Commentary

Latest Grey Goose Campaign Tastes Desperate

In a tragedy that will surely activate the global humanitarian community in a manner comparable to the response following the Haiti earthquake, a duck has taken up residence in our pool. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: first the duck settled in, then she dropped a bunch of eggs in the surrounding weeds. This is where it got complicated. When the ducklings hatched, Mama Duck proved something of a Park Slope parent. Even approaching the pool provoked a reaction along the lines of “keep your distance or I will slice you, bub. Oh, and won’t you sign this petition demanding the co-op boycott Israeli-sourced hummus?”

Thus my morning routine has been expanded to include “neutralizing copious volumes of duck shit.” September can’t come fast enough; my wife and I have acted aggressively to accelerate the pace of summer. Which is to say: we are consuming tankloads of vodka.

But not the “good” stuff. When Grey Goose made its way to the U.S., an acquaintance who worked with the primary investors told me, “Our goal isn’t to make the best-tasting or smoothest-drinking vodka. It’s to make the most expensive vodka. You Americans” - grouping me with the superficial idiot fringe was totally unintentional, I’m sure - “assign value based on what something costs. You watch - everyone will drink this crap.” I’m paraphrasing, but the official plan was just that blunt and unsentimental. Clearly it worked, judging by the number of HOW DARE YOU PUT A DROPLET OF SMIRNOFF IN MY CINAMMON COSMO-TINI verbal assaults perpetrated on bemused NYC bartenders during the last 15 years.

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So while I admired the frankness of Grey Goose’s initial branding, I stuck to my usual routine of drinking only those vodkas in which one could still taste a hint of potato. In the meantime, the market caught up to Grey Goose, with a number of other double-super-premium vodkas (and gins and tequilas) battling for real estate in backlit bar displays. That’s why I view the brand’s recent video campaign, a tie-in with the inaugural Mic 50 list of “fearless young leaders putting our generation on the map” (“our generation” = “not yours, Grandpa Larry”), as a sign of desperation.

The individuals who comprise the Mic 50 list are exceptional (as is a great majority of the content on Mic.com). The videos? Not so much. In each of the onesposted so far, a snappily dressed urbanite walks the clean, crime-free streets of New York City, the footage slowed for dramatic effect. The first-person voiceovers spew niceties about dream-following, boundary-pushing and post-rejection-persevering. It’s the world’s most boring self-help pamphlet come to life.

Isn’t the Grey Goose brand supposed to be all about brashness, status and, yes, exceptionalism? If so, the attempts here to layer on a sheen of youthful idealism by association feel misguided at best and delusional at worst. I get it: Grey Goose needs to reach younger audiences now that its initial burst of premium-minded drinkers are growing creaky. But youthful members of the startup and do-gooder communities generally aren’t the ones who link their self-esteem to an ability to afford unapologetically premium-priced booze. I’m all for forging unlikely connections, but this one feels like a reach.

The only winners here, as far as I can tell, are members of Mic’s sales team. How they talked Grey Goose into underwriting a program that isn’t tangentially related to its brand proposition… well, that’s some impressive sales con-artistry, and that’s before one takes a gander at the YouTube view counters. In any event, there’s nothing to see here.

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