TO RUSSIA, WITH NO LOVE – The Case of STOLI & 3 Ways to Avoid Badmouthing a Rival

The Booze Bin

By Laura Petrosky (@chronic_ally)

Many people who work in the alcoholic beverage industry got their inboxes flooded with #dumpstoli emails last month. For those of you who were on sunning on the beach with a vodka tonic, here is what happened: Following the decree of the anti-LGBT laws in Russia, LGBT activists called for a boycott of Russian vodka in the U.S. According to activist Dan Savage: “If there isn’t a boycott (…) at the Olympics in Sochi this winter, (…) there is something we can do right here, right now: Dump Russian vodka.


And yes, they dumped! And the top dumpee? Stoli, the largest-producing, most well-known Russian vodka available in the U.S. Though technically made in Luxembourg (I will spare you the details, which you can read here), gay bars across the U.S. jumped on the boycott bandwagon. Some of them even hosted #dumpstoli parties and poured the vodka down the drain.


With all of the vodka down the drain, it got me thinking about how Non-Russian spirit brands would react to Stoli’s misfortune. Would any other brand cross the so-called picket line of “politically correct” badmouthing of the competition? (More on that later.) Campari’s Skyy Vodka created a new twitter ad that reads, "Cheers to Equality" with a Skyy bottle in front of an American flag. The tweet further read “Skyy Vodka is American made, and made for everyone. Show your support for equality in every country.” 800 people instantly shared or marked the Tweet as a favorite. Point for Skyy.


Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Luxco’s Pearl Vodka reportedly hosted a Stoli dumping party at Woody’s in Philadelphia. Wine & Spirits Daily (7/30 newsletter) reported that the party was the bar’s idea, but that Pearl provided POS for the event. A little harsh on the mob-mentality. Minus a point for Luxco’s Peal Vodka.


The question is: To what degree is it acceptable to benefit from a competitor’s misfortune? Here are three points to keep in mind before exploiting a rival’s hard luck:

1. Is it worth it? In PR, being first can be golden. Nothing is worse than missing the news cycle because you waited too long to act. However, take some time to think about the consequences of your actions. Grab a cup of coffee; sleep on it; run it by a coworker. Be your own devil’s advocate. There is such a thing as a sore winner and consumers may not like it.

2. Bluntly put, be subtle. Do you really have to mention your rival by name and throw them under the bus? Or can you take the subtle, clever road? There are ways of saying what you want to say without saying it. Do you know what I’m saying?

3. Beware of fake activism: Don’t ever talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. When criticizing the competition, make sure you actually do better in the area you are critiquing. More importantly: Be sure you even care about the issue at hand. If you have never taken a stand for being environmentally conscientious, for example, does it make sense to start now?



[Image credit: Twitter, Getty, Family Guy]

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