Case Study: Kendall Jenner's Tequila Brand, 818


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The Hype and Controversy

Model and reality TV star, Kendall Jenner, recently announced that she is launching her own tequila brand named after her home neighborhood’s area code, 818. The liquor brand has yet to launch, however it has already been picking up a lot of controversy and causing a lot of excitement.

Jenner isn’t the only celebrity who has recently taken her own venture into the business world, in fact; this is a trend many celebrities are following this year. Why are celebrities starting their own companies and how can you take advantage of it? In this blog, Hollywood Branded will talk about the model’s tequila brand, the cleverness of their early marketing, the future of celebrity brands, and how you can take advantage of them.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing

Everything We Already Know About 818 

The liquor brand, named after Calabasas’ phone number area code, has already picked up a lot of media coverage, but hasn’t launched yet. In fact, the brand doesn’t even have an official website. The most we have seen of the brand has been on social media, through Kendall’s account, and the brand account.

Jenner first teased the brand in a bikini photo on her Instagram where the bottle was hiding in the corner on a table. Fans speculated it could be her own brand as they had never heard of or seen the bottle before.

A couple of weeks later, Jenner made the announcement and the brand became Instagram official, starting their account on February 8th. Since then, the brand’s Instagram has already amassed 362,000 followers.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, Instagram

In Kendall’s personal Instagram post announcing the brand, she states that she set out to create the “best tasting tequila” and that the journey took her almost 4 years. She says; “after dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and WINNING…I think we’ve done it!”

818 will offer 3 different types of tequila; Añejo, Reposado and Blanco. It has been estimated that the 3 different types will cost around $59.99 per bottle, and will likely be sold at most liquor stores across the country. No official announcements have been made about where the bottles will be sold, or when the brand will officially launch.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, Hailey Bieber, Kylie Jenner, YouTube Channel, Viral Video

In addition, Kendall has been a guest on her sister Kylie Jenner’s YouTube channel, as well as model best friend, Hailey Bieber’s YouTube channel. Bieber featured Jenner in her debut YouTube series video; “Who’s In My Bathroom.”

In both videos, the model brought her “new favorite” tequila with her for them to enjoy together. Shots were taken, secrets were shared, and each time everyone stated that it was their new favorite tequila.

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What's Been Said

As soon as the tequila brand was teased, fans and haters alike were working hard to put the pieces together. When Jenner finally announced the brand, she opened the flood gates for the conversations those people already had in their back pockets.

The first argument was cultural appropriation. Many people instantly shamed the model for starting a company based in Mexico in the first place. There were worries of workers and resources being exploited.

Agave is a vital ingredient in tequila and requires a lot of physical labor to become useful. Unlike other liquor ingredients, you have to cook agave.

Some people recognized signs that the model hadn’t really done her research or taken the time to learn about tequila. Experts pointed out that in her Instagram post she tasted the tequila on the rocks, which is not a recommended practice and a sign that she was not well educated.

The names of each type of tequila also didn’t match up with the usual Spanish names. According to tequila expert, Lucas Asiss, who was quoted in an article by InStyle; “It's not 'Blanco tequila,’ it's 'tequila Blanco. Tequila comes first, then Blanco.” Jenner’s bottle has the name switched to be the other way around as "Blanco Tequila."

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, George Clooney, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Casamigos, Teremana

Others were quick to defend the model, pointing out she wasn’t the first and definitely isn’t the last to have ventured down the tequila road. Actors George Clooney and Dwayne The Rock Johnson both started their own tequila companies.

Clooney started his back in 2013. His brand became so popular and successful that he was able to sell the company in 2017 for 1 billion dollars, according to a Business Insider article. According to CNBC, Johnson started his company not long before Jenner’s and was getting ready to launch the company back in March of 2020, right when the Corona Virus caused global lockdowns.

Fans also praised the star for starting her own business venture separate from her family. Her sisters have already seen massive success in their own brands; like Kylie’s makeup brand, Khloe’s denim and clothing brand, and Kim’s shapewear brand. Kendall’s tequila brand branches out from her family’s typical lines of business.

Whether you love the idea or hate it, 818 is coming soon and will likely be a huge financial success. So, one has to wonder, how is that all possible? Is it because of Kendall’s connection to her family, or is it something else entirely? Let’s take a deeper look at the marketing strategy.

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The Cleverness Of The Tease

Remember how I mentioned Kendall Jenner’s first tease of the product was in a bikini photo with the bottle in the background? It was actually a series of photos in one Instagram post, and the photo hiding the bottle was second in the rotation.

This was a great marketing tease which sparked conversations and sleuthing fans to put the puzzle pieces together before the actual announcement. Only fans or followers who were truly interested in swiping through her photos would have been able to discover the hidden message.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, Marketing Teaser, Tiger Mist Bikini

Next, to build on the mystery and make the brand seem prestigious, Kendall mentioned that the tequila had already won awards after being anonymously entered into liquor competitions earlier this year. This make fans and haters alike wonder; “I wonder what awards it has won?” Again, this continues to spark and continue conversations about a brand of tequila that isn’t even for sale.

Lastly, she introduced the brand by name and drank it on camera with friends and family on multiple occasions, adding an element of envy and desire to their marketing plan. They already have started marketing the brand as “the best tasting tequila” and are upholding that title by presenting it as the new favorite drink of choice for Kendall and her famous relatives and friends.

If there’s one thing to take away from watching the beginnings of this marketing strategy, it’s that it’s never to early to start marketing your brand. The earlier, the better, it seems, so long as you can deliver a satisfactory product once it has launched. The key to success and sales these days is hype.

If there isn’t a preliminary following for a brand launch, you can expect to have to work hard to sell out your product. Jenner’s tequila will likely sell out in minutes once the drop happens, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone. Is it because of her name and associations? Maybe, but celebrity brands are the new trend that we all should start getting behind.

The Future Of Celebrity Brands - What To Expect

When COVID-19 hit, celebrities everywhere quickly found themselves out of work. Film productions, TV show productions, Fashion shows, and events were all canceled or put on hold; all things that celebrities rely on for their yearly income. For some, it was a wake up call, and for others it solidified the idea that they did the right thing when they started their own brand or company.

Celebrity brands are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for decades. However, they are popping up more and more recently, and there is a good reason why. As a result of the pandemic, celebrities are realizing they can’t rely on others for their success or financial stability.

Kim Kardashian recently spoke about this exact thought in her Good Morning Vogue interview with Jonathan Van Meter. She said that “it was perfect timing,” referencing the pandemic, and that Skims had product launches set for the entirety of 2020 that went along perfectly with the stay-at-home ordinances. Essentially, she was set up to just sit back and let the money roll in.

Kim has also found success through her fragrance line and her makeup brand, KKW Beauty. However, Skims was a more unique business venture as no other celebrity had created their own shapewear line before.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, Kylie Skin, Fenty Skin, Humanrace skin care, JLo Beauty

Celebrity beauty brands have had their moment, but celebrity skin care lines have been popping up everywhere for the last two years. Fake is out, and natural is in, especially during the pandemic. Even some male celebrities have joined this craze. In 2020, Fenty skin was launched to align with Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez launched JLo Beauty, and Pharrell Williams launched Humanrace. Kylie Skin even launched a few months before the pandemic in 2019, and surely benefited afterwards. 

Clothing lines are also nothing new, but some celebrities are taking them to a new level. In 2017, Emily Ratajkowski launched her own clothing line Inamorata which picked up a lot of social media love recently as she launched new, trendy swimwear. Even though Beyonce’s clothing line Ivy Park launched in 2016, the brand’s re-launch in January 2020 resulted in yet another social media craze.

Kendall Jenner, 818, Tequila, Celebrity Brand, Celebrity Alcohol Brand, Strategic Marketing, Quarrentine wine, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis

Other celebrities are even following in their predecessor’s footsteps and starting their own alcohol brands. Most notably, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher released Quarantine Wine, a quarantine-friendly wine in which all of the proceeds are donated to COVID-19 relief funds.

This brand was a clear result of the pandemic, and doesn’t fit in this list as neither celebrity took any profits, but is still an example of celebrity work ethic resulting in a new company in 2020.

Some of these brands came as a result of COVID-19, others grew because of it. The bottom line is that celebrities are seeking new business opportunities and are tired of answering to big corporations for a paycheck. COVID-19 only gave them more opportunities to become independent business partners.

If brands and agencies have learned anything through the pandemic, it’s that celebrities want to be involved and be decision makers. Celebrities who haven’t started their own brands are working towards becoming large shareholders in successful companies and creating permanent partnerships with brands.

So, how can you take advantage of this shift instead of seeing it as competition? Partner with them or help them build the brand they always wanted. Sometimes celebrities need help creating their vision, and no one knows the market better than you. Give celebrities their chance to create their own branch of your brand.

Not only will this benefit them, it will benefit you. You can create a product or service that has their name on it which will make marketing easier. You can leverage the existing audience they already have while prioritizing sales and improving your brand awareness.

It will be much like a celebrity partnership, except the celebrity will have a say in the creation of the product, so they will be much more likely to push advertising to their audience. It’s a win-win partnership.

Of course, a partnership like this will take months to years to perfect and there will be a considerable amount of time spent in the product creation phase, but the outcome will be well worth it and you will have established a long-term relationship with a celebrity who’s fans align with your customer demographic. Think of the possibilities.

Learn More About Celebrities and Partnerships

Interested in using the power of celebrities to benefit your brand, or reading more about celebrity brands and campaigns? Check out some of our other agency blogs:

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