How Your Favorite Periodicals Perpetuate Tequila Myths

[Tweet “Editors of major men’s magazines still insist that their audience only shoots tequila.”]

One Day, At Band Camp…

Recently, myself, and a few select others in this tightly knit tequila community, were asked to be interviewed for quotes concerning “surprising things you can do with tequila” for the May issue of a major, worldwide men’s magazine.

In the US, this would be just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and the predictable onslaught of articles riddled with comical inaccuracies and beginning with hackneyed clichés like…

“Remember when you were in (grade school, high school, college)…?”  Or…

“Celebrating Mexican Independence Day…”  Or…

“I can’t stand the smell of tequila to this day because one time….”  And, my very favorite–

“…tequila, made from the agave cactus….”

The author of this upcoming article told me that his magazine’s circulation encompassed a wide age demographic that included

One day, at band camp...

One day, at band camp…

males from their mid-twenties to early sixties.  In other words, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

He further confidently informed me that his readership “has no idea about tequila outside of Cuervo Gold.”

At least, that’s what his boss–the editor!–told him to assume was his audience.

I was both disheartened and dismayed.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to this magazine’s website…

“[It] is the world’s largest and best-selling men’s magazine with 47 editions in 61 countries and a global readership of more than +35 million.  In the U.S., [its] circulation exceeds 1.8 million, and it has been named a Capell’s Circulation Report top-ten performer every year for the past decade.”

This magazine also gives complete breakdowns of their demographics including education and income, and how they compare to other men’s magazines.

It is, by far, the leader.  Further, its mission statement is…

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

“It’s the brand for active, professional men who want greater control over their physical, mental and emotional lives.  We give men the tools they need to make their lives better through in-depth reporting, covering everything from fashion and grooming to health and nutrition as well as cutting edge gear, the latest entertainment, timely features and more.”

Lastly, it claims to be…

“#1 source of information for and about men.” 

Underestimating Your Audience

*Rant Alert!*

So–

What does it say about editors of major men’s magazines who still insist that their audience only shoots tequila and chugs suds when their own stats tell a different story?

Major men’s magazines who service this demographic continue to dumb down significant advancements in the spirits industry, as well as perpetuate tequila myths to keep their readers in the dark.

[Tweet “Major magazines continue to dumb down significant advancements in the spirits industry.”]

Tequila hasn’t just “come of age.”  It’s been coming “of age” for

Remember when luxury meant subtle?

Remember when luxury meant subtle?

the past twenty years like the most recent Paleo diet or ab workout.  Cutting edge technology doesn’t only occur in the latest sports car or luxury wristwatch.

Here’s a newsflash for you, Perry White–

The issues facing the Tequila Industry at this point in time are much more critical than “surprising things you can do with tequila.”

[Tweet “Issues facing the Tequila Industry are more critical than surprising things you can do w/tequila.”]

When you construct 9 pages on your website to convince potential advertisers that your audience is wealthy and educated, act like it.

Give them timely information with substance–

 For Instance…

This article in the Times-Picayune is a prime example of a journalist who refuses to underestimate her newspaper’s audience while adding value to their lives.

It’s no secret these days that the craft beer and distilling industries are taking a bite out of the huge market share that beer and spirits multinational corporations have dominated for decades.

In case you missed it, Tequila Aficionado Media tackled this issue at length in Craft Tequila–WTF Does That Mean? Part 1 and Part 2.  In Part 2, we made suggestions on how you can distinguish a craft tequila from all the others (the Craft Tequila Gauntlet).

These behemoth conglomerates continue to fight back, either by swallowing up smaller brewers or distillers, or, as in Budweiser’s case, by turning up its nose at the whole craft concept, illustrated in this now infamous Super Bowl XLIX TV spot.

 Consumers Care

Whether it’s a by product of self-education and exploration, or the education being received from the craft spirits sector of the market, the average consumer is becoming more aware of what they’re imbibing and demanding quality and transparency from the industry.

[Tweet “Consumers are more aware and demand quality and transparency from liquor brands.”]

So much so, that some consumer groups have taken it upon themselves to sue spirits makers like Austin, Texas’ Tito’s Vodka, and most recently, Jim Beam bourbon, for false claims that they are handcrafted.

Handmade?

Handmade?

While Simon Ford, one of the erudite founders of The 86 Company, makers of Tequila Cabeza, agreed in this interview, that such lawsuits are frivolous, he does admit that small companies like his owes it to the consumer “to explain the ins and outs of how it’s made and why it’s a worthy spirit.”

Therein lies the rub.

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

It behooves all small craft brands to continue educating their customers every chance they get, whether in person, through word-of-mouth, in point-of-sale materials (POS), or through social media channels.  And…

It is vitally important do so in print periodicals.

Conversely, it is the responsibility of the journalist, blogger, writer, copy editor or author of the article to report the information accurately–no matter what your boss says.

Think we’re being too difficult in demanding that we be quoted truthfully?  That we’re acting like prima donnas because we refuse to pair down our quote to fit your word count?  That we’re making a big deal out of a little white tequila lie?

Read this horrendous tequila blog posted on Liquor Online from August 2014, and then, get back to me.

If The Explosion Doesn’t Kill You, the Fallout Will

This piece of rubbish garnered such responses from readers like…

“What a disservice to someone that wants to learn / understand!”

And, this one…

Don't be THIS writer.

Don’t be THIS writer.

Lifestyle and Spirits Writers–

Let Me Let You In On a Little Secret…

It isn’t that we in this tequila community aren’t grateful for the opportunity to voice our opinions and impart our knowledge of our beloved spirit to your subscribers.  On the contrary–we are fully aware of the enormous goodwill that that kind of street cred can generate for us.

But you must understand and respect that it is our reputations, images, and brands that are also on the line.  Not to mention our character and integrity.

Remember–

You asked for our expertise to up your street cred, too!

Those of us throughout the tequila community take very seriously what we preach.  Whether we’re in the liquor store

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

aisles or quoted in the pages of a magazine or newspaper, we believe that at every moment we are adding value to someone’s life and lifestyle.

Don’t Be That Magazine

Like it says on Tequila Aficionado Media’s website and all of its social media, it is…

“The most comprehensive and informative source for Tequila, Mezcal and Sotol on the Internet or in print today.”

We don’t pretend to be anything else.  Your favorite magazine shouldn’t either.

Advertisements

Craft Tequila: WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 1

What does that mean for tequilas?

What does that mean for tequilas?

An interesting question crossed my desk concerning the term craft as it relates to tequila.

This person asked…

“The one thing I am finding is the definition of ‘craft’ is all over the place. What does craft mean to you?  Do you think it is based on the method, quantity, who makes it or maybe all of these factors?”

This reader went on to ask if I considered a particular big name brand as a craft tequila, and if not, would I consider a certain higher priced line from this same transnational corporation that owns the brand as a craft tequila.

Further, he confessed that two other well-known brands could be considered “craft” tequilas even though one of them had reported sales of over 50,000 cases in 2013.

[Tweet “What does craft tequila mean to you? Is it method, quantity, who makes it or maybe all of the above?”]

 Craft by Definition

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, my favorite definition is–

“…an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands.”

The word handcraft is defined as…

“…to make (something) by using your hands.”

There are even deeper meanings to craft as it relates to the beer, wine and spirits industries, but before I get to them, let me remind you of some tequila facts and a huge marketing myth.

Fact #1:  Tequila has its own geographic indication (GI).  The blue weber agave from which it is made can only be grown, and tequila can only be produced, in specific states and regions in Mexico.

Fact #2:  According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), despite 13 million 9 liter cases of tequila sold in 2013, it is still–and always will remain–virtually last in sales volume behind whisk(e)y, gin, vodka and rum due to Fact #1.

This brings me to the…

Tequila Marketing Myth–Borrowing Benefits

So, how does a PR or marketing firm with no real knowledge of what good or bad tequila is, convey the message that its client, usually a high powered, non-Mexican owned tequila brand (and all that that implies), is just as cool as the other kids who may or may not be as well funded?

Tequila disguised as...?

Tequila disguised as…?

Simple–

You “borrow” benefits from the guy ahead of you.  You compare your tequila brand’s features and benefits to the leader in the field, thus making your client “worthy by association.”

From the moment that Herradura rested tequila in used Jack Daniels barrels to attract the American whiskey drinker decades ago, marketers have tried to disguise tequila (and mezcal, now, to some extent) as something else.

And because of Facts #1 and #2 above, tequila marketers have for years misled the public by borrowing benefits from wines, beers and all other spirits in a seeming effort to gain tequila’s acceptance into the mainstream drinking public, and to increase sales.

[Tweet “Tequila marketers mislead the public by borrowing benefits from wines, beers and other spirits to sell more #tequila.”]

Craft by Design

Here’s what it means to produce a craft product in each of the following arenas.

The Brewers’ Association defines craft as small (“6 million barrels of beer or less per year”), independent (“less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”), and traditional (“a brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”).

The American Craft Distillers Association’s (ACDA) definition of craft gets trickier–

“…those whose annual production of distilled spirits from all sources does not exceed 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond (the amount on which excise taxes are paid.)”

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a proof gallon needs an entire conversion table to figure out.  We’ll let you do the math, here.

The American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) guidelines are similar but allows certified craft spirits a “maximum annual sales of 52,000 cases where the product is PHYSICALLY distilled and bottled on-site” and “maximum annual sales are less than 100,000 proof gallons.”

Where wine is concerned, the Department of Revenue defines a “small winery” as any winery that produces less than 25,000 gallons of wine in a calendar year.  A “farm winery,” however, can produce up to 50,000 gallons of wine annually.

Some have even arbitrarily issued their own definition of small winery as one producing as little as 10,000 gallons per year, and a nano winery as generating only 500 gallons per year.

A simple Google search shows that each state has its own slightly different definition of what a craft wine or spirit is, and several states with popular wine growing regions like California, are constantly updating their definition to accommodate growing wineries.

The same growing concerns in the craft beer industry have prompted the Brewer’s Association to update their ground rules to allow for larger craft producers.

The Revenge of Brewzilla

According to Impact Databank, a large chunk of the beer industry has surrendered significant market share (some 6.7 million barrels, or 93 million 2.25-gallon cases since 2009!) to the spirits industry.  The only bright spot for the entire category is the resurgence of locally brewed craft or specialty beers increasing in volume by 14% to 20.2 million barrels.

These stats have not been lost on spirits marketers who follow trends in similar markets to practice borrowing benefits.  The big brands like Miller-Coors, Anheuser Busch-Inbev (Budweiser) and others also have jumped onto the craft bandwagon by either investing in small breweries or by inferring in their marketing that they still make their beer by hand.

It's not a craft beer.  Just well-crafted.

It’s not a craft beer. Just well-crafted.

As Ashley Routson, a craft beer advocate famously known as The Beer Wench, and whose upcoming book “The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer” will be an unpretentious, comprehensive approach to beer, puts it…

“In my opinion, the fight over the word craft should be one of semantics, but instead, its become a battle of the egos.”

Routson goes on to say, “The word ‘craft’ is not a synonym for the word ‘good,’ ‘great’ or ‘better.’  Many non-craft breweries and large tequila producers make world class beer and tequila–there is no argument there.  You don’t need to use the word craft to define your beverage as being good.”

[Tweet ” The fight over the word craft should be one of semantics, but instead, is a battle of the egos.”]

Author, Ashley Routson, The Beer Wench.

Author, Ashley Routson, The Beer Wench.

Beer journalist, Mike Cortez, whose pending book will be a part of the Beer Lovers series of books (Beer Lover’s Texas), is also the co-founder of The Texas Margarita Festival, and feels that craft tequila should be held to the same strict standards as craft beer.

 “We need to separate the garbage from the good stuff.  [Like craft] beer that is only made with the basics, grain, water, hops and yeast, the brewers do not use additives or adjuncts to flavor the beer.”

Cortez concludes, “[Tequila] is a product that takes time, care and only the purest agave extraction.  The distillers depend on the time to harvest the agave, baking the pinas and perfectly extracting the juices.  Once it is distilled it is a product that is pure and only flavored by the barrel with no extra additives.”

Tequila Industry consultant, Chris Zarus, innovator of TequilaRack, the world’s first take home tequila tasting kit that deliberately includes samples of some of the finest small batch, micro-distilled reposado tequilas sourced from family run distilleries, takes the craft argument to a higher level.

“The word craft has unfortunately been abducted by the marketing department and now misleads the masses.  We go to classes that advise us on how to make our brands ‘craftier’ with specialty releases with funny names [and] all owned by multinational conglomerates that work relentlessly to reduce costs via cheaper ingredients and mechanization.”

[Tweet “The word craft has been abducted by the marketing dept & now misleads the masses. #tequila”]

Zarus believes that there are two industry definitions of craft which differ from what the consumer understands.  They involve a specific recipe and a specific process.

Specific Recipe

Chicken breast after having been used in clay still to make mezcal de pechuga.

Chicken breast after having been used in clay still to make mezcal de pechuga.

In this craft version, the product is consistent and costs are contained.

“The Jim Koch’s [founder of Samuel Adams beer] view that his recipe makes his beer craft regardless of the fact that MillerCoors brews it for the masses,” explains Zarus.  “In [Koch’s] opinion, its like a chef going to your house to cook his special recipe.”

“If you think about it in broad terms,” reasons Zarus, “all consumer products have a specific recipe.  The difference here may be that the recipe is full flavored and is preferred by fewer due to its heartier taste.”

Specific Process

In this definition, the process is the craft.

Tequila Fortaleza, produced by famed fifth generation distiller, Guillermo Sauza, Zarus illustrates, “[Is] very

Las perlas del mezcal.

Las perlas del mezcal.

specific, old world, but not very mechanized.  In this way the outcome varies by batch and the state of the local ingredients.  The craft is the process.”

The downside, insists Zarus is that, “…the product varies by batch, like some wines.  There is a lack of product consistency.  Some batches have more acclaim than others and the maker is not getting to charge the full price of the best batches.”

This last seeming liability has been turned into a profitable tequila marketing plan by some boutique brands like Ocho and Charbay who source their agave from single estates thus promoting the brand’s terroir and creating buzz for individual vintages.

The Meaning and the Art Form

Marketers rethink the word "craft."

Marketers rethink the word “craft.”

The two essential elements that Routson, Cortez and Zarus all agree upon are, first, that the craft process is the art form, whether in beer, wine or spirits.

The other factor that our panel of professionals agrees on is the battle of maintaining the true definition of the word craft.

We’ll explore these issues and how you can define, select and measure a craft tequila in Part 2 tomorrow.

[Tweet “The craft process is the art form, whether in beer, wine or spirits.”]

[vasaioqrcode]
 

Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required
Email Address *

Email Format

  • html
  • text

View previous newsletters.

//