Anna Malmhake, The Absolut Company

In this episode, we meet Anna Malmhake, CEO of The Absolut Company. As the chief executive of a premium spirits company, Anna runs a truly global house of brands with spirits such as Absolut Vodka, Kahlua and Malibu Rum. In fact, Absolut Vodka is the fourth largest international spirit brand in the world, with more than 11 million cases sold yearly worldwide.

In this episode

Anna has a long international career in the UK, Ireland and USA, with experience from brands like Procter & Gamble, Motorola and Coca-Cola. Before taking on the challenge as CEO of The Absolut Company, she was the chief executive of Irish Distillers with whiskey brands such as Jameson and Paddy’s. Anna is also board member of Pernod Ricard, which owns The Absolut Company since 2008.


As a global house of brands with Absolut Vodka in the forefront, the company faces international complexity daily. The challenge lies in holding together large global brands, in different regions, with different cultures, and varying market maturity. Anna therefore stresses the importance of maintaining the integrity of the brand, while simultaneously adapting to local needs and cultural symbolism.

“I’ve seen many brands lose their soul completely by reinventing who they are in each country, and in the end they stand for nothing.”

For decades Absolut Vodka has stood out through its strategy of “constant creativity”. Absolut pioneered in its collaboration with world renowned artists already in the 80’s, with the famous Andy Warhol artwork of the Absolut bottle. In our conversation with Anna, she explains that this is still in the heart and soul of the brand, even though creativity and pop-culture today is expressed in new ways.

How to manage agility versus integrity in a global house of brands?

Today brands have to be increasingly agile, fast moving and flexible for an increasingly turbulent world. As brands need to re-invent themselves to remain relevant, there is a dichotomy that is central to tomorrow’s business leaders. It’s about the ability to focus on the core and build an attractive brand consistently, while being agile so that you stay relevant.

There are some brands that manage to balance these two and these are the ones that consumers truly buy into. By building your brand on a strong idea – a purpose – instead of a product or a set of certain category specific benefits or attributes, you allow your brand to focus on the core while being agile. For Absolut, this core idea, or purpose, stems all the way back to its founding days and the entrepreneurial spirit of Lars Olsson Smith. Based on his open-minded, inclusive and progressive thinking, the brand still leads a passionate movement for creativity and progression.

Listen to Anna Malmhake’s thoughts on how to build a global house of brands with integrity while staying agile and relevant over time.

Varumärkespodden is produced in cooperation with Dagens Media and the interviewer is always Johan Ekelin, co-founder of Lynxeye. Don’t forget to subscribe in your podcast app and do join the conversation on Twitter with @Lynxeyeglobal.

The podcast is in Swedish.

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