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™

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The Mega Marketing of a Brand Part I – On the Road With Jose Cuervo

Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Nov 30, 2006

tequila aficionado, vault, Jose Cuervo

 

 

What better place to introduce your products but in your own place?

What better audience to introduce your products to, but to a sequestered one?

Maybe there was something to this mega-marketing to travelers with long layovers?

What’s The Price of Hornitos Got to do With This?

It was the beginning of my vacation, a sweltering Friday afternoon, and the start of the monsoon season in Albuquerque. I had to fly to Southern California, with a three-hour layover in Phoenix. I hate to fly in rainy weather. The forecast for Sky Harbor was even more harrowing. Thunderstorms–and guaranteed turbulence.

Arriving on time at Albuquerque’s International Sunport, and surviving the annoying airport security routine–removing my tennis shoes, emptying my pockets, and then putting myself back together (I swear, one day airports will just have dressing rooms!)–I had an hour to spare before my flight. I had earned a shot of tequila.

After all, I was going back to visit my folks for their 47th wedding anniversary, and we all know what it’s like to visit family!

Sidling up to Winners Sports Bar on the A Concourse, I discovered the tequila choices were pitifully poor–Sauza Hornitos, or Jose Cuervo Especial–and so was the choice of seats. Forced to sit next to a young couple that had obviously just met, I swallowed hard and ordered a shot of Sauza Hornitos. Not the most preferred, but it’s still 100% de agave.

Ordinarily, I order my shots in a snifter. I had to settle for a rocks glass, and icy stares from the couple next to me who were drinking micro-brewed beers. Seems every time the uninitiated catch me ordering tequila, they watch to make sure that I won’t go postal. It’s almost as if their fuzzy memories of toga parties with Jose Cuervo Especial seep back into their consciousness and are projected onto me.

Or maybe, those are just my memories of Jose Cuervo.

After spending a half hour on my cell phone explaining to my mother when my flight would arrive at LAX, I ordered another Hornitos to calm my nerves, and the bill.

“Eight dollars?” I shuddered. “For Hornitos?” I shook my head. Everywhere else in Albuquerque, better quality tequilas are priced much lower.

What’s the price of Hornitos go to do with this? Follow me to Sky Harbor….

Release Your Inner Lizard!

taberna del tequila, Jose CuervoAfter a one hour white knuckled flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix due to the predicted monsoon turbulence, and the absence of both complimentary sodas and snacks, I was ready for three hours of serenity with some food on the side.

I lugged my carry-ons and zeroed in on the closest fast food joints. Chinese food, pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken–none appealed to me. From the empty looks of these places, they didn’t appeal to anyone. Then, I heard the music.

Loud, pulsating music blasted from what I thought was the only nightclub in an airport in existence, the Taberna del Tequila. “Catchy name,” I smiled. It wasn’t until I was deep inside the Taberna that I realized where I was.

Jose Cuervo, that behemoth of tequila companies, has taken their marketing to the next level.

cuervo nation, Jose CuervoFirst, they purchased an island and called it Cuervo Nation with Anna Nicole Smith as its Ambassador. In the last couple of years, in partnership with HMSHost Food and Beverage company, they have systematically opened their own chain of restaurant-tequila bars in several airports across the country. McCarran International Airport in Las VegasSeattle-TacomaDetroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, among others, and Sky Harbor in Phoenix.

A meat market with a nightclub mentality, the only thing missing was a dance floor. Every table was occupied, and any available space at the bar was at a premium. The bar looked like a stage in a black velvet Elvis portrait from Tijuana, but there was no mistaking the star of the show–Jose Cuervo.

The back of the bar was black, with neon painted limes, saltshakers and shot glasses. The bar itself, surrounded by smokers, was lacquered with overlapping tequila labels from one end to the other. On either side, giant display bottles of Reserva de La Familia and Gran Centenario blanco were elegantly displayed on shelves with empties of 1800 AñejoTradicional, and Agavero. Behind the bar, a four-paneled big screen television was showing a Diamondbacks’ home game.

On the walls, made to look like crumbling adobe church walls (like drinking at the Alamo!), were murals of their logos, from 1800 to Especial. On the far wall, spotlighted and larger than life, was the Gran Centenario angel. I quickly grabbed a waitress and ordered a reposado, no lime, no salt, in a snifter.

This time, I got the snifter!

What better place to introduce your products but in your own place? What better audience to introduce your products to, but to a sequestered one? Maybe there was something to this mega-marketing to travelers with long layovers?

Idonthavethemoneyoneme“Show off!” said a buxom blond in her thirties. She sat at a nearby table with a younger man. Both had just met.

Behind them above the bar and the big screen TV, in large neon letters, was painted the slogan, “Release Your Inner Lizard.” Securing a corner of their table, I dropped my carry-ons and proceeded to make friends.

There’s something surreal about having a conversation with people who are ahead of you in the buzz department, particularly those who are traveling. I felt I was in the intergalactic cantina from Star Wars with aliens who had had too much to drink.

“So what do you do?” she slurred.

“I’m Han Solo,” I replied. “Captain of the Millennium Falcon. And you?”

(The kid next to her got it!)

Just then, the waitress brought me the bill. Ten dollars for a Gran Centenario reposado. Considering I had paid eight dollars in Albuquerque for a lesser quality tequila, the Taberna’s prices were more in line.

Life was good!

 

All Work & No Play is Totally Missing The Point!

So exclaimed the Taberna del Tequila’s menu.

Graced with a colorful collage of photos of mariachis and jimadores on the cover–presumably all taken at Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery which we’ll discuss later on–the first half of the menu is conveniently designed without prices for any of their signature drinks, such as…

The Millionaire Margarita made with Gran Centenario reposado…The Striped Guavarita…and the classic Golden Popper made with Cuervo Gold, touted as the official initiation to the Cuervo Nation. (Anna Nicole, grab my toga!)

On the back cover were the credits to this Jose Cuervo Traveling Road Show. Tequileria Favorites describes each of this producer’s featured players, from Gran Centenario Añejo to Agavero.

Realizing I was hungry, and that Cuervo doesn’t cook, the remainder of the menu is taken over by The Blue Burrito Grill. They lease the kitchen and supply tasty Mexican food at reasonable prices.

 

Amigos Perfectos

Taking stock of my evening so far, I made new friends, enjoyed fine tequila, and was exposed to a hip, new version of a trendy tequila bar. I even had a great time!

eltoritoThe crowd at the Taberna del Tequila steadily disappeared to make their connecting flights. While I waited for my order of chicken soft tacos and a second snifter of Gran Centenario, here’s how some other customers anchored their relationships with Jose Cuervo–forever.

Within six minutes, five glasses crashed to the floor in different areas of the Taberna, a biker called the female night manager a bitch, and a red wine drinker tossed her cookies with no prior warning. Otherwise, it was a quiet Friday night in Phoenix.

Although a new concept in marketing, the Taberna del Tequila isn’t the only way Jose Cuervo is forging relationships with an emerging drinking public. In the following segment, I’ll explain how they’ve secured brand loyalty among established tequila aficionados using one of the oldest Mexican food restaurant chains in Southern California–El Torito.

 

Jose Cuervo Taberna del Tequila Sidebar

Here is a list of airport locations for Jose Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila for you thirsty travelers!

Cleveland
Charlotte

Detroit (2 locations)
Las Vegas
Kansas City
Miami
Minneapolis

Phoenix (3 locations)
Seattle

By the end of the year, they will have additional locations open in Tampa and St. Louis.

My thanks to Stan Novak of HMSHost for this information.

Enjoy!

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

New Mexico International Tequila Experience™

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!