Tequila With a Modern Twist: The Story of Yeyo Tequila (Part 2)

yeyo tequila

By Ryan Kelley | 03.15.11

It’s halfway through my interview with Jon Bullinger, founder and owner of Yeyo Tequila, and the rain in Portland, Oregon, continues to fall relentlessly. Having already discussed how he created the flavor profile and shape of his tequila (in part 1 of this interview), it was time to address the curious four letter name – “YEYO”.

“A name has to be simple,” Jon says, “the shorter the better. You can remember it easier.” The name should also be easy to type, roll off the tongue, and have positive connotations with consumers. One possible name for the brand was “Diego.” “People know the name,” he explains, “it’s associated with sunny San Diego, and it’s easy to spell – there’s a connection between the consumer and the product as soon as they see it.”

But like most of the names on his initial list of 50 possibilities, Diego was already a registered trademark. There was one, however, that stood out. “’Yeyo’ actually means a lot of things. If you think of it in North America, it’s [slang for] cocaine … but if you go outside North America it means a lot of things. I had someone buy it at the liquor store just because of the name. She said ‘this means Mother’ [in Swahili] and she bought a bottle for that – the mother of tequila. I actually learned that right then.”

Before I can ask if he’s gotten any flak for the name, he continues telling me aspects of the name that he likes:” I thought it was clean,” he continues, “having two of the same letters – the ‘Y’s – you can do a lot graphically.” Connotation and meaning aside, the name is definitely unique. Jon points out “there is no tequila in the world that starts with a ‘Y.’ Yeyo is the only one. Go to ‘D’ or ‘A’ and there are two pages. Everyone is ‘Don’ or ‘Azul.’”

Being different and standing out from the crowd is a conscious effort. “I positioned myself away from traditional tequila and I’m starting my own category and it’s Yeyo, and I want to be number one in my own category – very different from everyone else.”

When we spoke almost a year ago, Yeyo was already making waves in Oregon, routinely coming in behind heavy hitters Patrón and Don Julio as a top-selling blanco. He focuses on both on-promise (bar and restaurants) and off-premise (liquor stores) accounts, but says he prioritizes liquor stores over the bars. “The money doesn’t come from restaurants and bars, it comes from liquor stores: 70-80 percent.” He breaks it down like this, “I can buy one shot in a restaurant and 25 shots in a liquor bottle – plus you take it home and share it with your friends and then they’re talking about it.” Jon still does work to ensure Yeyo Tequila is placed in bars and restaurants – in fact, some bars in Oregon have ousted Patrón for Yeyo – although he also admits there are some unique challenges. “The bar industry is really flakey … [One day] you have a bartender that loves your tequila and then they quit. The next bartender doesn’t like your tequila and that’s it. And unless you’re a giant it’s hard to get on a restaurant’s menu. [You end up] buying the restaurant’s menus – all stuff under the table – $500 to $1000 for a spot. I’d rather spend my time in the liquor store having tastings and having people try the tequila than spend any money in a bar or restaurant any day of the week.”

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Lisa Pietsch is the Chief Operations Officer of Tequila Aficionado Media, a USAF veteran, a multi-published novelist and freelance writer, a social media marketing consultant, and the mother of two boys. She has a passion for good tequila, foreign languages, and travel in all forms. Lisa currently makes her home in San Antonio, Texas.