Project Description


The alchemy skills of the bartender can raise the profile of a cocktail bar to celebrity status, attracting influential clientele and valuable media attention. Absolut’s reputation in this market is legendary, having established itself in the bars of New York back in the 60’s. It is a marketing icon and a textbook in how to develop cool aspirational designer brands within FMCG.

However the winds of Schumperian creative destruction have been at work even here. Highly original and disruptive brands such as Skyy, and 42 Below had turned heads and were seen as potentially more eclectic and interesting.

Absolut needed a strategic response. It had always prided itself on being at the epicentre of new cocktail development trends by creating new flavours and aligning the brand around new drinking opportunities. However, as bartenders became ever more creative and influential they were increasingly seeking new inspiration from further afield, outside of the Absolut’s brand.


Bartenders represent a highly variable, fluid and mobile channel stakeholder group. To fully understand their motivations, needs and behaviours an innovative in-situ ethnographic project was developed. Working with bartenders in clubs and bars in several major metropolitan cities worldwide we gleaned valuable insights into their personal goals, interactions with customers and their relationship with the Absolut brand.

It was quickly recognised that the current umbrella channel strategy was diffuse and lacked relevance. A more segmented and tailored approach to the B2B channel was urgently needed as motivations and behaviours were highly diverse and required an approach that was cognisant of important demographic and psychographic bartender nuances.

Our contribution provided the on-trade team with powerful engagement tools for the bartender community facilitating the  development of relevant and motivating engagement programs, tailored training courses and bespoke promotional events. Bartenders began recognising once again the synergies between their own values and goals and those of Absolut.


Brand success can sometimes create unforeseen challenges with particular stakeholder groups. Every brand stakeholder wants to feel they have a voice and can interact on a one-to-one basis with their chosen brands. Absolut had spent time, energy and resources to understand the bartender community and showed they had listened. After the launch of the programme, bartender engagement levels showed significant improvement with Absolut able to begin re-establishing their cocktail mixology prowess in key bars and clubs around the world. Absolut success.