After the McDonald’s startup , here is our second case study from the Break conference featuring Absolut, the global vodka brand.

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For Markus Wulff and his “Growth Team” in Stockholm, it’s all about innovation outside the bottle, and embarking on a discovery of new opportunities on the customer journey of vodka lovers.

As in many cases of corporate innovation, “no one has the real answer on how to do it”, so the best thing is to launch anyway and iterate.

Corporate innovation can’t be planned,  just do things!

Absolut has been innovating primarily on the product itself, with flavours, and partly on marketing. With the setup of the Growth team, it is now aiming to create experiences, from payment to delivery, to embrace the customer journey.

The first key learning point of Markus and his 8-people team is the huge difference between the innovation cycle of a corporate, usually about 2 years, and the speed of startups. “It took us 3 weeks to launch a pilot after identifying a relevant partner”, he said.

Partnering with startups also proves to be a good way to get in touch with more people in tech ecosystems.

Markus continues, “We’ve met with people from the Amazon team working on delivering fresh product and groceries in London. What we do is a ticket to open discussions with this kind of company”.

Absolut and Minibar: delivering vodka and cocktail kits for New Yorkers

agence tesla vodka absolut minibar Absolut innovation digital growth

Traditionally, Markus adds, the drinks business is split between in-trade, when consumers buy the product in restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs, and off-trade, for home consumption.

Off-trade today is increasing, so the growth team partnered with Minibar, a startup based in New York providing, as its name suggests, booze on demand for private individuals, with a delivery under 1 hour, usually in 40 minutes.

This experiment actually brought, through the data gathered, a second by-product.

Most customers use vodka at home to create cocktails, so why not go a step further and offer cocktail kits? Those were created and could be pre-ordered within the Minibar app.

As a result of this pilot, Absolut was able to generate more revenues from, notably, women and from B2B sales as well as interesting data on the timing of ordering (some for instance re-order two hours after the first bottle).

Drinks database, API and movie engine

Before the team started to work formally as the growth team, Absolut already had a lot of insights on drinks and cocktail making and in particular, the kind of drinks preferred by people at a given time on Google Search.

They created a database, opened an API and offered developers to tap into it. One of the creations was a movie engine with about 600 movie clips to help people know how to create cocktails, as a cocktail is a patchwork of steps that can be remixed endlessly.

Optimising Absolut innovation strategy by structuring the growth team

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The team was built during the summer of 2014, with 8 people dispatched in three buckets:

Consumer insights

– Product development

– Digital

The team is growing slowly as it is first and foremost in “learning mode” and, even with the credit of the CEO, they have to manage with internal competition sometimes.

You can read more of our case studies on innovation strategies from MNCs in the same industry:

Coca-Cola Founders case study : an inspiring model of corporate innovation