BRAND, BOTTLES & THE BOSS:
HOW CIROC SELLS DREAMS
Meet Jack Walters, one of the Graduate Trainees who joined Space Doctors earlier this year. As part of their candidacy, we always ask the graduates to analyse a brand of their choice and look into emergent cultural cues the brand is tapping into and Jack has chosen the ultra-premium vodka brand Cîroc.
* These pieces have been written independently, are not meant to be an objective commercial critique, and they do not necessarily represent the views of Space Doctors Ltd *
‘Ciroc Boyz, down to ride for Diddy’
– Rick Ross ‘Nobody’
Unlike other alcoholic brands endorsed by rappers, Ciroc has avoided being perceived as low-quality (unlike Conjure, endorsed by Ludacris) or lacking in recognisable brand equity (unlike Ace of Spades, endorsed by Jay-Z). Ciroc has accomplished this by building their brand upon Diddy’s existing one. Diddy’s brand is not merely that of a rapper, but an entrepreneur and multimillionaire whose name and lifestyle has been synonymous with luxury for decades.
His brand is both lavish and exclusive. Ciroc, too, brands itself as different from other vodkas. In the first instance, it is made from French grapes, instantly bringing to mind connotations of sophisticated decadence. “Would you rather drink grapes or a potato?” Diddy asks in one promo, distancing the brand from common vodkas, which it follows, must be consumed by common people; as Diddy later asserts, ‘kings drink grapes’.
Ciroc bottles – a ubiquitous presence in today’s hip hop music videos – now act to signify not just an alcoholic beverage, but a luxurious, high status lifestyle. By consuming it, we too can experience this world. The liquid itself simultaneously signifies the pleasure of celebration, and the status conveyed by purchasing a high-end product. The kind of status associated with Ciroc, however, is a new one; it is completely unlike a brand such as Cristal, which represents the elitism of an older generation. Cristal famously lamented the fact that rappers wanted to be associated with their brand, whereas Ciroc actively seeks to position itself as an essential part of the celebration rituals within hip hop culture.
The Ciroc brand did not take off – nor establish itself as a luxury product – until 2007, when Diddy agreed to become brand ambassador in exchange for 50% equity in the company. This was also the period when southern hip hop, particularly Trap music from Atlanta, was emerging as a commercial force which set trends for the nation in both music and lifestyle.
Ciroc’s branding is targeted specifically towards a new consumer category – young, urban, African-American and affluent – whose economic aspirations, as well as attitudes towards the act of celebration were reflected by Trap stars like Rick Ross. The transparent, soft neon liquid of Ciroc’s various flavourings not only fits perfectly into the nightclub aesthetic of a Trap music video, but embodies the dreams and desires of Trap music’s producers and audiences.
Ciroc’s use of Rick Ross as a brand ambassador is particularly significant, as he has built his career on selling fantasy to an audience known for demanding authenticity. Ross’ lyrics depict a dream world where he nonchalantly wakes up in new Bugattis and drinks shots of Ciroc at a ‘place on the water, Lebron up the block’. The criminal mastermind persona of ‘Rick Ross’ is entirely illusory.
His personal brand as a rapper has triumphed over the acknowledged reality of his early life (actually a former prison guard, now using the namesake and life story of cocaine smuggler ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross to sell records); paradoxically, because of this, the lifestyle he claimed to enjoy on earlier records has now come to fruition. He has usurped the legend, fortune and status of his namesake, becoming wildly more successful than the real Rick Ross. Reality has been subverted – in fact, superseded – by the living out of a fantasy.
Rick Ross’s ability to literally live out a dream is significant for Ciroc, which already advertises itself heavily throughout the dreamlike world of music video. It suggests that the audience, too, can live their dreams – in this case, the dream that buying a vodka endorsed by Diddy and Ross will allow you access to the same luxurious lifestyle. Ross’ enduring success is the proof that dreams come true.