolut book. When readers shake it, it creates a snowing effect.

Image source: Absolut Vodka official website screenshot

Absolut Landmark: American planting artist Stan Herd spent nearly a year planting five kinds of plants, including wheat, corn, soybeans, radish, and oats, using the different colors and heights of these plants to form the shape of an Absolut bottle on a 20-acre piece of land in Kansas, which happens to be on the flight path of the airport.

Image source: Absolut Vodka Official Website Screenshot

Absolut Cities: Absolut Manhattan turns Central Park in the New York aerial map into a bottle shape; Absolut San Francisco uses smoke to cover the bottle, only revealing the neck, showing the foggy characteristic of San Francisco; while the wind in Chicago blows off the words on the Absolut Chicago bottle; Absolut LA turns a swimming pool into a bottle shape, showing the luxurious lifestyle of L.A.

Image source: Absolut Vodka Official Website Screenshot

In addition, Absolut Vodka actively participates in local music and food festivals in the United States. In the Coachella music festival that ended last month, Absolut Vodka participated through the metaverse NFT. It also participated in the annual Miami South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

Image source: Absolut Vodka Official Website Screenshot

Localization of Influencer Marketing

By using local celebrities and internet celebrities to spread marketing content in familiar local language and ways, brands can more efficiently and directly reach consumers’ pain points, helping the brand achieve performance growth and traffic conversion more quickly.

When Absolut Vodka launched its new sugar-free grapefruit vodka in the United States, it recruited 50 overseas KOLs of different scales and lifestyles in the United States to publish reviews and create cocktails spontaneously. They also shared their thoughts and ideas around this new product while using the tag #NoSugarCoating as a challenge to highlight the product’s ingredients and ease of use.

The campaign received 259,000 exposures and a 4.31% interaction rate on Instagram, making this sugar-free grapefruit vodka product receive attention and recognition from many American families during its launch period.

Image source: Absolute Vodka Instagram screenshot

Local Cross-Boundary Collaboration

Another characteristic of Absolute Vodka’s marketing strategy is collaboration with the local art and fashion circles:

Absolut Warhol: The well-known pop artist Andy Warhol, who was very good at turning commodities into art, actively approached Absolute Vodka and created Absolut Warhol. He also introduced Keith Haring to create Absolut Haring. In addition, Kenny Scharf, Edward Ruscha, Armand Arman, and others have also gradually collaborated to create advertisements. Subsequently, sculptors, photographers, and fashion designers have also joined the collaboration.

Image source: Absolute Vodka official website screenshot

Absolut Style: Collaborated with the fashion magazine Vogue to launch Absolut Style.

Image source: Absolute Vodka official website screenshot

Recently in the UK, Absolute Vodka also collaborated with the local brand Heinz and launched the #AbsolutelyHeinz tag challenge on TikTok.

Since the well-known American influencer Gigi Hadid posted a creative move of adding Absolute Vodka to her pasta dish on TikTok, many social media users have been interested in trying this dish. Now, Heinz and Absolute Vodka have launched a limited edition bottled pasta sauce, which is a perfect combination for people’s cooking life.

The campaign chose different social media influencers to promote the product to encourage users to try it. By giving free products to 150 TikTok food influencers and encouraging their fans to create user-generated content (UGC).

Image source: Absolute Vodka official website screenshot

The #AbsolutelyHeinz campaign has achieved tremendous success in influencer marketing. Within a week of its launch, the #AbsouleteyHeinz tag received more than 6.2 million views and over 250 pieces of content on TikTok.

The INS celebrity @kristinacooksit with 700k followers participated in the #AbsolutelyHeinz campaign on TikTok. She posted a collaboration video of the product and gained up to 6 million views in just two weeks, highlighting the power of TikTok.

Image source: @kristinacooksit Tiktok account screenshot

Heinz and Absolut Vodka, one is a mass consumer product that can be found in almost every household kitchen and restaurant, and the other is a high-end liquor brand that captures a small group of consumers who are passionate about art, fashion, and design. Whether it is the core audience or brand tonality, the two seem to have nothing in common, but the more seemingly “unrelated” they are, the more they can create unexpected results.


By studying the localization path of Absolut Vodka, it can be seen that when entering a market in a certain country, it generally follows the above marketing strategies: localizing content, localizing celebrity marketing, and local cross-border cooperation to form a global marketing strategy.

Chijin has local public relations resources (fashion/music/film), a global resource pool of over 8 million quality celebrities, more than ten years of overseas social media marketing experience, and provides marketing services for brand going global and deep value excavation. If your brand has such demand, please contact Chijin backstage.

In addition to early localization strategies to increase brand awareness, Absolut Vodka is more inclined to participate in social issue discussions, care about minority groups, and reflect a responsible global brand image, such as launching hashtag challenges like #VoteResponsibly, #LoveResponsibly, and #SexResponsibly on Instagram.

Image source: Screenshot from the official website of Absolut Vodka

It can be said that Absolut Vodka’s globalization cannot do without precise operations targeting various markets and localized marketing, which also requires the help of local influencers. Whale Eats has a team of local talents in the United States, which can provide assistance to Chinese brands going global in localized marketing.

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