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

The comparison of Yeyo to Patrón comes up more than once in our conversation, but Jon makes it clear that his sights aren’t set on Patrón. “I don’t bag on Patrón, [the bartenders in Oregon] talk about it. I let them vent. Maybe because [Patrón is] mainstream and everywhere so it doesn’t make it as special [as Yeyo]. I don’t know what it is but I’ve heard it from a lot of bartenders in Oregon.” When Yeyo does invade a bar, it seems to dominate and slowly chip away at Patrón’s market. He gives me an example: “Couture down the street [doesn’t] sell Patrón anymore. They say: ‘we sell Yeyo, it’s the same price (per shot) and it’s twice as good.’ They have people try it, they like it and people eventually switch.” This has resulted in Yeyo doing very well in “little towns like Wheeler and Killer out in the middle of nowhere. People try it, like it, and then talk about it. [Bar Patróns become] Yeyo ambassadors – people who are a fan of the marketing and tequila – people who like that it’s got Beaverton, Oregon on the back … these people convince the bar to carry it and they convince their friends to drink it with them at the bar and that’s how we grow.”

This grassroots approach to selling tequila is similar in style to the way Jon designs his marketing campaigns. Press material, publicity photos, YouTube video advertisements, and even the fonts are all done “from scratch,” Jon says with pride, “I don’t copy anyone.” Beginning in 2009, Jon began producing a series of YouTube video commercials. “We began shooting it in August 2009 and then slowly released them. I spent only $4500 on all that, which is pretty cheap.” While he provides advice and input, Jon prefers to let his friends’ creativity go wild. “Everyone who works with me, I let them run with it. I say ‘you’re good at what you do so I’m not going to put any boundaries. Come up with a couple of things and we’ll see what happens.’”

Jon himself is also not afraid to get his hands dirty, and is determined to show people that tequila is not what they think it is. For Oregonians who purchase a case for a party or event, he and General Manager Alex Roosevelt will “go to your house and bartend and teach you how to make drinks with it and tell you about the tequila.” Jon speaks highly of his colleague Alex, who had been working in the bar industry for 13 years. One of the first times they did a party, Jon was amazed at his friend’s inherent talent. “Every other drink was amazing. He went from having never touched drinks before in his life to becoming…a mixologist. Just like that. When I mix a drink, he can tell me what’s missing. I can use the same ingredients as him, but it doesn’t come out the same.”

At these events, Jon’s focus is on reeling in the guests. “Say someone had a bad experience with Jose Cuervo [Especial] – they don’t want to touch tequila. They look at what we’re mixing and say ‘what’s in that?’ I tell them there’s tequila in there and they say, ‘really’?” He then convinces them to try it straight, and “they are surprised they like it.” When mixing the drinks, Jon and Alex often make tequila versions of classic drinks, such as mojitos and martinis. It’s all about changing people’s perceptions of tequila. “I don’t see why we have to use rum or vodka with these drinks.”

Yeyo is currently only available as a silver tequila for several reasons. “Marketing and [building] awareness of one is a lot of work,” Jon concedes. “And to get the right taste is a lot of work.” Jon is researching and experimenting with different woods, but doesn’t feel a need to rush the release of a reposado or añejo. “I have a lot of time,” he says, “and we’ll make sure it’s styled and correct and I’ll make sure a lot of people try it before it comes out.”

Instead of developing and marketing aged Yeyo, Jon is focused on expanding into other states. Last year he was planning to expand into California and had started to build buzz with a Yeyo California Facebook page. He wants to be cautious when moving south into California. “I know it is a huge spot so we’ll probably start in Sacramento and then we’ll slowly get bigger. There’s way too much demand. I don’t even have enough glass to supply even Sacramento. So it’s going to have to go slowly. We’ll grow.”

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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.