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July 27, 2010
Ironically, It Was Smirnoff Who Was Actually 'Iced'
The Smirnoff Company describes one of their well-known adult beverages, Smirnoff Ice, as “Juicy red raspberry flavor complemented by a dry, crisp finish," "A taste that’s ripe for the pickin'," and "Add some fiesta to your next gathering with this fresh and tangy flavor.”

Does this sound like a company that would create a game that attempts to punish players by binge drinking their product? I’m referring to the game Icing. By now, most have heard, or witnessed firsthand, the game that encourages players to find creative ways to force a person to drink an entire Smirnoff Ice on one knee. People have woken up friends with Ices, strategically placed them in places they are sure to be found by an unsuspecting victim, and blatantly handed them with the provider making sure to say, “You’ve been iced.”

Most adults would agree that if you “surprised” them with a beer in this same way, they would not be very saddened with the idea of drinking it. In fact, many would thank you for the beer. However, hand someone a Smirnoff Ice, with the idea being that it supposedly tastes so badly that he or she would never thank another for the beverage, and it’s a joke played at his or her expense.

I’m here to dispel the rumors that Smirnoff Ice had anything to do with the creation of this game. Did it get them, and their product, a lot of national attention? Yes. Did it create an increase in product purchases? I would believe so. Did it portray the product as a great, flavorful drink that everyone would love? No. That’s where the issues begin.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that the company had started the game. There would be an increase in sales, stores would begin to order more, and the game would be well stocked and on its way to everyone’s hand. Fast-forward to when the fad of “icing” your friend is no longer “cool,” and we have a massive problem. Stores are overstocked. No one is purchasing the product. Following this line of thought, what would happen? Smirnoff would stand to lose a lot of money and its product only would be known for as for its role in a game, not as a decent beverage to consume.

When creating an advertising or marketing plan, usually the idea is to promote a product so that it gains in popularity and awareness and sales continually rise for a long period of time. With this idea, its clear that the game would be short-lived. How many times can people “ice” each other before it begins to get old?

In my agency, I sit next to a fabulous girl who takes care of one of our larger spirit companies. I asked her what she thought of Icing and if her client would ever embark on an idea like it.

“Absolutely not," she stated. "Alcohol companies are extremely strict. We even have major restrictions on how to advertise and this game promotes binge drinking. That would never be allowed.”

Let’s recap: Why would a company promote their drink as a bad-tasting product, a way to punk a friend, and a great product to drink as fast as possible? They wouldn’t.

It actually has been rumored that this game was started on a college campus at a fraternity house. Sounds a bit more believable than a national organization, doesn’t it?

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Megan Green is a digital brand manager specializing in social media, creative writing, and organic search engine optimization. Prior to her career with an agency, she consulted on social media and public relations. She has been a contributor to Talent Zoo’s blog, Beyond Madison Avenue, and her blog has been mentioned as a digital blog to follow by one of AdWeek Media’s authors. Follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

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