Search Is On to ‘Improve Martini’

When it comes to vodka, the 4-year-old Vincent Van Gogh brand can’t boast the recognition of Grey Goose or Belvedere.

But the Dutch import, which is in the beginning stages of an agency search, claims two points of difference it will use to compete in the crowded flavored-vodka category: its wider variety of premium vodkas than high-end competitors such as Grey Goose and Belvedere and its vodka-based liqueurs.

“There are constantly new vodkas coming into the market,” said David van de Velde, president of the brand’s Reno, Nev., importer, Luctor International. “The next thing is to improve the martini. We go beyond vodka to make a truly better martini. That message has to go out to the public.”

Agency location is not a factor in the creative and media review, which van de Velde is leading, the company said. A budget has not been set, but van de Velde said it could range from $2-10 million.

Van Gogh, which trails larger, more well-known premium brands such as No. 1 Grey Goose (with 1.2 million cases sold in 2002, according to Impact Databank Review & Forecast) and Belvedere (375,000 cases sold in 2002), has not advertised for two years. Instead, it has relied on promotions carried out through distributors, a company rep said.

The last print work for the brand, by Trahan, Burden & Charles in Baltimore, included an ad that featured an image of Vincent Van Gogh.

The company targets consumers ages 25-40 who “want to be in, want to live the good life and want to be seen,” van de Velde said. The client has begun contacting shops and is in the process of developing a list, according to the rep. Luctor is hoping to hire an agency by year’s end and break a campaign in May 2004.