This entry was originally posted on May 16, 2014 on http://www.ulliappelbaum.com. Since then I’ve met Marc Grossfield, the founder and CEO of Aviv 613, and First The Trousers has added Aviv 613 to its client roaster.
It’s not often that one can witness the first steps of a new brand with the belief that you’ll witness its growth and success. So I was intrigued when my neighbor Ken mentioned to me a new Vodka brand, Aviv 613, created and launched here in Minneapolis in November 2013 (and distilled in Israel) by the Minnesotan entrepreneur Marc Grossfield.
An intriguing brand name: Aviv 613
The name by itself is intriguing and acts as an invitation into the brand’s story. Aviv refers to its birthplace, Tel Aviv and 613 refers to the 613 laws of the Torah. So clearly a brand grounded in spirituality. The product is actually distilled by a family of Russian master distillers that immigrated to Israel and that have a 200 hundreds year history of distilling vodka (great way to provide credibility to the product). It took them, so the story goes, 3 years to perfect the vodka.
A really gorgeous bottle filled with symbolism:
The bottle stands out at retail and is a talking piece in itself. According to Mr. Grossfield the bottle alone contains over 100 hidden messages and symbolisms. For example, some of the sand used for the bottle comes from a desert in Israel (so you’re literally holding a piece of the Holy Land in your hands). The vodka itself is distilled using the seven ingredients mentioned in the Old Testament. The triangular shape of the bottle represents the 3 elements of the soul (body, mind and spirit). One side of the bottle contains messages of hope and well wishes, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on.
100 messages on the bottle alone might sound a bit overkill but the bottle looks really clean and gorgeous and all these elements somehow fit together in a way that is congruent and that tells a bigger story. It doesn’t feel cluttered at all (great design). And they provide a great conversation starter.
A powerful human purpose:
The brand’s purpose is: “WE BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF GOOD THOUGHTS ™.” We believe our great moments should be celebrated, remembered, and cherished. We toast celebrations of life, the spiritual power of joy, the universal pursuit of happiness, and the wonderful days ahead.”
So while grounded in the Jewish spiritually, its message is a broader, more universal and has the potential to appeal to everyone. From an occasion standpoint the brand tries to claim those moments in life that are worth toasting.
An interesting growth strategy:
As far as I know Aviv 613 is only available in Minnesota right now but the plan is to expand the distribution city by city. As Marc Grossfield points out in one of his interviews, this approach requires less funding than a national launch (he initially raised $2million), and obviously allows him to retain the control the brand. The approach is also very grass root, sponsoring local event, providing training sessions for local bar tenders and leveraging local brand ambassadors.
This approach reminded me a little of the initial distribution strategy of Red Bull which in its early days opted for a slow geographical expansion based on exclusivity.
Interesting also that Aviv 613 managed to get included into the Swag Bad of this year’s Oscars (the bag of goodies given to the Oscar celebrities filled with apparently $50.000 worth of exclusive goodies).
A promising future?
The beauty and strength of this brand is that it is so deeply rooted in the Jewish culture and spirituality and that its story comes to life in the product, the bottle and the usage occasions. So there is no doubt in mind that Aviv 613 will become a strong niche brand that will most likely be ultimately purchased at a premium by one of the large distilleries (not sure if that is the exit strategy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens).
The big question for me however is whether or not the brand will manage to grow beyond its Jewish roots and manage to become mainstream by expanding its platform of good will and good thoughts. Other brands have managed to do so, and based on my own reaction to the brand (and I am not Jewish), my guess would be YES.
Marc seems to be a skilled marketer. But from his interviews one can tell that he’s also a great story teller. So I’m posting a little video of him explaining Aviv 613.
I hope to meet him soon, so I’ll provide additional information and insight if I can.
What do you think? Do you like the way the brand is positioned and designed? And do you think it can become mainstream? Let me know.