You may have heard about Justin Timberlake’s directorial debut earlier this week, which is making quite a splash. It’s not a big TV show, a reality TV talent show, or a feature film with an Oscar-friendly plot. Instead, Timberlake chose to create three ads for 901 Silver, his brand of premium tequila. The ads are sexy and fun, and, like his tequila, very smooth.
The national campaign, which will hit internet, print, and television, will run through next year. The ads are all artistically constructed vignettes that evoke mood and style rather than convey facts about the product. They are sure to garner attention, raise eyebrows, and, hopefully for 901, evoke consumer curiosity. For some facts about 901 Silver, we turned to Kevin Ruder, President of 901 Tequila, who graciously answered some of our questions about the juice, the brand, and Justin Timberlake’s (aka “JT”) involvement in this young tequila brand.
Ryan Kelley of Tequila Aficionado: Congrats on producing such a good tequila. My friend (Jason Lerner, GM of Depot Nuevo near Chicago, IL) has dubbed 901 Silver a “Patron-killer” – that is, it’s a good opportunity to reveal to someone that there’s more to the world of tequila than Patron. Do you have your sights set on Patron?
Kevin Ruder, President of 901 Tequila: I would say we have our eye on the whole spirits segment. If we limited ourselves to just the category we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. Without question, we are a different brand, a different experience, and not Patron.
Tequila Aficionado: With the glut of new tequila brands flooding the market (especially in California, Arizona, and Texas), how do you stand out?
Kevin Ruder: We encourage people to try it straight or on the rocks. Compare us to any tequila in the world. If you don’t see the difference, then ok we are not the tequila for you. We are not telling people that if you don’t drink 901 you’re not cool. We are telling our consumer that just because you had a certain experience with some other tequila, it doesn’t mean that you know what we are.
Tequila Aficionado: Is there anything unique in the way 901 is made? (Are there any changes to the traditional tequila-making process?)
Kevin Ruder: We triple distill 901. So, we go one step further than 99% of tequila brands out there. We think it’s unbelievably important that people should have the best quality liquid, so we spend the extra time, money and care to get every bottle just right.
Tequila Aficionado: How did you become involved with 901 Silver Tequila?
Kevin Ruder: I’ve known Justin for a lot of years, and he has been a tequila aficionado for as long as I can remember. He wanted to make a brand that he was proud of, both in a taste profile and in a branding sense. So we set out about 2 1/2 years ago to do just that. So far the response has been nothing less than spectacular.
Tequila Aficionado: What was it like shooting the new ads?
Kevin Ruder: Long and tiring. I’ve been involved with quite a few ad campaigns, but this one was really special. At the end of the day it was very important for Justin and I to get three things across to our consumer. Sip it, enjoy it and embrace it.
Tequila Aficionado: Where will they be screened? (TV, Movie Theaters, etc.)
Kevin Ruder: Right now we are focusing on an internet campaign and will roll out to television in 2011.
Tequila Aficionado: We’ve seen Cabo Wabo Tequila advertising itself as the “Rock and Roll tequila,” and Vince Neil is hyping his Tres Rios Tequila. Is Justin Timberlake going to continue a hands-on involvement with publicizing 901?
Kevin Ruder: Without a doubt. I can tell you that the biggest difference between 901 and those other brands you mentioned is that 901 is 100% owned by one guy. You can’t say the same thing about the others. Nothing gets done unless JT agrees or has touched it. He’s a hands-on guy, and for 901 that’s a very good thing.
Tequila Aficionado: What’s next for 901? Will we ever see any rested or aged versions? (I’d be happy to help taste test from the barrels!)
Kevin Ruder: Funny you should ask. We have an añejo that is ready to go. However, right now we are just trying to keep up with making enough 901 Silver, so we expect to have the añejo out by next year.
Tequila Aficionado: If you were writing tasting notes for 901 Silver, how would you describe it?
Kevin Ruder: A crisp, clean aroma that exudes a fruity nose. An exceptionally smooth finish that delivers notes of cooked agave, with a subtle hint of sweetness.
When Timberlake partnered with Sauza in 2013 to rebrand the new Sauza 901, Tequila Aficionado reported it with a commentary on the partnership, the reasons for it, and how it might improve the situation for both Sauza and Timberlake’s 901 Tequila. Click here to read the commentary and see how the ad campaign mentioned above worked out as well as a more complete picture that press releases just can’t provide.