The rise of 42 Below.

10 Mar

The day Fosters Group acquired the New Zealand vodka company 42 Below, the website, which had been so meticulously cared for up to that point, received the world’s most brief news update:

“We’re rich!”

Impulsive, insolent and provocative, this was the personality we had come to associate with 42 Below. And we loved it. They were New Zealand’s little success story. A pocket of clever marketers, who said all the wrong things at precisely the right times with a level of irreverence that somehow made it all seem totally endearing.

A smattering of well-placed print ads, a couple of well-humoured viral videos, and everybody understood what this brand was about. It aimed to offend everyone equally with the kind of borderline humour that forces people to form an opinion.

Fortunately for 42 Below, when people are thinking, they’re talking, and when they’re talking, they’re drinking.

I’d hazard a guess that nobody is in love with 42 Below the way they once were. The money Fosters Group has thrown at marketing has really missed the brand’s sweet spot. You get the impression 42 Below has become exactly what it set out not to be: a fancy vodka that goes down easily.


5 Responses to “The rise of 42 Below.”

  1. Hannah JV March 10, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    I usually beat my chest when I read/hear/see cheap digs at homosexuality, but the print ads (together in context) are bordering on tasteful digs. The virals however, yeesh mageesh – they’re pretty bad. The first one is a big ol’ clusterfuck of “yeah, we got it the first time” jokes, and the second induced 30 seconds of teeth-sucking.

    • jonoaidney March 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

      I think it’s the context that makes the virals great. You have to imagine a world before L&P, before marketing ‘positioned New Zealandness’. This was also one of the first times YouTube had been used as a marketing tool. It was one of the first viral videos.

      And my personal view is that the gay viral is tempered by (a) the fact the gay executions are just one direction in a much broader onslaught of offensiveness, (b) 42 Below at the time were the ‘it’ booze brand amongst the international gay community, sponsoring endless events (remember the 42 Below Me t-shirts?), so it made sense that they had something witty to say about the whole scene. It came across at the time as an in-joke, rather than bashing from outside.

      With that said, there were many in the gay community who found the gay executions distasteful and many gay bars refused to stock the stuff. Trouble was, by this stage the brand had become quite iconic, especially in the New York gay club scene (which was actually one of the main target audiences from the get-go).

    • jonoaidney March 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

      For example:


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