Unleashing the power of imagination to craft stories

We caught up with Deb Dasgupta, who joined Absolut Vodka as vice president of global marketing late last summer. Now fully settled into her role, Deb reveals how her passion for storytelling was inspired by a vibrant family upbringing in India – and how joining Absolut was nothing short of cosmic.

Deb Dasgupta

How did growing up in Calcutta shape your extensive career in marketing?

My childhood in India was a tapestry of sensory marvels, where every hue and hum spun a yarn. From the towering Himalayas in the north to the tranquil backwaters in the south framed a canvas rich in diversity. From age-old temples and regal palaces that dotted the landscape to futuristic cities that pulsated with life against a backdrop of a 1.5 billion voices in over 120 languages, amidst the everyday symphony of traffic and the intoxicating bouquet of aromas and spices. Amidst this kaleidoscope, I found my muse in Books, Music and Films – each story a mosaic of life’s intricate lessons.

In Kolkata, our home buzzed with generational creativity – Art, music, cinema and literature were the air we breathed. Life there was a tapestry woven with vibrant threads: my mother strumming the guitar, my father with his love for country music, while my uncle would listen to disco pop. The diversity in music and melodies and the narratives that I enjoyed with my family became my language, and it was here I learned about the transformative power of stories that would shape my future in marketing and advertising.

I learned from an early age that stories are the sole language – they have the power to transcend boundaries, evoke emotions and inspire change.

What grabbed you about The Absolut Group to want to work here?

Joining Absolut felt like a twist of fate written in the stars! I discovered the brand’s legacy of creative storytelling while at university. Absolut always harnessed the wilds of imagination that resonated deeply with its provocative wit and progressive edge. My friends and I reveled in Absolut-themed parties, my dorm walls bore homage to the brand with its iconic posters. Landing the role at Absolut gave me a rush, a euphoria that I can hardly put into words. It felt a full circle when the buzz of my university circle echoed my own, their messages tinged with the same thrill at the news.

What are the key areas of focus in your role at Absolut Vodka?

Absolut Vodka isn’t just a brand; it’s a cultural symphony with a legacy that resonates through time. My role is akin to a navigator, charting a course towards uncharted territories where relevance meets innovation. I’m anchored in the belief that Absolut’s future chapters are as boundless as the imagination itself—that very notion sets my pulse racing. Imagination is our compass, guiding us through new realms of storytelling, communication, and innovation. My aspiration is to kindle the same spark in a fresh wave of Absolut aficionados that the brand ignited in me two decades past.

Drawing on your extensive experience, what marketing skills are transferable?

Thriving brands are akin to captivating tales, intricately laced with context and emotion, enchanting audiences far and wide. The art of marketing is a universal language, with its lexicon of skills applicable across the myriad narratives each brand possesses. My journey has been graced by iconic brands which have been playgrounds for my imagination.

At Unilever, I spun tales for beauty icons like Lakme, weaving campaigns that celebrated elegance, harmonized tradition wit modernity, and paid homage to the dynamic role of women in society. At Pepsi, my canvas stretched to echo the heartbeat of youth – their dreams, aspirations and ambitions.

Marketings transcends mere trendspotting and data analysis; it’s about harnessing insights to steer a brand on its true course. Yet, beyond strategy and numbers, I hold the steadfast belief that the most potent marketing instrument is the craft of spinning narratives that do not merely resonate but reverberate within the soul, across any category – forging stories that are not just heard but deeply felt.

My destiny of becoming part of Absolut was purely cosmic! I discovered the brand’s huge legacy of creative storytelling while at university.

How can global brands play a role in tackling the world’s big issues from climate change to LGBTQ+?

For over four decades, Absolut has championed the vanguard of progressiveness, standing as a proud ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Mixing ideas and identities has always been part of who we are, continuously sparking social dialogues and nurturing a positive spirit that our brand wholeheartedly embraces.

Absolut’s story is woven with threads of sustainability, a narrative of “Single Source – One Community” where each drop and grain is a testament to our unwavering commitment. Our Swedish roots are deeply entwined with an enduring dedication to the environment, a legacy that we are ever keen to enrich and advance.

In today’s landscape, brands have emerged as potent forces for good, wielding their economic might and communicative reach to cast a positive influence of both environment and communities. A myriad of brands are now curating discussions on social and ecological themes, fostering the winds of change we collectively aspire to see.

How do you think Absolut can raise the bar In terms of its diversity and inclusion?

Diversity isn’t just woven into the fabric of India—it’s threaded into the very core of my being. My advocacy for cross-cultural synergy has been a constant throughout my career, mirroring Absolut’s ‘Born to Mix’ ethos. Stepping into this role feels like a return to roots, a homecoming of sorts! I’m enamored by the rich tapestry of diversity within our teams. Our leadership is a vibrant mosaic of nationalities, genders, and eclectic minds. It’s heartening to witness a kaleidoscope of individuals from varied backgrounds in my team, enriching us with a wealth of cognitive diversity. Homogeneity is not our pursuit; rather, we seek the alchemy that comes from a confluence of independent, creative thinkers—inspirational souls with a collective perceptiveness. While Absolut already sets a lofty standard for Diversity & Inclusion, my aim is to galvanize those around me, to stir thoughts of crafting a collectively brighter tomorrow through the power of our diverse mix.

Diversity is a part of India’s DNA and so it is of no surprise that it’s a passion of mine. I have always championed cross-cultural fluidity wherever I have worked.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Immersing oneself in the realms of books, podcasts, music, and cinema is part of a marketer’s world. Yet, for me, travel is the relentless pursuit of inspiration—the kind that feeds the soul and sparks creativity. It’s an odyssey of stimulation, novelty, adventure, discovery, and learning, be it history or culture. Journeys are not always draped in luxury. Amidst the solitude of the pandemic, I found solace in the simple act of wandering through the mountains, and at other times, I’ve embraced the backpacking ethos, lodging with locals to truly savor their culture and cuisine. Such travels have not only tethered me to the earth but also expanded my horizons, gifting me a panoramic view of life’s manifold landscapes.

As a marketer, the ability to gaze through an ever-shifting kaleidoscope is invaluable—travel, in this light, becomes a profound wellspring of inspiration.

What advice would you give to someone looking to carve out a career in marketing?

Every marketer should perennially don the hat of a cultural scholar to understand how different cultures diverge and dance into the future. Ideas can spark from the most unexpected encounters, hence my counsel: cultivate an open mind and let curiosity be your compass. It’s through the lens of travel that I’ve experiences real human stories, while films across languages and textures served as a mirror to the world’s beautiful diversity. And last but not the least, venture beyond the echo chamber of similar minds; it’s in the confluence of discourse with souls from various walks of life that one often finds the richest source of inspiration.

Is there a defining moment in your career?

Venturing forth from India marked a pivotal chapter, a leap into terra incognita. While the rhythms of my birthplace were etched in my spirit, I was hungry to savor the essence of life beyond its borders. My career has been a mosaic of such explorations, each role a new brushstroke on the canvas of my professional journey. I immerse myself in the local tapestry at every opportunity, even if it’s a simple walk through bustling streets, letting the ambience wash over me. Inquiries about whether London outshines Dublin, or if Stockholm now holds my favor, miss the mark. You see, it’s not a matter of comparison—it’s the thrill of the novel, the allure of the untrodden path that captivates me. Each sojourn, each encounter, each challenge is a singular chapter in the narrative of my life, intricately shaping the person I become.