Client: Richmond Distillers
PR Team: Simon Plumb Associates
Campaign: Launch of Black Death Vodka
Timing: March 1996 to 1 April Launch.
Budget: pounds 100,000
The vodka market in the UK is highly competitive with established brands
such as Smirnoff holding on to the lion’s share of sales. Newer brands
such as Absolut have however demonstrated the potential to break into
the sector if the proposition to the consumer is sufficiently different.
Richmond Distillers, a joint venture between Warrington-based distiller
G&J Greenalls and a Luxembourg-based marketing company, believed it
could do this with Black Death Vodka, a vodka with a similar youth
appeal to Absolut, with the same 40 per cent strength, but with a
cheaper price tag.
Black Death was originally launched as an export brand three years ago
and has a proven track record in the US and Europe - the Russian market
taking 60 million bottles a year. UK test marketing was carried out over
the last 18 months and the brand officially launched in the United
Kingdom on 1 April.
To position the Black Death brand as iconoclastic, daring and fun to
appeal to a target audience of 18 to 25 year old consumers, with an
interest in the club scene.
The agency chose Manchester, with its thriving youth and club scene as a
base for a UK product launch, to coincide with a poster and radio ad
campaign which carried the mock health warning, ‘Black Death Can
Seriously Affect Your Life.’
A photocall was set up at the Metz Cafe Bar in the ‘dead centre’ of
Manchester. Playing the brand name for all it was worth, the agency
arranged a stunt involving a mock gothic funeral cortege which set off
from the Metz Bar to Cruz 101 Club on the other side of the city.
A New Orleans jazz band led the way as local drag artist, Foo Foo Lammar
was carried in the coffin by rugby internationals Dewi Morris, now
national sales manager at G& J Greenalls, Martin Johnson, Mike Catt,
Mike Teague and former England and Manchester United player Paul Parker.
The launch party which took place in a mock-up of a crypt featured a
charity auction of prizes donated by Richmond and Distillers and
Manchester United, the proceeds went to a variety of cancer charities.
The tongue in cheek advertising campaign which was banned by the ASA
generated news coverage in the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror and the
Times, all of which featured pictures of the launch party.
The launch was also picked up by radio stations including Radio 5, GMR,
Kiss 102 FM and by the Manchester Evening News, and many of the North
Richmond has negotiated distribution deals with a network of wholesalers
since the launch and claims sales are ahead of budget at this stage.
While the Manchester location may have lost the agency attendance from
desk-bound London weeklies, the campaign was colourful enough to attract
the Manchester-based journalists of the nationals. Admittedly the
national coverage focused primarily on the ban, but the agency managed
to piggy back the launch coverage effectively.
Further roll out launches are planned for later this year in Scotland,
Northern Ireland and London, but with the new toned down ad campaign in
place, it would require some seriously bad taste to create such a stir a
second time round.