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🧠 Grey Goose: How to use psychology to create stories that sell

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Hi there - Jen here :)

In 1997, a marketing genius named Sidney Frank built a spirits brand that went from $0 in sales to being sold for $2 billion in an all cash deal to Bacardi.

In only 8 years.

How did he do it? He took a status quo product (vodka) and turned it into a status brand.

A status brand is one that people aspire to own and show off. It sends signals to other people about who the owner is and how well they’re doing in life

These are brands like Apple, Supreme, Porsche, and Hermes where people will stand in lines outside the store, just to get their hands on a product.

But you don’t have to be a luxury brand to be a status brand - just look at retailers like Target in the US or M&S in the UK, and Sephora or Whole Foods.

There’s three ways any brand can attain status:

  • Borrow status from other brands that already have it

  • Build status signals for your own brand

  • Buy status through product or marketing placement and partnerships

Sidney Frank used the psychology of status to build his billion dollar vodka from scratch (whether he knew it consciously or not):

Today we’ll cover:

  • From Status Quo to Status Brand: Creating the World’s Most Luxurious Vodka Brand

  • Why Higher Prices Meant Higher Sales (and Higher Status) for Grey Goose

  • How Sidney Frank Borrowed Status to Create His Own Status Brand

👉 But before we get started:

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It’s an easy-to-use framework that can help you crack customers’ deepest desires, goals, and psychological pain points.

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From Status Quo to Status Brand: Creating the World’s Most Luxurious Vodka

In the 1990s, American drinking trends were moving away from beer and into more sophisticated cocktails, driven by the young urban professionals made famous in shows like Sex and the City.

Sex in the City back when it was a cultural phenomenon… not a worn-out TV and movie franchise.

So Frank decided that a luxury vodka brand that would be seen as a status symbol by these young urban professionals would be his next big enterprise...

How Status Brands Deal with Competition

When Sydney Frank founded Grey Goose, the highest-status vodka on the market was Absolut, famous for its iconic bottle and advertising.

Sidney Frank knew he’d have to steal some of Absolut’s premium market share for his new brand to be a success.

But Absolut wasn’t just famous - it was expensive.

In 1996 it sold for $15-17 bucks a bottle (the equivalent of $33 in today’s money).

At the time, it was an outrageous amount of money to pay for a single bottle of vodka.

So what did Sidney Frank do?

A more short-sighted marketer might've undercut Absolut and charged $10 dollars a bottle.

But Frank understood the psychological power of pricing - that it isn’t just a number. That your prices tell a story about your brand.

And Sidney Frank was building a status brand.

So he decided to charge an eye watering $30 a bottle.

(That’s about $60 today)

Why Higher Prices Meant Higher Sales (and Higher Status) for Grey Goose

This pricing strategy worked because of two psychological principles:

  1. Irrational Value Assessment says that people don’t value products objectively, instead we figure out how much something should cost based on context cues and how they make us feel.

  2. The Price-Quality Effect says that, for certain types of products, people often assume a higher-priced product is higher quality than a cheaper one.

High price also helped Sidney Frank build some of his own status signals for Grey Goose.

Borrowing a Status Story To Back Up a High Price

As powerful a psychological signal as price is, Frank knew you couldn’t rely on people to buy something just because it was expensive.

If he wanted to charge $30 dollars a bottle for his vodka, Sidney Frank knew he need a product story that was interesting, distinct from other vodka brands, and that screamed luxury and sophistication.

So Frank gathered his team at his company’s headquarters and told them to go to the country best known for luxury and sophistication - and bring back a vodka.

Why? Because by building on this country’s existing reputation for status and luxury, he could borrow some of that shine for Grey Goose.

That’s right, Sidney Frank sent his team to France.

A country that didn’t even have a vodka distillery in it.

The team discovered that cognac distillers in France were suffering from a lack of demand and a collapsing market.

Sidney Frank's team convinced a few cognac distillers to switch their stills over to vodka and create the world’s first French vodka brand.

Now Sidney Frank had a product, a price, a name, and a psychology-driven strategy that all screamed status. He:

  • Borrowed status signals from France and French wine

  • Built status with an attention-grabbing high price

  • Bought status through ads placed in status-driven publications like the Wall Street Journal

This potent combination made Grey Goose one of the fastest-growing and most successful spirits brands of all time.

Thought of the day:

When simplicity is your brand's superpower, shout about it:

Read, Watch, Listen

  • How (and Why) You Need to Create Behavioral Personas [Read]

  • The difference between good and great marketing | AG1 Athletic Greens Email Marketing Breakdown [Watch]

  • Check out the latest episode of the top-rated Choice Hacking podcast [Listen]  

🚀 Coming up in the Thursday Edition:

The Thursday Edition is a weekly newsletter shared with Choice Hacking Premium subscribers - upgrade to Choice Hacking Ideas Premium for $5 or less a month.

This week’s Thursday Edition will cover:

  • Special Series: From Abandoned Cart to Converted Customer. How to use psychology to create the perfect abandoned cart email and copy to capture more customers

  • Part Two of Three: Personalization and Social Proof: Making the product irresistible

  • Includes exclusive video workshop of 3 high-converting abandoned cart emails with frameworks you can steal

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FYI - Due to limited capacity, my consulting and coaching calendar is now full. But I am taking on new clients starting in Q3.

If you're interested in learning more about working with me in a coaching or consulting capacity please register your interest here and I'll reach out soon as dates become available.

Until next time,

Jen Clinehens, MS/MBA
Founder & MD Choice Hacking

Want to use behavioral science, psychology, and AI to grow your business?

👉 When you’re ready, Choice Hacking can help:

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    • Want 1-on-1 expert advice on how to grow your brand but don’t want to pay thousands to get it? Check out my Website Audit. For just $1200 USD, I’ll send you a 43-point Audit Report, a UX breakdown, and a 60 minute video breakdown of your website that gives you actionable ways to drive trust with users and increase your conversion rate.

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