If you read magazines at all between 1981 and 2008 you’re doubtlessly familiar with the ads.
Every single ad starred the Absolut Vodka bottle in some new and creative way, paired with the tagline “Absolut _______”
And they did this for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS!
Why stick with the same campaign for twenty seven years?
Because it increased sales by 14,900 percent.
Before the launch of the campaign, Absolut sold just 20,000 cases annually in the U.S.
By 2008, they were selling 11.8 million cases per year.
Talk about a creative branding campaign generating real sales results!
Absolut’s Sequence of Making, Then Breaking Patterns
But to understand the brilliance of this campaign, you have to look at the sequencing of the ads.
The sequence will help you understand how the ads made a pattern, then broke it.
And by breaking it, they not only gained your attention — they moved the pattern (and the associations) from the page to your brain.
Check out some of the very first ads in the series:
So the pattern was clearly a play on Absolut’s name as a way to playfully assert the brand’s not-just-premium, but “absolute best” nature.
But as soon as that pattern was set — and as soon as the bottle itself became a “distinctive brand asset” for the brand — the ads broke the pattern.
At first they only broke it a little bit, like this set of one-two advertising punches:
Then they broke the pattern quite a bit more.
Instead of showing the bottle itself, they showed the bottles outline and used the already-established associations to make the mere silhouette of the bottle evoke the brand in your mind.
And in that way, your mind was forced to associate the evoked brand for “quintessential” or “uttermost” in the minds of viewers.
Check it out:
And they just kept going with it.
Now, it wasn’t perfectly linear. Sometimes they’d bounce back and forth from showing the bottle to just using the outline.
But think about how ballsy that second ad is.
A full page print ad, with no logo, the name of the brand only printed once, and just the bare outline of the bottle used to spark recognition.
And that’s the brilliance of it.
Because they made your mind fill in the gap.
They made YOU, the viewer, say “Oh, there’s the bottle.”
And then to think “Absolut Geneva — totally all about watchmaking. I get it.”
Because at that point, it wasn’t the ads making the association between the brand “Absolut” and the notion of “absolutely best.”
It was you.
And that’s how they increased sales 14,900%.
Now, I can’t promise you those kinds of grand slam results from your advertising.
But I can say that creating distinctive brand assets and making and breaking patterns with those assets can and will increase your sales faster than you thought possible.