Reaching for the Skyy

The last five years have been heady times for vodka as the product category has experienced strong growth and one wave of chic new brands has been followed by another. Consumption of vodka has increased steadily since 1998, and the vodka category is double the size of the next

distilled-spirits segment, rum. Ironically, a bland-tasting product that was best known for helping Russians make it through a cold, bleak winter has become a status symbol for many trendy 20- and 30-somethings in America. Marketers have been trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of vodka, and the growth of the "cocktail culture" that has brought more young adults to the spirits market, by creating a distinct image for their brands and getting consumers to think of them as cutting edge, edgy, and hip. While a myriad of new vodka brands have been introduced in recent years, none has been as successful at attracting the attention of consumers as Skyy. The brand has overtaken Stolichnaya as the number-two super-premium vodka in the United States, trailing only Absolut.

Skyy was founded in 1992 by Maurice Kanbar, who developed it as a premium brand for older connoisseurs, like himself, desirous of the perfect martini. Kanbar developed a four-stage distillations process that extracts many of the congers, which are natural impurities that remain in alcohol after distillations and may contribute to headaches, and created what he believed to be the purest of vodkas. The Skyy name came to him one day when he was looking out the window of his San Francisco apartment and viewing a brilliant blue sky. The additional "y" in the brand name was simply an addition to make the name less common and develop a trademark, while the cobalt-blue bottle was selected to connote a distinctive, daring product.

Much of Skyy's initial growth was driven by word of mouth. The company was successful in getting its eye-catching blue bottle into swanky Hollywood parties and nightclubs known for attracting a hip crowd. Skyy quickly generated a buzz on the nightclub circuit, where word spread that its quadruple-distilled formula reduced the likelihood of hangovers. The company also spent much of its limited marketing budget on sponsoring independent film festivals and producing artsy short films that were shown at these events. Skyy commissioned these short films by well-known independent film directors as part of its commitment to the independent film industry, which is one of Kanbar's passions. The directors are not asked to create an advertisement for Skyy, although each film does include "a cocktail moment." The Oscar-winning director of the film Europa has directed one of the films, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer has costarred with Skyy in another cocktail moment. The company uses the Internet to feature these films as a way of expanding its presence on the Web and also shows them as part of the festivals and movie premieres that it sponsors.

Advertising has also become an important part of Skyy's brand-building efforts. When the

Lambesis agency took over the account in 1998, the challenge was to create a brand image that would generate buzz among young adults and create awareness and trial in a category already dominated by strong brands such as Absolut and Stolichnaya. The agency realized that it would be critical to establish an emotional connection with young adults, who were beginning to develop their brand loyalties, and set out to create image-based advertising that would distinguish the brand from competitors' more product-focused ads.

The "Skyy Cinema" campaign was launched in 1998 and targets 21- to 34-year-old urban, metro-consumers. To establish Skyy's brand platform, identifiable cinematic cocktail moments were created for the advertising. The high-impact ads do not contain any copy but, rather, rely on stylish, seductive visuals that set up various no/r-inspired story lines but leave the actual scenarios up to the mind of the viewer. Chad Farmer, the creative director for Lambesis, notes that all the ads establish Skyy's distinctive cobalt-blue bottle as the "star" and have made it an iconic symbol while showcasing the brand as a catalyst for a great cocktail moment. To create a buzz about the campaign, a media plan was developed to reach style-conscious trendsetters through avant-garde publications such as Paper and Interv/ew. As the buzz developed, more mainstream magazines were added to the media mix, such as Deta/ls, Sp/n, Vogue, Roll/ng Stone, InStyle, Mov/el/ne, and Enterta/nment Weekly, along with outdoor ads in key influential markets.

Skyy's former brand manager, Teresa Zepeda, notes that Skyy is all about style, innovation, and quality. She notes: "We have to be disciplined and be focused, and make an impact speaking to our target rather than speaking to every consumer just a little bit." Skyy has achieved its tremendous growth despite spending only a fraction of the media dollars of its big-spending competitors such as Absolut and Stolichnaya. Zepeda adds, "We look bigger than we actually are and that is the strength of our creative and focus behind the brand." Actually Skyy is becoming quite big: Its sales have jumped from 3,000 cases in 1993 to more than 1.3 million cases in 2002. The liquor trade has recognized Skyy as the "fasting-growth spirit of the decade," and it has received Impact magazine's Hot Brand Award in the spirits category for six consecutive years. It appears the skyy may be the limit for this hot brand.

Sources: Kenneth Hein, "Strategy: Skyy Sets the Stage in Sultry Cinematic Scenes," Adweek, June 17, 2002; Melinda Fulmer, "Skyy Vodka Shoots for the Hip," Los Angeles T/mes, Apr. 17, 1999, pp. C1, 3; Theresa Howard, "Marketers of the Next Generation: Teresa Zepeda," Brandweek, Nov. 8, 1999, pp. 18-21.

In Chapter 8, we discussed the importance of advertising creativity and examined the various steps in the creative process. We focused on determining what the advertising message should communicate. This chapter focuses on how the message will be executed. It examines various appeals and execution styles that can be used to develop the ad and tactical issues involved in the design and production of effective advertising messages. We conclude by presenting some guidelines clients can use to evaluate the creative work of their agencies.

The advertising appeal refers to the approach used Appeals ana txecunon STyieS to attract the attention of consumers and/or to influence their feelings toward the product, service, or cause. An advertising appeal can also be viewed as "something that moves people, speaks to their wants or needs, and excites their interest."1 The creative execution style is the way a particular appeal is turned into an advertising message presented to the consumer. According to William Weilbacher:

The appeal can be said to form the underlying content of the advertisement, and the execution the way in which that content is presented. Advertising appeals and executions are usually independent of each other; that is, a particular appeal can be executed in a variety of ways and 266 a particular means of execution can be applied to a variety of advertising appeals. Advertising appeals tend to adapt themselves to all media, whereas some kinds of executional devices are more adaptable to some media than others.2

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Responses

  • wolfgang
    Why does skyy vodka have two y's in its name?
    6 years ago

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