A NEW ERA OF TRADE

The Internet of things seems to dominate the world of marketing. But if you ask Malin and Anna – two trade veterans at Malibu & Kahlúa – they’ll tell you it is the combination of digital and retail that offers endless new opportunities to create in-depth experiences for consumers. Together they have more than 30 years experience within trade marketing, so you might want to take their word for it.

You have worked together for a very long time, how did this partnership start?

Malin: We first met in a cab on the way to Arlanda for a business trip. It was very early in the morning, and we didn’t know each other, so I got two editions of the morning paper so there wouldn’t be any pressure to chat. Typical Swedes! But we ended up talking the whole trip anyway, and those newspapers remained untouched. That was ten years ago and since then, we haven’t stopped talking, developing or challenging each other and our ideas. 

What interests you the most about trade marketing?

Anna: The challenge of getting the product to deliver on its brand promise in the messy and a bit chaotic environment that trade sometimes can be, really intrigues me. That is where we execute our strategies. We want to leave an impression on the shoppers and guests in just a few seconds and getting them to choose our product. If a concept or brand strategy doesn't work at the point of purchase, then there’s no viability for it. 

Malin: Yes, I agree. We have to create strategies and concepts that are clear, scalable and inspiring all the way to the bars and stores. One of the great things about working at Pernod Ricard on a global level is that the markets then take ownership of the ideas, adding their own creativity and local relevance making the concepts even stronger. To see these global concepts come to life all over the world is very rewarding. 

Is trade adapting to the digital world?

Malin: Well, the brands we work with, Malibu & Kahlúa, have seen a +7% and +4% lift this year – a win that is closely connected to how we as a global team, together with the markets, have worked with the brands – in all touchpoints. The connection between communication, digital and trade marketing is essential to pull off a strong and coherent brand experience. The fact is that trade activations are and always have been a key part of the consumer experience that helps drive these results.

Anna: Can you imagine a campaign where a consumer journey starts on their smartphone, giving them a great experience, and then in-store they are met with something completely different? Or nothing at all? It’s like a movie with no ending. That’s not the way to do business. We create ideas and concepts that can be activated all the way from our global marketing headquarters to the local market teams, to the sales teams, sales reps, and ultimately store floor and bars where our products are being sold. 

So trade has changed since you first started?

Anna: It has always been about creating an experience, but now we have access to more tools and opportunities to use digital solutions and integration than when we first started.

Malin: There’s more focus on providing experiences that are “instagrammable” and relevant for social media. Digitalization has made it necessary for us to think in new ways about trade. There are now other ways to create experiences for consumers than big expos. We have looked, together with the digital team, into how packaging can become a communication tool with the consumers through new technologies. In UK, Malibu was the first brand in the world to launch a pilot with 40 000 connected bottles. This becomes even more relevant as Apple now have launched their beta version for NFC (Near Field Communication), something available only for Androids previously.

Anna: Exactly. This technology of active and intelligent packaging is very exciting. The power is in the consumer’s hands and it’s the brands’ responsibility to create an added value for them. Actually, consumers are already expecting those added value interactive experiences from brands. 

What is the next step for you and trade more generally? 

Malin: With the digital opportunities, both in terms of production, printing, and communication we see a much greater opportunity to customize and tailor the consumer experience so that it’s relevant for local markets, or even specific accounts. For myself – I will be taking on a role in the Kahlúa brand team where I’m very much looking forward to continuing to amplify my trade expertise – combined with more in-depth strategy related projects.

 Anna: As Malin mentioned, for us as a duo it’s the first time we’ll be working on different teams as we’ve both been promoted to new positions. Still within Malibu & Kahlúa (of course). But despite – it somehow feels like the end of an era! We will continue talking and challenging each other’s ideas even in our new positions - that’s usually what happens when we get together.

 

Anne Enger, Eco-design and Sustainability Business Manager

What started as a movement has evolved to being a given topic within corporations, such is the case with sustainability. So what is it like working with sustainability these days in a multi-national organization? Anne Enger is one of the individuals who is driven by the responsibility and challenge of ensuring sustainability, and she loves it. She really loves it.

There’s never been such a large focus on sustainable corporations as there is today. Why do you think that is?

 You’re right. I think there are a lot of external factors that are forcing businesses to take action today, I believe the climate meeting in Paris 2015 was important. Large companies want to increasingly take their responsibility. You see it with the younger generation entering working life as well; they want to actively do the right thing.  Working with sustainability requires a different mind-set and new working methods. I believe that those companies, who don’t adjust their business will in the long-run, risk their survival. 

Do you think organizations can make a real impact when it comes to sustainability?

Absolutely! The Absolut Company is one of the largest exporting food companies in Sweden and in Åhus, where our distillery is, we’ve already done a lot. Our production is climate neutral today, and by reducing the amount of glass in the new designed bottle, we succeeded in decreasing emissions even further. As for the future, we have a sustainability vision and long-term goals when it comes energy efficiency, and resource use, and we now have a cross-functional steering committee to make sure those goals are implemented throughout the company. 

Has sustainability always been central to you and your work?

When I’m working I want to make sure to have a purpose and make a difference. But no, sustainability hasn’t always been the way in which I’ve channeled that passion. But since my generation and generations before mine have lived beyond our natural resources, it’s now our responsibility to fix it, and I want to be a part of that transformation. But I do enjoy nature a lot - horse riding is a great passion of mine.

Horse riding seems to be really popular at The Absolut Company, something in the water?

 Haha! Well it is a large sport in Sweden. I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but of course horse riding is more than just riding - there’s a lot of hard work, endurance and responsibility involved – which are also key factors when working with sustainability. You probably do three hours of manual labor for one hour of horse riding. Maybe there’s a type of a person who enjoys working with horses and working at The Absolut Company. 

Has the attitude towards sustainability changed at all since you started?

Absolutely. As I mentioned before, many years of hard work in Åhus has established a mind-set of sustainability throughout the organization. Today, responsibility and sustainability is driven by a passion that can be felt everywhere in the office. The drive comes from within each employee and I think that’s the only way to truly make an impact and a difference. I think it’s fantastic that sustainability is now one of the core aspects of the company’s communication strategy. We want to be open and transparent, which means we are open to being challenged, and that motivates us to continuously improve our efforts within sustainability. Otherwise we risk doing nothing, and that’s the biggest risk of all.

GLOBAL BRAND DIRECTOR FOR MALIBU

"Summer 2017 looks like it’s going to be the best ever for Malibu. We have a strong and validated campaign platform. The assets are more focused and aligned than ever and I believe that we have some true Fame Drivers that will make consumers talk about the brand"

Jesper you have a background from Chalmers, FMCG and start-ups so why did you end up, in the Wine & Spirits Business?

Well I have always been interested in working with global brands and I have a special relationship to the wine & spirits business. I grew up with a family business in wine & spirits going back three generations so it had been a part of my life one way or the other. My grandfather was really proud when I told him I would be working at Pernod Ricard. That made me the 4th generation working with wine and spirits.

Malibu is growing fast now  
(+7% YTD) with strong development in all lead markets. You started as Brand Director for Malibu about 3,5 years ago, was it the same situation then?

No, it was quite a challenging time for Malibu then and many markets like the UK, Spain, France and the Netherlands had seen a continuous decline for several years. In the US our strategy was focused on driving growth through product innovations. Unfortunately we had overextended ourselves with too many launches that didn’t build on the core strengths of the brand. Furthermore our key innovation didn’t connect with consumers and it was based on a completely different platform that lacked consistency with the overall brand message. That resulted in a decline for Malibu Original. We could also see that our positioning that focused on the Caribbean restricted our opportunities to expand the business, Malibu became a vacation brand for a limited set of occasions. The relaxed “island mindset” was not relevant to our target group and we needed to drive more energy and vibrancy into the brand to become a part of their summer lifestyle. A major strategic shift was therefore needed to turn around the brand.

It sounds like you had a big task, where did you start?

You should always start with the consumer. Together with the markets we began talking to our target group in search of a key insight. We soon realized that summer affected our consumers on a deeply emotional level. Consumers in all markets said the same thing: “summer is when I feel most free and happy”. It actually changes the way they behave and feel. This powerful insight was ownable for Malibu thanks to our heritage linked to summer. We did however need to shift the positioning of the brand and move away from being “on the island” and change from being focused on “escapism”, and instead stand for the release of a feeling. Our target group lives here and now and we must help them to make the best out of that in a context that they can relate to. The new insight gave us our core crusade to “liberate the spirit of summer”. If we do that our consumers can release the best version of themselves, their “summer you”, and we can give them the brand experience of “the best summer of their lives”. The new sharp focus on summer gave us a strong message and a clear platform to build on.

So with a new insight, how did you go about developing your strategy?

It was a very exciting time but also extremely hectic. I still remember how we briefed the agency on the new campaign on Christmas Eve. We had a small core team at the time and in less than 4 months we developed a new brand compass: Playbook (our main strategy document), campaign platform, communication strategy with focus on digital content, campaign assets including a YouTube series and TVCs, a new brand strategy, in-store tools and we re-structured the portfolio strategy to center around our hero Malibu Original. We also developed a new business model that changed the investment strategy behind the brand to focus the investments in the summer months. In the beginning that strategy met some resistance, but we can now see that it really works. Our strategy is all about recruitment and if you want to recruit a consumer to Malibu, when is the best time to do that?

 Trying to get a consumer to drink a Piña Colada in December is quite hard and expensive. Trying to get them to drink a Piña Colada during the summer is a lot easier. So the starting point of the strategic shift was that we needed to invest our money when it was most effective to recruit new consumers into the brand, when our consumers are most likely to drink our product, which is between May-September in the northern hemisphere.

That sounds great but how did you push the implementation so fast in a big and complex organization like Pernod Ricard?

A key reason why we managed to make a shift and implement it so fast was an amazing collaboration around the strategic development as well as the execution with the lead markets. We said to ourselves: “Let’s try to live the brand”. What would a ‘summer you’ do? Of course we need to have a workshop on a beach! It’s a lot harder to be negative or unenergetic if you sit in the sun on a beach. So we took all lead markets to a sunny beach for a week and worked 12-14 hours a day. We have continued with this yearly lead market workshop in the sun for Malibu and I think it has been a core activity for the success of the brand. Having fun in the sun is also a great way to create a strong team feeling and I’ve made a lot of good friends along the way in these workshops. We have also developed a close formal and informal relationship with our markets with weekly discussions around all major challenges for the brand. Our key markets are closely involved in the development of our global campaign assets and most of our L3F tools are invented in the markets and then launched globally, like the hugely effective coconut cup.

You must have been nervous when the first communication and activations went live, when did you start seeing results?

It was really exciting and best of all was that we saw positive results straight away. Focusing on the summer season created more alignment, consistency and impact. Our new colorful brand identity also made us more distinctive, making Malibu stand out in store. The old one was all white and that made the white bottle disappear. Our new palette with strong color makes Malibu pop. The new identity made the markets execution in store more impactful. A major change was also an increased focus on digital media with more relevant content for our target group. Still it was a lot of things that we needed to work on and continuously improve. As always when you do major changes “shit happens” and we learned a lot around what doesn’t work from year one.

After an experience like that, what are the biggest lessons you learned and how does that influence what you do now?

I think the most important thing is that it takes time to drive a strategic shift. We will now implement the 4th summer campaign based on the strategic platform we started to develop 3,5 years ago. It’s important to keep improving from version one and we have made major evolutions of the strategy every year while still keeping consistency on the overall platform. We have simplified a lot and we keep cutting things out that aren’t necessary, making sure that we fuel our resources and investments into the things that truly drive growth.

Summer 2017 looks like it’s going to be the best ever for Malibu. We have a strong and validated campaign platform. The assets are more focused and aligned than ever and I believe that we have some true Fame Drivers that will make consumers talk about the brand. In summer 2016 Malibu became the most talked about Rum brand in the world. In 2017 we want to be one of the most talked about spirits brands. We have also finally found a great model on how to use innovations as recruitment tools without diverting a lot of funds. Malibu has seen strong growth this year and I think our great momentum will keep building in 2017. It’s definitely very exciting times!

“Our goal is to provide the best possible environment for our people to excel at work”

As the new HR Director Business Support Linda Wolff is in charge of the most valuable assets at The Absolut Company: our employees. With over 16 years of experience, working within the field, it’s safe to say that she has become a true expert on how to best integrate human resources into the core business strategy.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY

Our goal is to provide the best possible environment so that people can excel at work. We work with business support towards the organization, assisting leaders and co-workers on all matters related to human resources. I hold the overall responsibility for this function, and I work closely together with an HR business partner as well as a full time recruiter.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?

We really want to attract more Swedish talents. The Absolut Company is a very diverse company and we have people from all over the world working right here in Stockholm. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that The Absolut Company and Pernod Ricard offers you a real chance to travel the world, to work in different countries and in different positions. And that perception is something that I want to change.

ANY PROUD CAREER MOMENTS YOU WANT TO HIGHLIGHT?

Definitely our work with The Absolut Company´s Graduate Program. Together with a team from our marketing function, we hired university students from all over Europe as brand ambassadors, with the mission to help us manifest passion and progression. 

The applicants were asked to submit a CV as well as a short video, telling us about their personal motivations in life. I still live off the energy and creativity that we saw in all those videos. During the first round we received over 180 applications, a great proof of how people perceive us as an innovative and creative company. The program ran successfully for two years, and we are currently discussing whether or not to run the program again in 2017. 

WHY HUMAN RESOURCES? 

First of all, I’m truly passionate about people. Second, I am eager to make individuals focus on their strengths and opportunities and to help them perform their best- and by doing this, support the business. That is, making the aspect of human resources part of the core business objectives. To put people first. As an HR representative, it is my responsibility to understand where The Absolut Company is going, and how we from HR can make our employees excel on the way getting there.

”We are constantly looking into the future and trying to stay ahead of what’s new.”

Tina Robertsson is the new Director Product Development & Realisation and R&D. For more than 10 years she was the Director of Quality & Environment and her passion for innovation and sustainable solutions still is reflected in everything she does here at The Absolut Company. Today she is leading a team, based both in Åhus and Stockholm, working with realisation and quality assurance of new and existing products.

Your title is fantastic but very long. Can you help us decode it?

Ha ha! Well, I work together with an excellent team of colleagues with a wide range of knowledge and experiences, and we are constantly looking into the future and trying to stay ahead of what’s new. Among the things we do is to visit trade shows, conduct research and address every question around what’s happening in the world of new products, bottling, packaging and labelling. It’s our job to stay on top of those things in order to help our colleagues turn new ideas into reality. We also support the various departments in ongoing product development. That’s a short summary of what we do regarding Product Development & Realisation.

There is more?

Oh yes! Then we have Research & Development where we, among other things, have our own chemists and a research lab. Together we work to gain in-depth knowledge and a better understanding about different production methods, raw materials and flavours. This is a very important part of the process in product development and we collaborate as much as we can with other brands and departments within The Absolut Company. One example is our new ready to drink-product that we have launched, together with the Malibu and Kahlúa team, as they have valuable insights and experiences in this field. Quality assurance of the wet goods is also an important part of our responsibility and this gives us awareness, depth and an overall insight from seed to sip.

You talk about the value in collaboration a lot. Why is that?

I think it’s crucial. We need to be open to new partnerships, both internal and external. You get better results that way and it makes work more fun and you don’t get narrow-minded. I’m glad that we have a culture within The Absolut Company that is open and that we are not afraid of finding partners to work with even outside of the company.

 

Speaking about culture in the work place, can you describe how you feel about working here?

People are passionate about what they do, which I love. It is inspiring and gives me energy.  We also care about each other. We celebrate together and we help each other when times are tough. I also like the fact that we are good at learning from our mistakes. This encourages people to dare and it promotes innovation which in turn drives growth. A true recipe for success. 

Looking into the future, what will we see more of in the coming years regarding packaging in our business?

Better solutions regarding sustainable packaging. We are working a lot on how to minimize our environmental footprint. One issue is recycling our glass bottles. The challenge here is that not that many countries are as good as we are here in Sweden when it comes to recycling glass.  Therefore, we focus a lot of our efforts in the U.S, which is a big market for us, in helping different states to develop better systems for recycling.

Where do you look for inspiration regarding these types of issues?

I tend to look at both major brands and smaller companies. For instance, it’s inspiring to see how companies like IKEA and Coca-Cola really are making a difference when they decide to implement their new sustainability programs and ideas in big scale. This puts pressure on, and inspire, others to follow which is great for all of us. Also, I love smaller brands like Houdini, who produce great looking sportswear products with as little environmental impact as possible. It’s not a CSR program for them, it’s part of their core business idea. We have a high profile regarding our sustainable work and we will continue to have that.

”We are breaking barriers, building understanding and promoting
co-operation.”

Since Fintan Collier joined Pernod Ricard five years ago and more recently The Absolut Company he has worked as a Brand Ambassador, Junior Brand Manager, Global Brand Development Assistant, Brand Manager and now Global Brand Manager. Fintan took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about co-operation in the work place, bringing different competences together and why he attended the One Young World summit in Ottawa earlier this year.

Why do you think students want to work here?

Fresh out of University, I was attracted by the graduate program at Pernod Ricard that was then and still is held in very high regard as a foot in the door to one of the most well known drinks companies in Ireland. It was an opportunity to work with iconic brands on a global scale, to travel and connect with talented people from all over the world.

Can you tell us about your experience working in a Swedish company?

The Absolut Company is very progressive when it comes to fleixble working hours. I can plan my day so that it suits my schedule which is helpful as I have colleauges that I communicate with in several different time zones. There is no ”law” that you need to be chained to your desk working 9 to 5. I think this leads to a more effecient working envirnoment which is reflected in our culture at the head office here in Stockholm.

Talking about culture in the work place, can you tell us a little bit about the initiative Walk A Mile that you have been involved in?

As a representative for the Youth Action Council within Pernod Ricard, I work with a team to identify issues within the organisation that could be addressed from a youth perspective. One of the things that we discovered, and that motivated  Walk A Mile, was that we could see how the different departments within The Absolut Company worked in silos. We wanted to bring different people together in order to create a better understanding for each others’ challenges and competences. During Walk A Mile you basically swapped jobs with a colleague for half a day. The end goal was to create a better environment for co-operation between departments and to become more effective.

Was it successful?

We are breaking barriers, building understanding and promoting co-operation. The project connected 20 people within the organisation and reached 8’000 people digitally. The next step for us  is to evolve the project to further drive the business. We are going to create a think-tank where we get 4-5 people from different departments together to come up with creative solutions to the various challenges we face today and no doubt will face in the future as the business landscape we operate in continues to evolve. 

 

 

Why do you think there is a need for a Youth Action Council?

We have great, but different knowledge and experience at both the top and bottom levels of our organisation, and the greatest travesty for our business would be if they can not understand each other. The Youth Action Council was created to give a platform to more junior people to help them make postive change to The Absolut Company and Pernod Ricard that will set us up for continued success in the future.     

And this is why you also attended the One Young World summit in Ottawa?

Well, kind of. I was elected to represent the marketing function, and together with eight other colleauges, all under 30 and elected from applicants from within the entire Pernod Ricard organisation, I travelled to One Young World. There we met and worked together with young leaders from all over the world to generate ideas for a more positive change. We adressed issues regarding everything from climate change to political extremism and gender equality.

Sounds far from what you do today as a global brand manager?

I think it’s important to bring people together with different backgrounds and competences. That’s when people’s real energy comes to light and when you come up with the best ideas so from that perspective it was of huge benefit to me. I work daily trying to reduce the variants of bottles we have which is part of The Absolut Company’s fight against climate change. We now have one of the most energy efficient distilleries in the world and have managed to combine sustainable production with profit through constant innovation.

 

“We’re a small and scrappy startup with big ambitions.”

Nahema Mehta is a true citizen of the world. She grew up in Belgium, Switzerland, and Kenya before moving to New York for university. After she got her BA and MBA from Columbia University, she spent some time working in private equity. But soon, the passion for art and her entrepreneurial spirit sent her in a different direction. Today, she is the Co-founder & CEO of Absolut Art, incubated by Absolut’s Innovation & New Ventures division and the first company within The Absolut Company that doesn’t work with alcohol.

How did Absolut Art come to be? And your role in it?

The Absolut Company was exploring the possibility of extending the brand and creating new revenue streams. Art e-commerce was their top choice. They were at a conference about the future of luxury and e-commerce and saw me presenting Art Remba, an online art startup I founded with the mission of democratizing access to art. They shared this mission and wanted it to be the guiding principle for Absolut’s brand extension. So they recruited me. Together, we’re working to make curated contemporary art as easy to purchase online as music, fashion, and furniture. We want you to discover and live with art you love. This is why we introduce you to stories of local artists around the world and make it seamless to purchase their artwork online.

 

What was running through your mind when you got the offer?

I was initially hesitant because I thought it was a marketing initiative to sell vodka, which is not my area of expertise. Lena Danielsson, Director of Innovations, and Paul Duffy, CEO of Absolut explained that the goal of Absolut Art was to extend the brand into a new category and open up a new revenue stream. They also explained that Absolut Art would be a subsidiary of Absolut and be incubated as a startup – testing, iterating, and refining – to see if this can work. I was inspired by Lena and Paul’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit and taken by Absolut’s 30-year heritage in the arts (that authenticity was key for me). The opportunity became clear: a chance to build a business from scratch with forward-thinking people for a global iconic brand. That combination made accepting the offer a no-brainer.

 

Running an art company within The Absolut Company, how does it work?  

We’re a small and scrappy startup with big ambitions. It’s been a fun challenge to build everything from scratch – from production to fulfillment to distribution. We packed each initial order by hand and continue to bootstrap everyday. Luckily one of the core values of The Absolut Company is entrepreneurship. The willingness to experiment and invent is encouraged at all levels, whether you’re working on blockbuster initiatives or small startups like ours. I’m constantly inspired by the creativity coming out of the company, like Our Vodka, the Art Bars, and Elyx. 

Tell us a little about why Absolut Art works. Is it available world-wide?

The truth is that a little insider help goes a long way when it comes to accessing contemporary art from around the world. Our hope is to help every step of the way – from discovering and purchasing the perfect artwork to displaying it – we’re a global platform offering a curated access to local artists from around the world. Our team, curators, and artists all share a common goal of making great art accessible. So we offer small-batch limited edition artworks that are signed and numbered and priced accessibly. We want to close the gap between artists creating and people collecting and enable everyone to live with art they connect with; art they love.

 

Do you have any favorites that are available on AbsolutArt.com right now?

To be honest we work so closely with each artist that it’s hard not to fall in love with their works once you’ve heard their stories. And we love to tell those stories. Watching our video content on absolutart.com is like visiting the artist’s studio – it really helps with choosing who and what you connect with. Personally I have collected Malin Gabriella Nordin, Gregor Hildebrandt, and Miranda July. 

“When working abroad you stumble upon challenges you would not face at home. These un-expected situations make you to take on an innovative way of thinking and nurture a level of creativity that is hard to find otherwise.”

In 2008 Niclas took the plunge and reallocated to another continent together with his family to experience something new. Since then he has been setting up a business in China from scratch and selling Cuban rum to the international market. Now he is back in Stockholm as the Global Marketing Manager for Kahlúa.

An engineer in the Marketing Department, how come?

Even though I studied to be an engineer I have always been fascinated by marketing and commerce. After graduating I took part in a trainee program at an American company, where I developed my skills in these two areas. In 2002 one of my friends told me that The Absolut Company (Vin & Sprit at that time) were looking for candidates and ever since; marketing, branding and innovation in the world of spirits has been my call.

How did you end up in China?

While working for Absolut Spirits, V&S Group was looking into how to improve its distribution within China together with a local partner. In 2008, I was offered the position as Marketing Director for Tian Cheng Xiang TCX – a new joint venture between V&S Group and the Sichuan based company Jian Nan Chun. My family and I moved to China and lived there until 2012, when Pernod Ricard sold its share in the venture. I then took the role as Global Innovation Manager for Havana Club, which meant that our family took a big leap to Cuba and its capital Havana.

Can you describe life in Cuba?

Living in Cuba is like travelling back in time, it is very different from any other country I have ever lived in. Cubans have a tremendously positive mentality and are able solve anything with very limited means. Everything is re-purposed. One taxi driver told me that he had installed a boat engine in his car since he could not get his hands on spare parts for the original one.

What did you learn from living and working in these two different countries?

Working in other countries, on different continents, with different cultures, has taught me that you need to be open towards people and be prepared for all kinds of unseen situations. You will be faced with challenges you would not meet at home, but there is no point to get upset or feel frustrated, as it will not improve the situation you are in. Instead, enjoy these moments and take advantage of the innovation and creativity that comes out of it. In Cuba we often had to take part in bartering as the availability of goods where very limited at times. Everybody was sitting in the same boat so if you were out of something, you simply exchanged it for something else with your friend or neighbor.

Did your family travel with you during all these years?

Yes, we have been in this together all this time. In the beginning we decided that we would do this for one or two years, but life turned out differently. Looking back, it has been a great adventure and an amazing experience for all of us. Whenever we got time we travelled and explored the local culture, with concern taken for job and school of course. But I will not lie, relocating together with your entire family is a big project, everything from transport of personal belongings and flight tickets to schools and accommodation just have to work out. What is great about working for The Absolut Company and Pernod Ricard is that the HR-department in Stockholm always has your back and are ready to assist you if needed. This made my family feel safe even at times when our lives were turned up-side down. For example, when we got caught in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, the company took precautions and evacuated us to Beijing and later, when it was safe to return to Chengdu, escorted us back.

Now you are back on Swedish soil, what is it like to be home again?

We moved back home in 2015 and I must say that all of us appreciate the fact that things such as transportation and the internet run smoothly at all times, or at least most of the time.  You do not appreciate the small things until you have been without them. I do admit that I sometimes miss the daily adventures we experienced in both China and Cuba.

What is your next challenge?

Right now I am the Global Marketing Manager in the Kahlúa team with specific focus on the international brand strategy. Kahlúa is a unique brand and if I could contribute to its successes in a market like the US, that would be fantastic!

“Kahlúa wants to break the boring day-to-day life, acting as a force against the over-pretentious cocktail trend. Making a cocktail does not have to be that complicated. It can be easy but still delicious.”

Monika Werthén is the singing bird that once dreamt of becoming a ballet dancer. She started her career as a trainee at Unilever selling Ice Cream in the Swedish outback and later moved on to become the Nordic Marketing Manager for Philip’s Male Grooming and Multimedia segment. Today she is the Global Brand Director of Kahlúa, with mission to change the concept of cocktails.

From FMCG and Consumer Electronics to rum and coffee liqueur – how come?

While working at Philips, I took part in a week long training designed to establish the future career path within the company. During my final evaluation I was told that I was doing a great job and could go as far as I wanted, but that they feared I was actually going to leave. Then they asked me what I would like my next career move to be. At that moment I realized that I until then had focused too much on what I am good at, but not as much on what I really wanted to do. A pivotal moment for me in terms of career thinking. Not long after that moment of realization, The Absolut Company contacted me about a position with its recently acquired Polish vodka Wyborowa. And here I am today, almost five years later, not only doing what I am good at, but what I am passionate about!

So what does a Global Brand Director do?

The short version: I am in charge of the Kahlúa brand globally. The longer version: My team and I are responsible for creating a strategy that makes the brand flourish. It spans all the way from defining our market position, competitive set and target group to identifying brand crusades, digital tools and basically all consumer facing elements of the brand. But you can only come so far with strategy. In the end, the strategic side of things needs to trickle down to someone ordering a White Russian somewhere in the world, which is why we work very close to our partners in every market and our Trade and communication teams at The Absolut Company.

Talking about the world, what would you say unites the world of cocktail drinkers?

Definitely young people. Millennials look at themselves as very unique but their preferences are pretty similar. Japan might currently one of the few markets whose younger population stands out. Millennials in Japan have quite different preferences in contrast to a market like the US, where everyone is very contemporary. The Japanese have managed to frame their culture in a way that makes it completely different to any other market we currently work in, which is challenging from a brand strategy perspective.

If Kahlúa was a fashion brand – which one would it be?

I would say Converse. Like Kahlúa, it is a light and vibrant brand, with little focus on heritage and prestige. 

At Kahlúa we don’t talk about making cocktails that need 20 different ingredients or more. Instead we want to inspire you to make delicious cocktails with few ingredients and little effort and focus on the aspect of fun and deliciousness.

What will be your legacy when you move on to your next adventure?

We will have turned the US market around by attracting a younger crowd, in the right way and with the right tools. Kahlúa’s image is far more modern and attractive now than before and it has definitely got the potential to be the next big thing in a market like the US. Another goal, as well a passion of mine, is to tell the story of the people behind Kahlúa. The true heroes of the brand, the coffee and sugar cane farmers in Mexico.  Kahlúa should speak about all the good things the brand is doing and display how these individual stories link back to our DNA. Many brands need to create stories like these, but ours just needs to be communicated in the right way. We already have a great story to tell! 

This is your third position with The Absolut Company – what made you stay?

Of course there are numerous reasons, but the obvious one being The Absolut Company is one of the few companies around the world that honestly can claim marketing and innovation being at the heart of the business. Everyone is dead serious about how marketing is executed, and as a Brand Director I probably work closer to the brand than I would do in any other company, and in great autonomy.  Another great privilege about working at The Absolut Company is the consideration taken to every employee’s personal life. Being a mother of two small kids, I could never do this job if I were required to travel 20 weeks in a year. I got the job anyway, as my actual experience and competence weighed higher than the ability to be globally mobile at any given time. The company is phenomenal in that way, and I believe that is how you keep great people staying in the long run.

 

“The China launch is completely different to anything I have ever done before”

Danielle Lalin has played a key role in several successful projects for Absolut Vodka since the days when The Absolut Company was still known as Vin & Sprit. To say she is an expert in the field of marketing and branding is no exaggeration. Today she is the Global Marketing Manager for Malibu and responsible for the Malibu ready-to-drink portfolio. Danielle is currently focused on establishing the Malibu brand in China.

In short, what has changed over the years since you started your work at Vin & Sprit?

I have always felt that we have been a global company and since we joined Pernod Ricard this feeling has grown even stronger. The world is part of our culture. I feel blessed and happy to be part of such multicultural and cross functional environment, working with fast growing and dynamic markets. 

And what is your role today?

I am the Global Marketing Manager for Malibu. My responsibilities cover everything from developing global marketing strategies, portfolio management and innovations to planning local launches like the ones we are doing in China right now. 

Is this the launch of the Malibu Ready-to-drink products?

Yes it is. We are currently launching the Malibu brand in China which is very exciting. It’s completely different from anything I have ever done before. In terms of our strategy as well as the consumer preferences and culture. 

What is so special about this launch?

Basically, instead of launching Malibu Original we are establishing the brand with a tailor-made Malibu Ready-to-drink range, specifically for the Chinese consumer. They have proven very popular with the consumers and will help us increase brand awareness for Malibu, in order to push Malibu Original later on. 

Have you been spending a lot of time in China? 

I have made five trips to China this year alone to develop the product, the communication and launch strategy, but most of all to learn more about the market, the culture and our consumers. It has been a great experience with many new insights. For example, the Chinese consumers prefer a product that is less sweet and that has a lower ABV level, compared to our consumers in the western world.

How involved are you in the local planning?

This is one of our “biggest bets” so I work in very close collaboration with our team in China. Our focus lies on driving initial trials and to let consumers really experience the Malibu brand. In order to boost awareness and create buzz we partnered with global American pop icon Redfoo. He is the perfect brand ambassador and embodies all of our brand values, and I’m convinced that together we will both conquer and win in China.

Are these type of products common in the Pernod Ricard portfolio? 

No, actually Malibu is the first brand to offer a full portfolio of ready-to-drink options. These products have a refreshing, fun and on-the-go proposition that help us build the brand and expand into new occasions. What’s really exciting is that this category is the biggest and fastest growing in the industry. It’s a price sensitive and extremely competitive category - very different from Malibu core business. So it requires a totally different marketing mix. 

And it is already a global success?

We launched our first flavors in 2011 and they are gaining ground in important markets like the US, UK and now China. I am happy to say that our RTDs are one of the most successful innovations in volume within The Absolut Company and Pernod Ricard. Based on this success, our next step will be to expand further and set up production on all major continents. 

“We work a lot with senses to create experiences that people will remember and talk about.”

YOU COULD BASICALLY GIVE THIS MAN ANY PRODUCT ON EARTH AND BE SURE THAT HE WOULD KNOW HOW TO MARKET IT AND WHERE TO SELL IT. JOHAN HOLM JOINED THE ABSOLUT COMPANY IN 2014 AFTER A LONG AND SUCCESSFUL CAREER WORKING AT JOHNSON & JOHNSON, SAMSUNG AND SONY ERICSSON. TODAY HE IS OUR GLOBAL MARKETING MANAGER FOR OFF-TRADE AT ABSOLUT VODKA WHERE HE LEADS A TEAM, WORKING WITH PHYSICAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCES IN AN EVER-CHANGING ONLINE WORLD.

Explain to me, as if I was an old relative asking at dinner, what it is you do for a living.

Well, old timer, I’m responsible for making sure that wherever you walk in to a store to buy Absolut Vodka, may that be the convenience store in Seoul or at a Loews supermarket outside Denver, you will recognize the Absolut display and our brand messaging, but most importantly immediately find our product. Or to put it in another way, if we have major marketing campaigns that last for two weeks each year, it’s up to me and my team to make sure that the consumer remembers, likes and buys Absolut for the remaining 50 weeks.

Ok, so what is it that we want the consumer to remember?

A Swedish quality vodka made with passion and integrity. The blue color and our iconic bottle shape help enhance that and are recognizable all over the world.  But we always strive to innovate and be progressive in our expressions. That is part of the Absolut heritage. Right now we are focusing on merging the digital and physical shopping experience in store.

Can you give us an example?

We are looking into how we can use our connected video monitors to display more relevant content for you as a consumer. If you have downloaded our app the monitor could detect you as you approach it and then show you a personalized offer, hints on which playlist to subscribe to or inspire you to try a new cocktail recipe. New smart phone solutions like this is, and will become, even more important for us as future consumers look for a more integrated shopping experience and also to further drive the overall consumption at home experience.

IS IT COMMON TO WORK WITH OTHER SENSORY BRANDING TECHNIQUES IN STORE?

We work a lot with light to create experiences that people will remember and talk about.  Branding through light is very effective and has proven to be a great trigger for consumers. Illumination brings energy and is a way for us to enhance the connection between Absolut and nightlife experiences whilst at the same time highlighting our product. Other areas for exploration include refrigeration, sound and scent.

E-commerce is growing rapidly, how has this changed the way you work?

Creating physical shopping experiences has become even more important. This means exceeding in everything from exciting product displays, creating the right atmosphere to providing the best product line and offline services. I think that human interaction and great in-store services is where e-trade can never compete with the physical shopping experience. 
Also, when it comes to food and beverage it’s my experience that people want to touch, taste and even smell the product before they buy it. This makes it all even more important to inspire and guide the consumer to make the right decision when faced with so many brands while walking through the supermarket or browsing duty free items before boarding.

Are you inspired by any other brands?

Apple is the obvious great example. Retailers all over the world sell their products online. But people are still lining up before opening hours to shop in a physical Apple store. Just the other day the story about their proposed new store opening in Stockholm was front page news. It’s impressive to see how they have managed to combine the online and offline shopping experience with tasteful design and great in -store customer support. They took consistency and assisted shopping to a new level. 
Another favorite of mine is Burberry. Over the last few years they have done great things at blurring the physical and digital worlds together. Walking through the doors at a Burberry store is like walking into their website. It’s the same great experiences and they are always very creative in how the use multimedia solutions both online and offline.

“Oh my god, do you remember that night?!”

THE PASSION THESE GUYS HAVE FOR ABSOLUT - IT’S INTOXICATING! WE ARE GOING TO TELL THEIR STORY - WHERE THEY ARE FROM, WHO THEY ARE AND WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO. IT’S A “THANK YOU” TO THE PEOPLE THAT HELP MAKE ABSOLUT NIGHTS A REALITY.

Georgia McDonnell-Adams is the Global Manager of Experience at The Absolut Company. Originally from Perth, Georgia fell in love with the Absolut brand when she worked as cocktail bartender back in 2001. In 2007, she combined her passion for the brand with her background in PR, Marketing & hospitality, becoming the brand ambassador for Absolut Vodka. Today, that same passion is still there. And now, all the expertise that comes with 15 years of working in marketing and events in the liquor industry has been put into one very special project; Absolut Invite – Team Edition.

What does Global Manager of Experience really mean?

It means that I’m tasked with taking the brand strategy and turning it into a tangible experience for people to participate in. Through experiences we have the ability to really connect with our consumers and customers - it’s extremely important that we make this as immersive and as fun as possible!

What is the most important thing when you are trying to activate consumers on a global scale?

Personally, I want them to wake up the next day - and the day after that, and even a year later - and be like “Oh my god, do you remember that night?!” And for the right reasons; maybe they met someone new, they did something they never thought they could, they laughed, they opened up and they had fun. Great experiences enrich people’s lives and they last forever. The most important thing with my job is making sure that Absolut is the enabler of these moments.

Speaking of experiences, what can you tell us about Absolut Invite - Team Edition?

This is my baby and I’m so excited about it! It’s one of those projects that really fits with where we are trying to position Absolut as a brand. This is an immersive program that celebrates the people who are so important when it comes to creating an Absolut Night – the bartenders. Where most bartending competitions are focused on the single bartender, Absolut Invite is bringing energy back into a 

normally low key environment by making it about teams – two bartenders from each venue. The program consists of two parts, firstly we designed “plug-n-play”- kits for local markets so that they can set up qualifying rounds that pit bar teams against each other, showcasing their skills and teamwork. Secondly, we have designed a global finale. Four days of intense competition starting in Åhus and finishing in Stockholm. Here is where we will crown the world’s best bar team.

So, it’s a global bartender competition?

Sure, but it’s also so much more. This is a celebration of the people who serve our products, their incredible skills and their expertise. The passion these guys have for Absolut - it’s intoxicating! We are going to tell their story - where they are from, who they are and why they do what they do. It’s a “thank you” to the people that help make Absolut Nights a reality.

Sounds like a lot of fun, but also like a lot of work?

Ha ha! Yeah, of course. A lot of moving parts and many late nights at the office. But it’s all worth it. The feedback has been amazing already - bartenders contacting us, telling us how stoked they are. A chance to compete together with their best friend, doing something they love. That’s really exciting. And I can’t go into too much detail just yet, but let’s just say; this will be an unforgettable experience.

“Finance is traditionally perceived as gatekeepers, our objective is instead to become trusted business partners.”

Malin Eklundh is Director of Business Analysis, Planning and Reporting at The Absolut Company. She joined the company in 2009, leaving a local sales office at an international brand, with a personal goal to work on a more strategic and global level. Today Malin leads a team of 12 based in Stockholm but in close contact with all international markets.

Entrepreneurship is one of the core brand values at The Absolut Company, how is that manifested in your team working on the financial side?

Over the last few years we have created a new structural platform from which we work to help our colleagues in all the various innovation projects. Finance is traditionally perceived as gatekeepers, our objective is instead to become trusted business partners. We work to help the teams understand the key financial drivers of Pernod Ricard and how their projects can contribute to sustainable value growth.

What does that mean more specifically?

Back in the day innovation was usually restricted to coming up with a new flavor. But today we have teams within The Absolut Company working with creating entirely new product lines and services that opens up both new markets and possibilities to reach new consumer groups. We help these teams by converting their creative ideas into financial business cases and guide them in the right direction, hopefully helping them turn their ideas into reality. Our Vodka is one example of a project we worked with closely and helped make financially viable. 

And then you make sure we do not spend too much money?

Our objective is to make sure all resources are used in the best and most efficient way.  So yes, we manage the budget, both marketing and structure costs. We have also started to implement financial trainings to make everyone understands why financials are important. For us this is one way in the process to help turn even more innovative ideas, and there are plenty, within The Absolut Company into successful business cases.

Would you say that we are a Swedish company?

We have a solid Swedish base rooted in the company history, but at the same time we are a very international company. In my team alone we are five different nationalities and we are in daily contact with colleagues that are based all over the world. For me personally, it also feels great to work from an HQ where you can take direct part in financial strategic decisions on a global level, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work at The Absolut Company in the first place.

“With The Best Summer Ever-campaign Malibu became the most talked about rum brand this summer.”

Sina Neubrandt is the current Global Marketing Manager for Malibu at The Absolut Company. Part of her responsibility is developing and implementing the global content and communication strategy for the brand. Though, starting November 1st Sina will start working with Absolut Vodka. Her love and great understanding for marketing has resulted in a successful career working with many international brands.

Content Marketing has become mainstream, what is good content these days in your opinion?

Our mission this summer was to ad value to our consumers' lives so they could have the best summer ever, and be inspired by our brand that liberates the spirit of summer. For us it was important to create something real, authentic and useful. We did so by letting peers talk about our brand rather than having the brand talking about itself which has proven to be a successful strategy. So we followed up on our award winning content series "The Best Summer Ever Project" where we gave practical tips and tricks to our target audience with the help of influencers.

What do you mean when you say you let peers talk about Malibu?

We gave four Youtubers a couple of Go-Pro cameras and a very loose script to work with in order to make the campaign feel real and authentic. The Task: To create the ultimate A-Z guide to summer. We involved many experts in specific summer territories along the way to make the content as relevant and valuable as possible. The content they created resulted in video episodes that were published on their own channels and across all Malibu owned channels.

And then you also worked together with global pop icon Redfoo?

 Yes, that's right. Last year we set out to find a brand ambassador that could deliver "fame" for Malibu and that would fit in naturally with our brand values. Redfoo was the perfect match. If Malibu would be a person, that person would be quite similar to him. It's not only a traditional brand and music artist collaboration, it's probably our best and most innovative activation idea ever.

WHAT WAS THE ACTIVATION IDEA APART FROM THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT?

 Redfoo used the lyric "got my Malibu with a view" in his summer song "Where the Sun Goes". The video for the song also featured the product in the perfect summer setting. As the second step of the activation, we worked with influencers to socialize the line "got my Malibu with a view" to create a social movement that consumers could adapt on their own social channels. The idea created a lot of buzz with consumers sharing their summer drinks with a clear link to the brand from the hashtag #Malibuwithaview. Redfoo also interacted with our Youtubers and appeared in their videos and visited our Malibu Beach House, a fantastic event that traveled the US during the summer.

HAS IT BEEN SUCCESSFUL?

 Yes, it resulted in a massive success and outperformed the results from 2014. With The Best Summer Ever we made Malibu the most talked about rum brand during the summer far ahead of our competitors.

 Sounds like this will be hard to beat for next summer?

A fun challenge! For next year we will further explore how we as human beings evolve during the summer. I think most of us can agree that we become a better version of ourselves when the sun is out. This is something I know for sure from living in Sweden for the last ten years. Ha ha!

You have been the Global Marketing Manager at Malibu for almost two years now, what’s the verdict, are we as fun to work with as everyone says?

Working at The Absolut Company has been a career goal for me.  I have always been inspired by innovative brands and it feels great working here at the Stockholm HQ where marketing is seen as one of the key vehicles to drives business performance.

“PEOPLE BASICALLY TRIED TO BUY OUR MOCK-UP BOTTLES FROM THE BOOTH WHERE WE WERE STANDING.”

JANNA BERG IS OUR NEW BUSINESS MANAGER. SHE HAS BEEN WITH THE ABSOLUT COMPANY SINCE 2007 WORKING MOSTLY WITH INNOVATION AND DEVELOPING NEW BRANDS AND BUSINESSES. JANNA WAS PART OF THE TEAM THAT CREATED THE FINE COCKTAIL COMPANY LAST YEAR AND SHE IS CURRENTLY WORKING ON LAUNCHING FINE COCKTAILS IN NEW MARKETS.

WHERE IS THIS CURRENT SURGE IN THE MARKET REGARDING READY TO DRINK PRODUCTS COMING FROM?

Many of us love to enjoy a nice craft cocktail made by a mixologist in a bar. But when it comes to mixing one at home most of us do not have the time, or the energy in to making one after a long day. So we turn to comfortable solutions but don’t compromise on the quality. Also, a lot of great bars and bartenders have been experimenting with pre-bottled cocktails on their menus for some time now which has helped increasing the demand.

SO WHAT MAKES THE FINE COCKTAIL COMPANY STAND OUT?

We are the only ones working with fresh juices and all natural ingredients as well as using a production process that respects the delicate components.

YOU DECIDED TO DO YOUR TEST-LAUNCH IN FRANCE, A COUNTRY WELL KNOWN TO BE PARTICULARLY PICKY ABOUT BOTH FOOD AND DRINKS. WASN’T THAT A BIT RISKY?

You are forgetting that the craft cocktail culture is not as developed in France as in, let’s say the US. So yes, it might have been seen a bit risky. But we have had great support from our sales organization in France, they got us in to four great store locations and three bistros from the start. We also had a great team of experts in Paris who helped us produce our first batches by hand.

SO HOW DID IT GO?

We already knew from earlier, when we did an early in-store sampling in San Francisco, that consumers liked our product. People basically tried to buy our mock-up bottles from the booth where we were standing. And the French consumers also loved it! As you said, they are very knowledgeable about their food and drinks, and here we had a ready to be enjoyed bottled cocktail made from all natural ingredients which really came to their liking.

AND NOW ALL PRODUCTION IS LOCATED TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE?

That is right. We have an amazing partner located in the city of Agen. They are great in working with fresh juices combined with spirits. For us it was important to find a partner that valued quality as much as we did. All our cocktails need to be refrigerated at all times and they have a shelf life of only three months. Compared to our competition this is a short time but it gives us the advantage of keeping them really fresh tasting. Along the way we were told to alter this, but we wanted to stay true to our idea, which was to make a ready to be enjoyed cocktail made from fresh juices.

ARE THEY IN CHARGE OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT DOWN IN AGEN AS WELL?

We collaborate. I work with a team here in Stockholm and we have a mixologist to help us out. Together we create new recipes before we brief the R&D team in France. They then go through great lengths to source the best possible ingredients, spices and fruit juices. The end result is an all-natural product that we are all very proud of.

SADLY I MISSED OUT ON YOUR LAST TASTING EVENT, BUT FROM WHAT I HAVE HEARD YOUR NEW FLAVORS ARE AMAZING?

You heard right! The first one is a gin-based cocktail made with lychee, elderflower, ginger, lemon and agave. The second one is bourbon based made with mango, mint, bitter, lemon and agave. We will have them ready for our next launch, which will be in London. We are also flying over to present our new cocktails to Whole Foods’ North Eastern division in New Jersey, which we are very excited about. They would be an ideal partner for us as they too value quality, freshness and natural ingredients.

”THIS IS NOT A CAMPAIGN. PHILANTHROPY
IS EMBEDDED WITHIN OUR BUSINESS MODEL.”

TOM ROBERTS IS BASED IN NEW YORK AS DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND SOCIAL IMPACT AT ABSOLUT ELYX. HERE TOM WORKS TOGETHER WITH A TEAM OF EIGHT IN CHARGE OF THE ELYX BRAND IN THE US. TOM LEFT THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP IN 2011 AND HAS BEEN WITH THE ABSOLUT COMPANY EVER SINCE, BOTH AS COO OF OUR VODKA AND AREA DIRECTOR FOR VODKA IN THE US. RECENTLY, HE WAS IN CHARGE OF LAUNCHING A NEW PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ABSOLUT ELYX AND THE INTERNATIONAL NONPROFIT WATER FOR PEOPLE. TOGETHER THEY WORK TO PROVIDE SAFE WATER TO 100 000 PEOPLE.

DOING BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS CAN BE A BIT STRESSFUL. YOU ANNOUNCED THIS NEW PARTNERSHIP IN LOS ANGELES LAST WEEK, HOW DID IT GO?

The initial reactions have been great. But I have to confess that we were all a bit nervous when we first launched. It could have been seen a bit controversial with a vodka brand doing this sort of thing. But our initiative together with Water for People has already been embraced by many. The tonality in everything we do is warm and playful. We are careful not to guilt people. Instead we want to raise awareness in the best possible way.

WHAT WILL THE NEXT PHASE OF THIS CAMPAIGN LOOK LIKE?

First of all I want to stress that we do not see this as a campaign. Philanthropy is embedded within our business model. Absolut Elyx is a vodka made with integrity which is why we also act with integrity. We now have an in depth partnership together with Water for People. It is based on a five year plan to bring access to safe water to over 100 000 people worldwide. Next, we will go to Art Basel were we will auction off a piece of art work that we expect will raise up to 250 000 dollars to Water for People.

IN WHAT WAY CAN PEOPLE SHOW THEIR SUPPORT?

At the moment this is for the US market only, and the more successful we are here the more benefit Water For People will realize. Every bottle of Elyx sold will help provide a week’s safe water (140 Liters) for someone in need.

THERE IS A RUMOR AROUND THE OFFICE THAT YOU ALSO BOUGHT A VINTAGE WATER TRUCK?

We did, and we will drive it cross country. From the back of the truck we will sell our signature Elyx copper pineapple drinking vessels. Each copper pineapple that we sell will raise enough money to provide access to one month of safe water (560 Liters). Our truck will turn up at popular shopping destinations. At each stop we will serve water, not cocktails, and work to increase awareness around water issues.

HOW WILL ALL THE MONEY RAISED BE PUT TO USE?

It will go to Water for People and their work to establish innovative, collaborative solutions that allow communities to build and maintain their own reliable safe water systems.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PARTNER WITH WATER FOR PEOPLE FROM THE BEGINNING?

The World Economic forum identified the global water crisis as the biggest threat facing the planet for the next decade. At Elyx we make a vodka made out of fifty percent pure well water. It felt only natural to take responsibility. So we do it to help raise awareness, funds and find sustainable solutions for the future. One of the first things we did was a trip to Peru. Together with Jonas Tahlin (CEO for Elyx) we flew in to Lima, then we transferred to a smaller plane that took us to the Trujillo district where a three hour drive up in to the mountains awaited. Here we visited the remote village of Cascas. The entire trip was a real eye opener.

IN WHAT WAY WAS IT AN EYE OPENER?

You and me, we take safe water from the tap for granted. But all over the world there are people who have to spend hours every day collecting water. Time that could be spent on work or in school. Also areas without access to safe drinking water are plagued by various diseases.

IT FEELS LIKE YOU HAVE A STRONG PERSONAL ENGAGEMENT IN THIS?

The entire team at Elyx is highly and personally involved. If we succeed in our mission we will be able to help Water for People reach every family, every school and every clinic with lasting access to safe water and sanitation across the nine countries in which they now work.

IS IT TRUE THAT YOU WILL WALK AROUND NEW YORK THIS WEEK CARRYING A 20 LITER WATER CONTAINER?

Yes that’s right. Jonas and I will walk four miles each day. Two miles carrying an empty 20 Liter water container and then two miles back carrying a full container. We want to shed light on the amount of work people all over the world have to do each day in order to provide their families with safe water. Our walks will be documented live and we will invite people to participate as a way to raise more funds.

IT SOUNDS BACKBREAKING! ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THIS, I MEAN PHYSICALLY?

Ha ha! We will see. I might need all the encouragement I can get so make sure to follow us on @absolutelyx and help spread the word!

”BECAME FASCINATED
ALREADY AS A CHILD"

AFTER 33 YEARS, ABSOLUT VODKA GETS A NEW VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS

New VP Operations brings focus to branding and going green, while realizing her childhood dream

Anna Schreil is taking over from Krister Asplund, after 33 years of him managing every drop to come out of the Absolut Vodka factory in Åhus. As of July 1st, Anna will be in charge of the production of Sweden’s largest export product as The Absolut Company’s Vice President Operations. Her focus is to turn the production into a tool for brand building and continue the environmental focus. And in doing so, she will be living her very own childhood dream.

Anna Schreil is not your average 42 year-old. Her experience in production and product development is almost unheard of, having worked as a factory manager at GB Glace, production manager at Unilever and Atria, as well as The Absolut Company’s Director Product Development, Realization and R&D for the past four years.

During Krister Asplund’s time in the driver’s seat, the Åhus factory’s production has grown to almost 400 000 litres of Absolut Vodka leaving the distillery every day. At the same time, the staff has gone from 60 to 300. Krister’s ambition has been to develop and expand the production in close interplay with Åhus and the environment – something Anna Schreil now wants to continue to develop.

- Carrying on Krister’s legacy will be a great challenge. I have the utmost respect for his work, and taking over from him is an honor. For me, the staff and the environment are the development areas closest to my heart, and I’m excited to explore how we can improve the environmental footprint even further out in our delivery chain around the world. Beyond that, I want to make use of continued innovation and quality in our Åhus production as a key tool for strengthening the Absolut Vodka brand, says Anna.

To get even closer to the production, the brand and her colleagues, Anna will be moving from Nyköping to Åhus with her husband and four kids. Beyond just relocating, the role will mean another step taken by Anna in the pursuit of a lifelong childhood dream.

- I became fascinated by manufacturing industries already as a child when a popular children’s TV show aired a series of segments from large-scale factories. That caught my attention, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The interplay between people, machines, methods, and materials are simply fascinating to me, she explains.

Krister Asplund and Anna Schreil have been working together during the spring and Krister will continue his support for the next few months to secure a smooth transition. His new role will then be Master Distiller for Absolut Elyx, and he will continue his work with the region.

- Leaving the best job in the world was not an easy decision. The engagement, competence, and compassion you find among the staff here in Åhus is truly unique. During the years I have worked together with Anna, she has shown the right set of skills and approach to the staff, Åhus, our partners, and the brand. I am fully sure that Anna is the right person to continue developing the staff, Absolut Vodka, and the production, says Krister Asplund.

- Anna has deep knowledge of the production, product development and supply chain management. During her four years at The Absolut Company, she has been pushing innovation, eco design, and continuous improvement in an impressive way. The fact that Anna is now willing to take over the production in Åhus is great for the brand’s continued development. We have found the best successor to Krister Asplund, who has been an amazing leader for more than 30 years, says Paul Duffy, CEO of The Absolut Company.

”LOOKING FOR THE
NEXT BIG WAVE"

ANDREW O’ SULLIVAN IS A MEMBER OF THE GROWTH TEAM AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY. HE HAS BEEN WITH THE TEAM FOR A YEAR NOW WORKING WITH BRAND INNOVATION AND IDENTIFYING NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES. PRIOR TO JOINING THE ABSOLUT COMPANY, ANDREW WORKED AS A BRAND CONSULTANT LAUNCHING NEW CAR CONCEPTS FOR BENTLEY MOTORS, CONQUERING NEW TERRITORY WITH SUUNTO, AND REDEFINING COOKING WITH ELECTROLUX.

HOW DID A BRIT WITH A PAST IN CARS AND COOKING END UP AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY?

I had been working as a brand consultant for a couple of years and was attracted by the way they had set up the new Growth Team. Our mission is to accelerate growth by prototyping new concepts and business models – getting into contact early, testing and learning. The team has an entrepreneurial mindset when working with innovation. Combine that agile approach with the network strength of Pernod Ricard globally – we have the muscles to scale up quickly and make new ideas come to life. It’s the perfect mash-up of a start-up and a big company. Also being British, with a Swedish wife, and the ambition to work internationally, The Absolut Company was a great match as the company is represented in so many different markets.

AND NOW THAT YOU’RE STUCK WITH US, WHAT’S THE WORKPLACE ACTUALLY LIKE?

It’s a creative space fuelled by ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of the industry, and looking for the next big wave. It’s a diverse culture of ‘doing’ - packed with smart, humble people from all over the world. And teamwork is our top priority. Everyone shows great understanding of the global marketplace and about people. That is something I think is very important. We are in the people-business and The Absolut Company understands that.

WE HEAR RUMORS OF YOU FLEEING TO LA. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?

The Growth Team has developed a number of new products and business models that I will help set up in Los Angeles. We are a small team, so very like a “start-up” process, we will be building the foundations of a completely new venture – from operations and supply chain, to solving legal issues and organizing brand activations in the market. I’m very excited about these two projects because they are the direct result of our business strategy to lead growth by changing the rules of the game. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for me to learn and develop new skills.

YOU SEEM LIKE A TECH-SAVVY GUY. HOW ARE YOU ADAPTING THE BRANDS TO THE DIGITAL ERA?

We are consumer-driven. So we work hard on breaking down barriers and creating digital services that really add value to our audiences. Absolut Art is a fine example of this; democratizing the purchase of art online by making it engaging and accessible to all. Not only is it really true and credible for Absolut to act as a patron of the arts, but we extend the brand into a new category and open up a new revenue stream.

"WE HELP PAIGE PROPOSE TO HER GIRLFRIEND"

NICOLAS NATH IS THE GLOBAL BRAND MANAGER FOR ABSOLUT VODKA AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY. HE HAS BEEN WITH THE COMPANY SINCE HE GRADUATED FROM STOCKHOLM SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS SIX YEARS AGO WORKING WITH COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND BRAND MANAGEMENT ON AN INTERNATIONAL SCALE.

WE’VE SEEN YOU POSTING #LOVEISLOVE ALL OVER THE INTERNET LATELY. WHY?

It’s a campaign built from our brand social purpose that rests on three pillars: the right to love whoever you choose, the right to express yourself freely and the right to be true to yourself without being labelled. This is all communicated in a beautiful online video titled ‘Surprised Marriage Proposal’ in which we help Paige to propose to her girlfriend Amanda. We also work with the hashtag #loveislove as a way of empowering all people to express their love.

HOW IS THAT CONNECTED TO THE ABSOLUT BRAND?

For over thirty years, Absolut has supported people who express their true selves through art, love or creativity. It started with Andy Warhol and continues to this day. To manifest this we are also launching Absolut Colors in several new markets.

SPEAKING OF DIFFERENT MARKETS, YOU’VE BEEN QUITE THE GLOBETROTTER IN YOUR CAREER?

Yes, that’s right. I have been working as Global Brand Manager here at The Absolut Company HQ in Stockholm for about a year now. Before that I spent two years in London and three years in New York. The Absolut Company encourages us to work abroad and this is something I find very important as it gives you new perspectives and understandings of how the world works.

AND IS THE STOCKHOLM OFFICE TRULY AS GLOBAL AS THEY ALL SAY?

Well for instance, my boss is from Holland and I have colleagues across my desk from Australia and the US. It’s a great atmosphere and as Global Brand Manager I stay in close touch with colleagues around the world. Only today I have been on the phone with three different continents about current projects that we are working on.

”WE WILL GATHER SOME OF THE BEST CREATIVE MINDS"

ELIN WIBELL IS SENIOR MANAGER CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY. SHE IS SPECIALIZED IN PUBLIC RELATIONS, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS AND BRAND BUILDING. ELIN HAS BEEN WITH THE COMPANY SINCE 2006 AND PRIOR TO THAT SHE HAS WORKED AT LARGER PR-AGENCIES AND WITHIN THE TV INDUSTRY.

HEY ELIN, WHAT’S ON YOUR AGENDA TODAY?

I’m in the process of finalizing the schedule with inspirational speakers to our new hackaton later this spring.

HACKATHON SOUNDS LIKE QUITE A BUZZ WORD. WHAT’S IT REALLY ABOUT?

We will gather some of the best creative minds out there and work together to invent solutions for a more sustainable future. Those who attend will get access to our data and first hand insights to various challenges that we face as a company. It’s a completely transparent process and a great way for us as a company to inspire and help trigger others to engage in important issues.

AND WHO MIGHT BE JOINING? NERDS ONLY?

Anyone can apply and we are hoping to gather participants with a wide range of backgrounds. Because when it comes to problem solving, diversity is a success factor. We will soon open the application process so stay tuned to absolut.com, theabsolutcompany.com and our social channels for more information to come.

YOU SOUND LIKE A HACKATHON PRO. THIS ISN'T YOUR FIRST TIME?

The last one we organized was Liquid Data where we worked with engingeers, programmers, designers and other creatives in order to make future bar and restaurant experiences more interactive. This video is a pretty good summary of the work we did then.

”WE GIVE THE ARTIST COMPLETE ARTISTIC FREEDOM"

SASKIA NEUMAN IS THE GLOBAL ART MANAGER AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY. SHE HAS MORE THAN 10 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE. BOTH FROM THE POSITION AS AN EXHIBITION ORGANISER & CATALOGUE CONTRIBUTOR AT THE FONDAZIONE LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2009 AND ALSO HEAD OF CURATORIAL RESEARCH AT THE KW INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART IN BERLIN TO NAME A FEW.

WHAT BRINGS A HYPED CONTEMPORARY ART PRO LIKE YOURSELF TO THE ABSOLUT COMPANY?

I was very impressed by how The Absolut Company invested financially but also emotionally in supporting and promoting contemporary art. They could have chosen anything else to support, but they stayed true to their roots. The early artist collaborations, like the ones done with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, really made Absolut Vodka famous all over the world. I like the way they have honored that by continuing to promote and work with ground breaking artists over the years.

WHAT ARE THESE RUMORS WE HEAR OF YOUR FIRST ART BOOK COMING OUT SOON?

We are about to present the two winners of 2015 The Absolut Art Award which is of course very exciting. At the same time we are in the final stages of publishing our first book, of many more to come, together with Tate Publishing. The book is written by Coco Fusco,, the previous winner of The Absolut Art Award: Art Writing.

PEOPLE CALL THE ABSOLUT ART AWARD ”DIFFERENT”, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

Not only do we provide the financial resources for the dream projects of our two winners, we also support them the best we can with everything from public relations, to finding the best producers, event planning, as well as curatorial assistance and dialogue. We give the artist and writer complete artistic freedom, which I think is very important., and then grow together with the project in order to create groundbreaking projects.

IF YOU WERE THE MOST SKILLED ART THIEF IN THE WORLD, WHICH PIECE FROM THE ABSOLUT ART COLLECTION WOULD YOU STEAL AND WHY?

Hmmm. Well, I think I would grab a sculpture of the Absolut bottle by the Polish artist Miroslaw Balka. I like it because of its’ beauty and simplicity, also because it symbolizes the importance of our support to the art scene. Miroslaw Balka is a fantastic sculptor and he chose to work with Absolut – a testament to our commitment to contemporary art.

”AT YOUR DOOR WITHIN 45 MINUTES"

”GROWTH” SOUNDS SLIGHTLY VAGUE. WHAT’S YOUR UNIT TRULY ABOUT?

This new unit is about defining and redefining our role as a company. Growth supports our existing brands by acting as a catalyst for innovation, solving problems and capitalizing on new opportunities, for example, through product innovation. We are also working to find new areas of growth, which may come in the form of new brands, products or services.

OK, SO WHAT WILL YOU ACTUALLY FOCUS ON THEN?

Today, we are a big part of many people’s social lives in that our products are consumed in bars, at dinners and at parties. But perhaps we can be more than that. People need to choose a restaurant, book a table and get to the restaurant, or they need to choose music and buy ice for a party. Our job is to see how we, as a company, can be more relevant in each of these situations and create a better overall experience around our brands.

THOSE SURE ARE FANCY WORDS, BUT HAVE YOU ACTUALLY MADE ANYTHING HAPPEN YET?

In the U.S., we’ve partnered with the mobile app, Saucey. With the help of Saucey, you can order alcohol, hire a bartender, rent the right glasses and buy good ice – all the ingredients for a successful cocktail party. With just a few taps, everything arrives at your door within 45 minutes.

WELL, THAT’S PRETTY SOLID. WHAT ELSE IS YOUR TEAM UP TO?

For a recent project—a “journey”—called Made Real, we developed a brand new vodka with a group of female entrepreneurs, which was also the target audience. We worked with them throughout the process, from developing the taste of the vodka and defining the vision and purpose of the brand, to its design and launch strategy. The entire journey, from start to finish, was filmed for a documentary that will be shown online.

Stockholm 2014-12-09

”REFLECTING THE ROUND FLAVOR OF COCONUT"

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION ABOUT DESIGN

GOOD DESIGN IS BOTH FUNCTIONAL AND EMOTIONAL. FOR US AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY, DESIGN IS A STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT PART OF OUR COMMUNICATION.

WHY DOES DESIGN MAKE YOU GET UP IN THE MORNING?

Often, the design of the packaging and the product itself are the only interaction a person has with a brand. We can’t take for granted that consumers see and read the messages we share through advertising or social media. Therefore, the packaging must convey the essence of the brand and product.

OK, CAN YOU TELL US HOW YOU DO THAT?

Absolut Vodka is a fantastic example of how you can express the values of a brand with the design of the packaging. We show our love for the product by printing the décor directly on the glass to let as much of the vodka as possible show. The blue color is inspired by pop art and signals that Absolut is a modern and progressive brand, unlike our competitors, who at the time of our launch were using heritage luxury cues to communicate the value of their products.

The new Malibu bottle has a unique shape that reflects the round flavor of coconut. Malibu’s Caribbean origin is communicated through the classic, yet updated palm tree logo. The sun in the background conveys a sense of summer.

Another example is Our/Vodka, where the name of the city in which the vodka is made is the focal point of the label, highlighting that it’s locally produced by local entrepreneurs. It’s a design concept that allows for each new Our/Vodka city to have its own unique logo.

SO, WHAT IS THE DESIGN ”VIBE” LIKE AT THE ABSOLUT COMPANY?

To us, design is not a matter of what is pretty or ugly. We use design as a tool to describe our products and illustrate why the brand is or isn’t relevant to our consumers.

Our design philosophy considers both functional and emotional aspects. One functional example is maintaining the weight and shape of the Malibu bottle,

because it’s perfect for bartenders who juggle and spin bottles while they work. Another is only using colors and materials that result in minimal environmental impact.

It may also involve more emotional aspects. When we redesigned the Absolut flavored vodkas, we did not take the easy route using glossy pictures of fruit and berries. Instead, we made creative interpretations of myths and symbolism that are linked to the flavors. We also chose to work by hand with pens and brushes for a more unique look. We take great pride in exhibiting the same level of craftsmanship in design as we do in our products.

AND DOES THAT TRANSLATE TO OTHER AREAS?

Design doesn’t only include packaging, but also our expression in all channels. Even if consumers don’t always think about what fonts, colors or materials a brand uses, they usually have a good sense of whether they recognize what is said, how it is said and how it looks. Therefore, it’s important that we are consistent. But we also need to challenge ourselves to always move forward. We are not reactive to current trends. Instead, we work proactively to keep ourselves updated on new art genres, new technology and new media, so that we’re as relevant tomorrow as we are today.

IT ALL SOUNDS SO EASY. WHAT’S YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES?

We develop our work with sustainability in mind. We have high expectations and work with various disciplines to reduce material consumption, use less energy during manufacturing, and increase recycling. It’s a luxury and a challenge to work with a company that places such high demands on sustainability in all aspects of the business.

Stockholm: 2014-12-04