- Vodka maker Smirnoff released an outdoor ad campaign that mocks the Trump administration's alleged collusion with the Russian government, according to Adweek. The ad, which sparked a wave of social media buzz, features an image of the iconic Smirnoff bottle with the text: "Made in America. But we'd be happy to talk about our ties to Russia under oath."
- The ad alludes to President Trump's recent claims that he will testify to Congress under oath about a special prosecutor's probe into accusations that Russia influenced the 2016 election in his favor.
- Smirnoff vodka dates back to an 1860s Moscow distillery, but is now part of British-based global beverage maker Diageo. Today's Smirnoff vodka is distilled at a Diageo facility in Plainfield, Illinois.
In the aftermath of a divisive election and in the midst of a controversial, scandal-ridden presidency, brands may be tempted to distance themselves from the political sphere for fear of alienating valuable consumers. Ignoring consumers' feelings toward today's politics could be a risky move, however, as this could cause people to view some brands as out of touch.
Russell Zack, senior vice president of products and solutions at HelloWorld, told Food Dive that in today's marketplace, brands can't afford to be completely apolitical.
“Brands who have a global audience really do need to make a statement about where they stand politically, and you’re seeing those big global brands like Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola make those statements — most of which are about inclusion,” Zack said. “There’s also so much consumer choice out there, so brands need to be very clear about their position in the world.”
Smirnoff's ad campaign deftly makes light of an issue that is plaguing both sides of the political spectrum, though it will likely be interpreted as anti-Trump by some consumers. It's important for brands to have a deep understanding of the behavior of their consumer base before launching a political marketing blitz. Companies want to avoid having to backpedal after launching an ad that toes the line as Smirnoff's does. Businesses that decide to try such a campaign should have a response and game plan ready in case of backlash.
“Anything can be misrepresented, anything can be possibly misconstrued, and if brands are making these statements, they need to be prepared for any type of response — good or bad — that consumers will have in response to those comments,” Zach said.
It will be interesting to see how consumers react to the ad in the coming days, and if Smirnoff will experience any sales hits as a result. So far, social media users have been commending the poster as a "good burn", driving the ad to Reddit's front page during the weekend.
When Anheuser-Busch aired its "Born The Hard Way" Super Bowl commercial, which depicts the immigration of co-founder Adolphus Busch from Germany to the U.S. in the 1800s, the ad garnered both praise and criticism. Some consumers called for a boycott of Budweiser products, claiming the commercial was made in response to President Trump's immigration ban. Smirnoff's ad doesn't seem to have inspired the same vitriol, but only time will tell if the politically charged campaign will help or hurt the company's sales and brand image.