The Billion Dollar Brand: Rande Gerber Discusses Casamigos Tequila
Photos courtesy Casamigos
Casamigos made global headlines when it sold to British beverage company Diageo in 2017 for $1 billion. Many know Casamigos for its celebrity co-founders: Oscar-winning actor George Clooney and Rande Gerber, husband of model and actress Cindy Crawford. The two longtime friends launched Casamigos in 2013, never thinking it would balloon into the global enterprise it is today.
What many may not know, however, is the brand began as nothing more than a pet project. The name Casamigos, which translates from Spanish to “house of friends,” is a direct reflection of its humble beginnings. The tequila line was meant to be nothing more than a custom-made drink for George and Rande to share with family and friends at their neighboring twin mansions, known collectively as ‘Casamigos,’ which sit along the coast in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas.
Okay, ‘humble’ may be a stretch. Creating a custom tequila to go with your twin custom-made beachside mansions is certainly an ‘as celebrities do’ kind of thing, and possibly the fanciest iteration imaginable of best friends coming up with a secret handshake before diving into their bunk beds on a sleepover. When compared to a $700 million buyout with an additional $300 million for sustained demand over the next 10 years, however, the idea that Casamigos was never really meant to leave the house is pretty hard to wrap your mind around.
Gerber noted that while this was a passion project, it was one that he and Clooney took very seriously. Their hunt for the ideal flavor profile was meticulous to say the least, and defined what would ultimately become the brand’s product foundation.
“It took two years for our master distiller to make it perfect,” Gerber said. “We went through 700 samples.”
Once Gerber and Clooney found the flavor they were looking for, Casamigos became the star of the show when they hosted crowds in their own Casamigos. “Tequila-filled nights with friends is how Casamigos was born,” Gerber said.
Casamigos made the transition from label shared among friends and family to full-fledged business when the distiller contacted Gerber and Clooney with an interesting issue: They were drinking too much tequila for it to not be a business.
“[The distiller] said, ‘Either you guys are selling this or you’re drinking way too much. We’re sending you 1,000 bottles a year and we can’t keep doing that and calling them samples. So you need to get licensed to sell,’” Gerber said.
Yes, Gerber and Clooney were going through 1,000 bottles of tequila a year, without selling it.
“After that I called to ask George what he wanted to do,” Gerber continued. “[Clooney] said, ‘Let’s get licensed; if we only sell one bottle it doesn’t matter. As long as we get to keep drinking our tequila, we’re happy.’ So we started the company and it took off immediately. People knew that we had something special. Not your typical tequila.”
And take off it did. Gerber and Clooney’s attention to detail in creating the tequila’s flavor profile paid off in spades.
“Our tequilas are made from the finest hand-selected 100% Blue Weber agaves grown in the rich red clay soil and cool climate of Mexico’s Jalisco Highlands for a minimum of seven years,” Gerber began. “[Consumers] love and appreciate the authenticity and quality of our brand…One sip and you will understand why.”
Casamigos currently offers four different selections: Blanco Tequila, Reposado Tequila, Añejo Tequila and Mezcal. Gerber, a seasoned tequila aficionado at this point, detailed the production details and flavor profiles of each.
“Casamigos Blanco Tequila rests for two months and is crisp and clean with a long smooth finish. Casamigos Reposado Tequila, aged seven months in the finest American oak barrels, is soft, slightly oaky with a medium to long smooth finish. Casamigos Añejo Tequila, aged 14 months in the finest American oak barrels, has a beautiful pure and refined complex aroma with a lingering smooth finish. Casamigos Mezcal, made in Oaxaca, Mexico with 100% Espadín Agaves, rests up to two months and is balanced and elegant with delicate notes of smoke leading to a long silky finish,” Gerber said.
He was also quick to note that Casamigo was designed for the average consumer. With its roots as a drink passed around friends and family, Casamigos was never intended to be ‘too sophisticated’ for the average Joe to enjoy.
“We are drawing consumers from all tiers and all categories,” Gerber said. “We are seeing that Casamigos is not just being consumed by people that love tequila. People that have enjoyed other types of spirits are turning to Casamigos because of its quality.” He also claims that drinking Casamigos all night “will not leave you hungover in the morning.”
Casamigos as an everyday brand is accurately reflected in the stores that carry it. This is not a tequila found only in specialty stores, but rather in places people from all walks frequent on a regular basis. You’ll find Casamigos at Walmart, Target, Costco and just about every major grocery chain. You’ll find it at mom-and-pop liquor stores, as well as haute bars, clubs and restaurants. The brand’s everyday identity combined with its celebrity luster has fueled its ubiquity. And the price point, which ranges from ~$30–45 a bottle, reflects a special level of quality while remaining within reach of the average consumer.
With their fine-tuned product becoming an instant hit, the next step for Gerber and Clooney was to scale the brand to reach a broader audience. They found themselves in the fortunate position of having access to many of the world’s top celebrities, who could leverage their reach to place Casamigos in major publications and across social media and reach millions of followers.
“We have a lot of friends who are talented in a variety of ways. From artists to musicians, to athletes, they all have one thing in common, they love Casamigos and want to share it,” Gerber said.
Gerber’s humility aside, Casamigos has found itself in the hands of just about every A-lister out there. The Casamigos website has a dedicated ‘House of Friends’ web page, which profiles the brand’s appearance at a slew of see-and-be-seen celebrity events. Parties surrounding the Oscars, Grammy’s, Golden Globes and SAG Awards, South by Southwest, Sundance, South Beach Food & Wine and numerous high-profile birthdays are just a few from a seemingly endless list of happenings that any marketer would salivate over.
Gerber and Clooney’s comradery continued strong as the brand continued to grow. In a world where going into business with your friends comes with high risks, and a failed project can potentially ruin a relationship, the duo continued to put fun at the top of the list.
“If we find that we are disagreeing on something, we will usually have a Casamigos...then another...then another,” Gerber said. “And at the end, we have somehow agreed.”
The process continued until that fateful period in 2017, where a passion project became a billion-dollar business. Diageo, the British beverage giant that owns iconic brands such as Guinness, Bailey’s, Ciroc and Tanqueray, took an interest in Casamigos and ultimately bought the brand to join its product portfolio.
Interestingly enough, even after such a landmark sale, Casamigos remains status quo for Gerber and Clooney in terms of their responsibilities with the brand.
“Our involvement remains the same,” Gerber said. “Absolutely nothing has changed. We have incredible partners in Diageo. We love what we do and it’s all we drink, so it’s business as usual.”
As for what lies ahead, Gerber is optimistic that Casamigos will continue to grow and resonate with the masses. He reinforces the product story and the brand’s foundation of quality. At the same time, he’s got a few nuances coming down the pipe. Nothing he’s ready to make public yet, but just enough to provoke some interest.
“We are always thinking ahead and have some ideas in the works, but we are really proud of what we have done and are focused on the continued growth of our tequila,” he said.
Gerber plans to continue growing Casamigos with the exact same attitude that he and Clooney created the brand with in the first place.
“We will continue sharing Casamigos with the world. Casamigos was created by friends for friends and people appreciate the authenticity of our story and the fact that it's brought to you by those who drink it. Our House of Friends keeps growing,” he said.
Gerber and Clooney have sold their Cabo homes as well, but the heart and soul of Casamigos remains the same. Glamorous physical structures and gargantuan buyouts aside, the lifeblood of Casamigos is friends, family and the timeless experiences that come with them. But a billion dollars and a lifetime with Cindy Crawford still doesn’t hurt.
Casamigos Tequila is available at most major retailers. For more information on Casamigos Tequila, visit CasamigosTequila.com.