The Mega Marketing of a Brand Part II – Jose Cuervo Is A Friend of Mine

Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Dec 3, 2006

tequila aficionado vault, jose cuervo

 

 

In a relationship that the Animal Planet calls symbiotic–like the small fish feeding on scraps from a shark’s jaws, or birds picking the bugs off a hippo’s butt–Cuervo has benefited nicely over the years by partnering with major restaurant chains all over the US. They have single-handedly influenced thousands of tequila drinkers.

 

The Lonely Bull

In an informative article in the Los Angeles Daily News last December, Staff Writer Brent Hopkins recounted the humble beginnings of one of the oldest Mexican food restaurant chains in Southern California.

el torito, jose cuervoEl Torito--which also celebrated its golden anniversary in December 2004–was the brain-child of ex-fighter pilot Larry Cano, whom Brent describes as having “…a few recipes and knowledge of an exotic sounding foreign drink known as tequila….”

In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, it was the ultimate place to eat, drink, and party. I’ll admit, I was among those who enjoyed traditional Mexican food with more than one margarita and a round of shots.

According to the article, El Torito grew into an international powerhouse with restaurants as far away as Turkey and Abu Dhabi. After many changes in ownership, it has been streamlined to a manageable 69 locations.

Through it all, Jose Cuervo was there.

El Torito has now begun to focus on its cuisine, but one look at the menu–which we’ll do shortly–tells you that that’s not the only thing management is emphasizing.

In a relationship that the Animal Planet calls symbiotic–like the small fish feeding on scraps from a shark’s jaws, or birds picking the bugs off a hippo’s butt–Cuervo has benefited nicely over the years by partnering with major restaurant chains all over the US. They have single-handedly influenced thousands of tequila drinkers.

Where other tequila houses like El Tesoro de Don Felipe and Cazadores visit bars and restaurants around the country, Cuervo’s version of a grass roots campaign is a little bit different.

 

 

The Good Ol’ Days

In Part I, I promised a glimpse at Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery, but first, more about me….

LaRojena1I had just moved to New Mexico from Southern California. My first job was in Customer Service with one of the largest paper, food, and chemical distributors in the state. Starting at the bottom, I figured the quickest way to becoming a darling of the company–a route salesman–was getting to know the old dogs.

Before my arrival to this company, one other product that it sold was liquor. When the family-owned operation sold out, half the sales force morphed into one of the two major liquor distributors in New Mexico. Those that stayed with the food and chemical division longed for the good ol’ days.

At one of the quarterly meetings’ mandatory dinners, 25 raucous salesmen (and a few of us from Customer Service) ran up a $3000 bar bill on the company’s credit card! During a round of Cuervo Gold shots is where I heard it first.

“This reminds me of the time at Jose Cuervo,” said one salesman.

“What a party that was!” agreed another.

Simultaneously, they described the beauty of the facilities, the grounds, and the tequila at Jose Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery.

7079The hospitality at these Cuervo “education” junkets is legendary. Mariachis, food, and all the tequila you can drink. Not to mention a generous spiff to each salesman for every caseload sold, or every new account acquired.

“We used to send two delivery trucks a week to every territory,” lamented another salesman. “One with food, and the other full of booze!”

Ah, the good ol’ days!

Many tequila distilleries graciously open their doors to tequila aficionados. CorralejoLa Cofradia (Casa Noble), and Herradura’s Tequila Express, a train that takes turistas to their distillery, to name just a few. But no one does it better–or did it first–than Jose Cuervo.

From Applebee’s (The Perfect Margarita made with 1800), to here in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Garduños chain of Mexican restaurants (with locations in Arizona and Las Vegas, too), to the popular El Torito. Wherever you live, in every major or minor market in America, there is sure to be a restaurant chain–or liquor supplier to that restaurant chain–that has fallen under the spell of La Rojeña.

 

The Secret to Jose Cuervo’s Success

jose cuervo, brandsTo understand how deeply Jose Cuervo is entrenched in El Torito’s menu, you have to be aware of the “rules of engagement.” It’s called “the three tier system,” and it’s the key to the final segment of this series, so heads-up!

In order for a tequila producer–or any spirits producer, for that matter–to get his product to the US, he has to use an importer (Tier One). This importer is in charge of spreading the word to as many spirits distributors–state and national–as possible (Tier Two). Once distribution is secured, their sales forces are responsible for getting the product to their consumers–every bar and restaurant they service (Tier Three).

Here’s the secret to Jose Cuervo’s success…

Like a computer virus, Cuervo can be found everywhere along these three tiers. At one time or another, every importer, distributor, and chain of bars or restaurants has been invited to enjoy the pleasures of tequila at La Rojeña.

Unfortunately, unlike wines, spirits, by US law, cannot be sold directly to the end user (you and me) by the producer. Let’s drown our sorrows over that one, shall we…?

 

El Torito–Auténtico!

On every table is a simple, hand-sized brown three ring binder. A painting of a jimador harvesting a blue agave–that looks coincidentally like a well-known photo taken at one of the Cuervo agave fields–shares the cover with the El Torito logo, a lonely bull, and the word auténtico. Desserts and drinks in one little package, all made with Jose Cuervo products.

There’s the classic Cadillac Margarita with a side of Grand Marnier. You can order this signature drink in different colors like Green (Midori Melon), Pink (cranberry juice), and Red (Rémy Red).

The Blue Mesa Margarita with 1800 and Blue Curacao. The Real Mex Margarita with Tradicional. And a series of popular tequinis with names like Buenas Noches and Agave Tequini.

To be fair, El Torito serves other very respectable blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas like…

Sauza Tres GeneracionesDon EduardoChinacoCorralejoHerraduraCazadores…and Quita Penas. Along with the Cuervo standard bearers, Gran CentenarioReserva de La Familia, and even Don Julio (suspiciously missing from Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila menu in the previous segment).

You can even wash down your dinner, drinks and dessert with a cup of Mexican coffee made with Tradicional and Kahlúa.

Each of the signature drinks is very reasonably priced from just over $5 to a bit under $7. Shots range from $5.25 to $10.50.

Although their menu tries to give equal time to other tequilas, when you check the bar, there’s no mistaking who’s on display…

Jose Cuervo!

In the final segment, I’ll take a look at where the marketing future of Jose Cuervo is headed. Here’s a hint…

You’ll be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with tequila! Instead, it’s slick, high-tech, and chances are good that you already own one. And with it, Cuervo conquers the mystery of the missing “fourth tier.”

 

logo1By Mike Morales, Co-Organizer
New Mexico International Tequila Experience™
Southwest Tequila Association

New Mexico International Tequila Experience™