Narratives for Selling Premium Goods: The Grey Goose Story

People want to pay more in order to own lux­ury goods, but you need to give them a reas­on to do so. That excuse? A com­pel­ling story.

One man that sub­scribed to this idea was Sydney Frank, as is evid­ent from the strategy he developed for Grey Goose: the ‘super­premi­um’ vodka that Bar­cardi bought for $2 bil­lion in cash in what became the largest ever single brand sale.

In a 2005 New York art­icle pub­lished shortly before his death, you can read all about Sydney Frank’s marketing/branding strategy and the com­pel­ing story of Grey Goose vodka. This excerpt fol­lows Frank’s decision to have Grey Goose dis­tilled in France:

But why France? Does­n’t vodka come from Rus­sia, or per­haps, in a pinch, Scand­inavia? “People are always look­ing for some­thing new,” says Frank. It’s all about brand dif­fer­en­ti­ation. If you’re going to charge twice as much for a vodka, you need to give people a reas­on.

“Niet­z­sche explains that human beings are look­ing for the ‘why’ in their lives, […] we refer to this ‘why’ as ‘the Great Story.’ The Great Story must be enti­cing, mem­or­able, eas­ily repeat­able, and about what you want your brand to be about.”

For Grey Goose, the brand was about unrivaled qual­ity. Grey Goose’s Great Story hinged on the fol­low­ing key points: It comes from France, where all the best lux­ury products come from. It’s not anoth­er rough-hewn Rus­si­an vodka—it’s a mas­ter­piece craf­ted by French vodka artis­ans.

It uses water from pristine French springs, filtered through Cham­pagne lime­stone.

It’s got a dis­tinct­ive, care­fully designed bottle, with smoked glass and a sil­hou­ette of fly­ing geese. It looks fant­ast­ic up behind the bar, the way it catches the light […] It sure looks expens­ive.

It was shipped in wood crates, like a fine wine, not in card­board boxes like Joe Schmo’s vodka. This catches the bar­tender­’s eye and rein­forces the aura of qual­ity. Nev­er for­get the influ­ence of the bar­tender. […]

And now the most import­ant piece of the story—the twist that brings it all togeth­er: Grey Goose costs way more than oth­er vod­kas. Waaaaaaay more. So it must be the best.

This descrip­tion of Grey Goose’s Great Story per­fectly cap­tures the essence of the art­icle.