For good reasons or bad, both interesting and not so interesting creative work ends up in the creative graveyard – that far-off place where ideas go to die of loneliness. I’m always on the look-out for what didn’t make the grade both for entertainment and as an intellectual exercise. One of my colleagues who worked with Absolut Vodka for years, has a great Creative Graveyard story.

How the Absolut Vodka bottle could have looked

In 1978, the decision was taken to export a hundred year old Swedish vodka called Absolut rent brännvin or “Absolutely pure vodka.” The vodka was to be relaunched and exported to the US as Absolut Vodka in a new bottle that communicated both the heritage of the spirit and the country it came from.

A number of marketing consultants made a number of recommendations that resulted in some designs that, in retrospect, were somewhat less than cutting-edge: a Viking theme, a kitsch Russian theme, even a bottle in a bag. Luckily, Absolut Vodka held out for something a bit more timeless. They brought in a legendary adman who struggled with the project until he had an epiphany at an antique shop. What he saw was an apothecary bottle from the late 18th century. Iconic to Swedes, the bottle was completely new to the rest of the world. He made a few minors changes to the 200 year old bottle’s shape and added custom caligraphy inspired by a handful of letters from a 1930’s ad for Cadillac.

The result was – a historic icon became a modern icon.

P.S. The question is: what would have happened if Absolut had gone with one of the other options. You be the judge.

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