The point of the campaign: convince American consumers that tequila is not just a mixer, or college drink--but a bona fide spirit with its own high- and super-high-end range. The effort will promote Sauza's Hornitos sub-brand, a near-premium line that has been expanded from solely Reposado tequila to include a variation, Plata, that's un-aged, and Anejo, that has been aged for several months.
Andrew Floor, senior director, North America, for Beam Global Spirits' tequila brands Souza and El Tesoro, points out that the tequila market is polarized between standard products people call on for margaritas and the like, and super-premium labels like Patron, and Beam's own El Tesoro, and Tres Generaciones, for example.
He concedes that the opportunity--as anyone knows who had that college experience of overdoing it--is convincing people to come back to tequila, to give it another chance, and not just for complicated mixed drinks. "The challenge is opening consumers' eyes to the fact that tequila doesn't have to be a challenge. So many people, when they enter legal drinking age have had a bad tequila experience, and the recurring theme is, 'I can't drink Tequila now without thinking about that'."
He says that challenge is just as great, if not greater, for high-end tequilas. The opportunity for Hornitos, in particular, is that the dumbbell market leaves space in the middle, near-premium range. "There are no brands dominating the entry-level, 100% agave region of the market," he says. "And it is eminently accessible to those drinking standard or value-brand tequilas. For a couple of dollars more they can have authentic tequila that's worlds apart from what they are used to."
Floor says that tequila is the fastest-growing category of spirit in the U.S., but adds that its growth has as much to do with the cyclical nature of the agave market in Mexico as it does with U.S. consumers' drinking habits. "Agave is not a commercial crop. If farmers have a spare field, and agave prices are high, they will plant. We go through constant cycles of surplus and shortage." He says tequila began taking off in the late '90s when people flocked to margaritas; that led to an agave crisis in 2000.
"Production out of Mexico was reduced, prices went up 140%, and a lot of brands had to be phased out." Brands that had been 100% agave were forced to dilute to 50% agave. "Since then, supplies have recovered, so the market is back to focus on core brands and 100% agave products, and there are more brands coming to market, there's more marketing around tequila and more flexibility, with all the quality options of single-malt scotch, for instance."
He says Sauza, therefore, is placing a major focus on consumer education. "We have tequila ambassadors throughout the market, doing tastings both for trade and for consumers." In addition, he says, Sauza has brought over 400 people--bartenders, retailers--to Mexico for an immersion in agave harvesting and tequila production. "They get their hands dirty," he says.
The new campaign, headed up by Publicis, Dallas, uses the theme line "The Fine Line of Tequila." The strategy will position each of the blends for sipping, shooting and savoring, respectively. The idea is that the Plata variation, which is aged the least, is ideal for mixing, Reposado can be enjoyed as a shot, and Anejo is meant to be savored in a snifter.
The campaign includes print, online, radio, out of home, new packaging, POS and a series of "Fine Line" launch parties in several cities.
Creative centers on a physical icon of a green line, along with the brand's new tag, "experience the fine line of tequila," with text reading "savour that thrill of the perfect combination of smooth taste and tequila edge. 100% puro de agave."
The company says that about 38% of the budget is for online, with banner ads, page takeovers, and roadblocks on sites like AskMen, Yahoo, the BlueLithium ad network and Gorilla Nation. Hornitos is also doing branded entertainment on Maxim, UGO, Playboy, Pandora, and others. Print runs in GQ, Maxim, Blender, and Playboy starting next month.
New York-based Zenithmedia and Atlanta-based Moxie Interactive handled media duties. Chicago-based Akimbo oversaw redesign of the Hornitos bottle, which is now pentagonal, with a label shaped like a large agave leaf.