Vodka: intelligent design

Power in Provenance

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Stolicnaya’s Andean edition elit pristine water series gift pack.

Describing Boker’s own strategy as “unique and daring,” Berardi says the design of any spirit bottle must be “impactful” and sell “a story” to the prospective consumer, but warns that only a quality liquid will secure brand longevity.
“We know that, however strong a brand is, an attractive design can tempt consumers to try a new product,” he continues. “But if the quality of the spirit is not good then it will be a one-time purchase. So you cannot fall down on the liquid in preference of design. To be iconic, a design must really stand out. It must be powerful, unique, but true to the brand DNA always. A vodka can also be a cultural icon by promoting its country of origin”.

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Boker’s striking vodka bottle

Indeed, the importance of craft spirits and their provenance has increased ten-fold in recent years with vodka no exception. Driving this trend are Millennials, says Kevin Shaw, founder of drinks design firm Stranger & Stranger, who believes these consumers are seeking out spirits that convey “authenticity”.

“Millennials, having been brought up in a world of social media and instant and ephemeral gratification, look to products that speak of authenticity and craft to satisfy the need for the real and tangible”, he says. “They’re also buying local, which is why we’re getting briefs in for what feels like a craft still in every single town.” Believing that demand for craft spirits will continue, Shaw expects to see more “provenance, personalities and character” in vodka design.

Ilse Wolfe, marketing manager for Stolichnaya’s premium “elit” range, agrees that an awareness of target consumers’ personality is vital. “With elit by Stolichnaya, we want to evoke affinity with a specific target audience, and so a careful selection of materials that have significance to the design must hold true to the product”, says Wolfe, pointing toward its Andean edition elit pristine water series gift pack. Aimed at the global travel retail market and designed by JDO Brand Design and Innovation, the gift pack retails at an eye-watering US$3,000 and comprises Stolichnaya elit’s third and final expression in its pristine range. Presented in hand-cut Glencairn crystal bottle and housed in a sustainably sourced Chilean black cherry wood box lined with leather, much of its value is defined by its packaging.

However this value is supported by an emphasis on authenticity, the liquid having been made using water from a natural spring in the foothills of the Andes in Chile. “The angled, sliding door mechanism and rare jewel, one of only 250 numbered crystal bottles, rare water sourced from Colico Lake and handcrafted bottle cuff and cap certainly raise the bar in what a consumer can come to expect from a luxury vodka”, says Wolfe.

In a nod to its heritage, and validation of its authenticity, design cues inspired by the area’s tribes were incorporated into the bottle with etchings of knots used by the tribes as a means of communication.

“It’s serving to create a point of difference”, says Paul Drake, JDO creative director, of why an emphasis on the authenticity and provenance of a product is so appealing to consumers. “I can take it back to its origins and it gives a brand more credibility, interest and a sense of exclusivity, which allows that premium price,” he explains. “You are experiencing something that other people can’t have and I just think there is something lovely in that provenance and story. As much as it is a drink to be enjoyed, it’s a talking point too.”

While authenticity remains a key watchword in vodka design, in the future Drake sees customisation and personalisation becoming a driving force, if the technology becomes available. “Lots of brands are able to customise something and make it their own”, says Drake. “I think we should expect to see that happening at a premium level. Lots of brands already do it, but I wonder if there is another level beyond that. People don’t just want it to be limited they want it to be exclusive to them. It’s something we would like to do but it’s very difficult to get that level of mechanisation.”

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