How Our/Los Angeles Is Becoming More Than a Vodka Brand
By: Carli Evilsizer | July 15, 2019
Looking to grow your brand, or better yet evolve it to something greater than it already is? Well, Rupert Runewitsch of Our/Los Angeles is doing just that in the vodka space. Together with his company, he’s on a mission to turn an already popular L.A. vodka brand into a lifestyle brand that promises to deliver premium, quality products and fulfilling experiences to customers whenever possible. Keep scrolling to learn how he’s doing it.
Rupert Runewitsch of Our/Los Angeles, Shares How to Become a Lifestyle Brand
Our/Los Angeles is partly-distilled, blended and hand-bottled in the micro-distillery according to the same global recipe, but with the use of different, locally-sourced ingredients, giving each vodka its own, unique flavor profile. The small-sized, simple bottle is sealed with a crown-cap containing a vodka that is smooth, fresh and pure with a slight grain and fruity note.
Managing Partner & Head of Marketing
After being in adland for 15 years and working in some of the best creative shops and consultancies (glue, Leo Burnett, VaynerMedia, MediaLink) Rupert recently turned all his focus to his entrepreneurial efforts, with his venture Vista being back by his previous employer, Gary Vaynerchuk and Our/Los Angeles backed by Pernod Ricard. Rupert’s expertise in brand building and innovation, means that although the two companies seem very different, their potential to disrupt and change their relative industries, gives them a standout appeal akin to Rupert’s approach to marketing.
1. What is Our/ Vodka and Our/Los Angeles?
Our/Vodka is a “family” of vodka distilleries around the world, conforming to the same premium approach to distilling and utilizing the same brand design. However, each local market activation, backed by Local Entrepreneurs is brought to life in its own special way.
At Our/Los Angeles, we source our own ingredients locally, we focus on our own target market and most importantly we grow the brand and activate in a way that is humbling to the city of Los Angeles. We live in a city that is so rich with different cultures and trends, that it is an extremely exciting place to be building a “new” type of Lifestyle brand. One that has its roots in a premium spirit.
2. What was the inspiration to create vodka customized to a city’s personality?
The founder of the project Asa Caap, previously of ABSOLUT, unlocked, in my view, a fascinating way to get the best out of local talent but empowering them with all aspects of the business. What better way to build a brand, than to lean on people who love their city and understand how to speak to people.
Whilst the craft vodka market is highly competitive and very saturated, particularly in Los Angeles, if you can bring the expertise of distilling exceptional vodka and partner that with passionate local talent, then you have a winner.
3. Tell me more about this summer’s #MadeInLA Series!
We have recently partnered with Plan Check LA, who are celebrating local brands, a trend which we are obviously heavily in support of and we focus on from a consumer point of view.
4. How is Our/LA more than just a vodka brand?
The origins of the brand were in Vodka, a niche vodka at that. A super premium vodka, only sold in a 375ml bottle, with simple design and branding, basically a counter to every other premium vodka out there. Now that we have gotten the name out there, Our/Los Angeles is not just about Vodka, it is about the celebration of life and specifically the life lived in Los Angeles.
While vodka has been the gateway by which we have unleashed Our/Los Angeles into world, it is by no means the end of our ambitions; fact it is only the beginning.
5. What does it mean to be a ‘lifestyle brand’?
Our/ Mission is simple, create products and experiences that celebrate our city, that always deliver on quality. In my opinion, a lifestyle brand is a brand that you can rely on to inspire and deliver for you as a consumer every time, across different products.
6. Why did you decide to launch a podcast?
Globally we have seen a huge uptake of Podcasts and Voice as a medium and naturally we wanted to take advantage of that. Being a disruptive start-up vodka brand, I wanted to use a new medium to build our brand. Almost more importantly though, is Los Angeles - more than any other city - suffers from terrible traffic and poor public transport and access, therefore extended periods of time in the car for most people. We wanted to tap into that and create a platform that inspired and educated people about the city in a way that other brands wouldn’t. Season 1 was very much about unearthing the different sub-cultures of Los Angeles and most likely ones that you have never heard of.
Additionally, there is something very exciting about getting your brand into digital platforms like iTunes, Alexa, Spotify, etc. and letting the listeners do the talking in terms of how those platforms then promote your content.
Our aim is to get those hotels with Alexa integration to push our content to inspire their guests and travelers with the history of Los Angeles.
7. How important is investment in a good social strategy?
More important than ever and more difficult than ever to execute without spending tons of money, which makes it that much more exciting and interesting.
The role of Influencers and social platforms in the growth of brands is paramount but the restrictions by the platforms and the costs to engage are getting so high that it’s harder and harder to execute. We have huge challenges engaging our own community, let alone growing it, especially as an alcohol brand and therefore are constantly having to rethink how we reach our target consumers.
8. What are other examples of being more than just a vodka brand?
We are about to launch a very exciting clothing line. Specifically not calling it merch, as for me that alludes to start-up gym t-shirts and that is what we are avoiding. All garments will be made in LA and utilize sustainable or recycled fabrics.
In August, we are also launching a range of non-alcoholic cordials which are made using local ingredients.
9. Do you think more companies should strive to become a lifestyle brand?
Not at all. I am sure that a lot of brands would say that you should stay in your lane and do what you do best. However, given the approach we have taken to celebrating the city and all it has to offer, and the fact we have Los Angeles in our name, we are in a position where it makes sense to become something greater than just a vodka.
10. What’s the hardest part about evolving a startup into a lifestyle brand?
Ensuring you don’t do too much and it all still makes sense, in other words, people understand why there are different products and experiences from the same brand but across different industries.
11. What’s next for Our/LA?
There is more but it is a secret...
3 Quick Tips to Become A Lifestyle Brand
Find the Right Partners
Ensure you’ve achieved your core product deliverable well before diversifying.
Evolving from a vodka brand to lifestyle brand isn’t easy and it’s definitely not in every brand’s best interests to even start the process. But when you do it authentically, for the right reasons and are super strategic, like ensuring you’ve achieved your core product before scaling out, you might just end up with something big.
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