The tequila retailer’s strategy has shifted from a strong belief in brand awareness, the CMO of parent company Proximo Spirits said during the week of the announcement.
Like most brands in March 2020, Jose Cuervo had to quickly adapt his media strategy to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first big test comes less than two months later, with Cinco de Mayo – the Super Bowl for tequila brands, according to Jason Harris, CEO of the brand’s creative agency Mekanism. Disdaining all his initial plans, Jose Cuervo had to rephrase the questions in his notes.
Rather than relying on the high level of brand awareness he has benefited from in the past, Jose Cuervo listened to how consumer interests are shifting from pre-pandemic positions. One of his findings was that people were tired of the never-ending news cycle, which Otegui says signals the need for a spiritual ceasefire. The brand also faced large layoffs in closed bars and restaurants.
These two observations led to the launch of a campaign called #CincoToGo, in which Jose Cuervo offered to pay Mexican restaurant consumer bills during the holiday season. In the end, the brand issued more than 1,500 checks and paid a total of nearly $100,000 for Mexican food to Otegui.
From a marketing standpoint, the strategy was equally successful. While the brand has consistently performed well in terms of audiences, Otegui said the campaign has propelled it to the top of the industry.
“What you saw is that when COVID started, most brands came back and started writing off most of their advertising dollars, and we went the other way,” Otegui said.
Continuing to change consumer perceptions by pursuing them through marketing is a sustainable strategy for the tequila brand and is fueling their readiness as pandemic prices fall.
A more direct approach
Jose Cuervo has long been a leader in the tequila industry in brand recognition, but as the industry continues to grow and more competitors enter the market, he wants to take an approach that speaks more directly to consumers. This “business-oriented” strategy, as Otegui put it, plunged the brand into marketing that prioritizes engagement more strongly.
For example, the 2020 holiday campaign asked consumers to send in photos of themselves, which they made into branded cardboard cutouts and sent to their families. The effort, titled “Double Drinker,” benefited from insights that showed that many families would not travel together due to the ongoing pandemic and wanted to be a unifying force in a humorous yet sincere way.
Staying Relevant to Young Consumers
When discussing other ways Jose Cuervo can prepare for the future, Otegui said he takes into account the value-based consumer behavior that younger consumers are increasingly exhibiting.
For example, sustainability is an area that Generation Z and millennials are passionate about, and that’s in part why Jose Cuervo has recently made efforts to be more transparent about the environmental work he has historically kept private. Using agave, a key component of tequila, the brand designed straws in late 2019 as an alternative to the plastic straws commonly found in bars and restaurants.
Since Jose Cuervo responds to the new needs of younger generations, it can always be interesting to talk, listen and talk to consumers.
“The amount of questioning and dedication that people take from brands is something that should be left aside,” said Otegui. “As long as we keep these strategies in place, we should be in a good position going forward.”