Where We Soared

Where We Soared

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Absolut Vodka dominated the vodka category. To compete with the Absolut juggernaut, Smirnoff decided on an “authentic” approach and went back to its Russian roots to distill vodka in the “motherland” for the first time since 1917. The result—Smirnoff Black—became the first volley in the “Vodka Wars.” Leveraging the word Czar (one of the few Russian words that Americans know), LOCC’s founder authored an integrated marketing program that invited consumers who were “Ready to be Czar” to launch the brand.

Naysayers were everywhere. Distributors said, “We don’t launch things this way.” Top brass at corporate parent Diageo, said, “It’s too much money. $1 million for a new brand variant?!” But Smirnoff stayed true to the vision. Our team crowned four New York “Czars” at four parties on one day in New York City, opening new points of sale where distributors had failed. Sales were 116% above expectations. The investment in the plan and the vision more than paid off, and Smirnoff Black was on the map.