Join us for a live Q&A with Josie Fox, content coordinator for Tito's Vodka. You'll learn all the super smart ways Tito's communicates with (and grows) their fiercely loyal customer base, how to build a following of advocates that can help propel your brand to the next level, and maybe even a secret recipe or two from the makers of our favorite after-work libation.
Jamie: Hello, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today for our webinar, Emma plus Josie Fox. A Conversation with Tito’s Vodka’s E-mail expert. A little housekeeping before we get started. We will send a recording of today’s webinar out to all you lucky people out here on the line today, so stay tuned for that or if you need to hop off, we got you covered. Also, if you just want to share it with all your friends. If you have a question, feel free to type it into the chat modal during the presentation and we’ll be collecting those today as we go. You can also tweet at us using the #AskJosieFox to @emmaemail and we will scoop those up too. And yeah, so we are super pumped to have our speakers here and I’ll introduce them in a second, but for those of you on the line that are not familiar with Tito’s Vodka, they are a 20-year-old vodka company from Austin, Texas. They’re almost at legal drinking age. We made that joke earlier. We are huge fans of their spirits but also their marketing here at Emma and they are also customers of Emma and they work really closely together on their successful email campaigns with us.
So, who are the players in this game? Well, you’re looking at them. It’s the content coordinator, Josie Fox at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Josie is a Boston native. She spends her days and nights striving to reduce riveting and relevant content for Tito’s but also enjoy standard millennial pastimes like yoga, photogenic food, and Instagram. She prefers her Tito’s Handmade Vodka on the rocks with a twist and we are so pleased to have her here. And she works really closely and we were joking. This is actually Kelly, her name is not Emma, so don’t be confused there. She works at Emma.
But Kelly is based here in Nashville with me. She’s sitting right next to me and she helps brands like Orange Theory Fitness, Garden & Gun, perezhilton.com, Johns Hopkins and Pure Barre get more from their email marketing. Other really fun facts about her. She’s a twin. She organizes our annual trick or treating event here in the office, which is adorable. She hasn’t seen a single minute of Star Wars, which is shocking. And also, Kelly and I started one week apart over seven years ago and I’m super happy that I get to work with her every day. So to kick things off, I’m gonna to hand it over to Kelly to ask our first question of Josie then I’m gonna shut up and I’ll come back towards the end for our Q&A that I’ll moderate. So again, yeah, if you have questions, type them for us and we’ll be scooping those up and getting them to Josie. So, take it away, Kelly.
Kelly. Thanks, Jamie. We’re so excited that you guys can all join us, especially you, Josie. Thanks so much
Josie: Thanks, Kelly. I’m really excited to be here.
Kelly: It is most exciting and I know everyone will want us to just jump right in. So I will kick it off by asking, tell us a bit about your involvement with Tito’s. Were you always an enthusiast and maybe how you found your way to working for Tito’s?
Josie: Yeah, well I definitely knew about the brand before I moved to Austin, but I was never really a vodka drinker so it wasn’t more than kind of a blip on my brand awareness that they have something interesting going on kind of radar. The first time I actually tried it was with my family in Long Island.
Josie: I know it’s pretty random. My uncle had a whole stash of Tito’s and we always used to drink gin and tonics before dinnertime cocktail hour, but that summer he switched to Tito’s, which, so it wasn’t just a brand switch, it was an entire spirit switch and that was right about the same time I knew I was going to be moving to Austin after grad school. And he was so excited to share it with me and this brand from Austin and I was moving there and so I started drinking it then.
Kelly: That is awesome.
Josie: Yeah. And I, you know, when I moved to Austin, I didn’t just jump right in with Tito’s. I freelanced for a little while and I was actually helping out a friend who had just opened a brand new holistic vet clinic and I was there a couple days a week just helping him build relationships, kind of get it started there and the Tito’s brand manager came in with her dog and we started chatting and she was in the process of building out her team and asked me to send a resume. So I did. It seemed like a good fit with my background and so here I am.
Kelly: That is awesome. I love it. Well, that begs the question, how large is the team at Tito’s and you’re now an international brand so, we’ve got to know how, how large is this team that’s making such great things happen?
Josie: You know, we’re still really small. We actually, we have fewer than 100 full-time employees. Our marketing office in Austin, which houses our warehouse, our operations, and our marketing teams is about 24 people on a full day and, you know, maybe four or five dogs went with the brand. And then we have our folks at the distillery who our making a vodka and our sales team and they’re spread across the country. So that adds up to about 100 full time.
Kelly: Wow. I’m probably part of the group of people who’d think it’d be a lot larger than that. So that’s incredible, a small team. So you guys do a lot to scale that Tito’s experience and not just for customers. You also do a lot behind the scenes with your partners. Like you were just saying that that team of folks of distributors. So give us an idea, maybe speak a little bit to how you maintain those relationships.
Josie: Well, yeah, I mean we really do have kind of a family vibe and that keeps coming up and that’s a really important part of the brand to maintain as we grow just internally. We email with each other and talk on the phone daily about events that are happening all over the country and sort of being creative and just to keep each other in the loop. And we do periodically see each other throughout the year at events, but the whole company really only gets together twice a year. We have a big event that we host in Austin for our sales team and some distributors and we call it Tito’s Big Adventure and it’s a huge blast. It’s certainly an adventure.
Kelly: [inaudible 00:06:06]
Josie: I know, I know, it’s good. It’s TBA. That’s what we call it when we’re being serious and using…
Kelly: And now we were all in the know, TBA.
Josie: Yeah. And then our national sales meeting, which is when we actually get down to business and talk numbers. But on a larger scale beyond those one-on-one interactions that happen sometimes, we keep each other informed about what’s going on with the brand across different markets through a lot of internal email newsletters actually.
Kelly: That’s interesting.
Josie: Yeah, I know. Actually, I think it’s, yeah, three of the four regular email newsletters that we send are primarily internal. Yeah. We have one that focuses on our giving programs and charity-related events. And then an international report, which we’re actually just starting. Our first one will be through you guys will be this quarter and then kind of a general because that… it goes out monthly about what’s happening.
Kelly: I know. That’s awesome.
Josie: Yeah, it’s pretty cool how close we all are without having spent that much time in the same room.
Kelly: Totally. And we’ve got a picture of the gazette up on the screen and it is looking beautiful for reference. Love it. And the love letters. Tell us about this.
Josie: Oh, yeah. So this is a pretty new thing for us. We’ve been involved in charitable giving and whether it’s just donating a product, you know, a big case of products to some kind of fundraiser event or actually going there ourselves or working on the ground in disaster relief areas, it’s always been part of our story. And just this kind of announcement of it, and even to our team internally is new for us, so it’s a cool way to kind of document where we are and the different causes that our sales team is involved with and different things that we’re passionate about. So that’s pretty exciting.
Kelly: Really, really cool. And I love the design of it too. It looks beautiful.
Josie: Well. Thank you, guys.
Kelly: Well, tell us. I know that you had a recent trip to New York City. Just got to hear about it.
Josie: Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, we went to New York, a few of us, very last minute for a social media conference and it was going to be less than two days, you know, we’re there for two nights and weather hit me. Got the three of us going, got stuck in some hotel in downtown Baltimore at 2:00 a.m. you know, it was one of these just nightmare travel stories where everything bad could have happened. Terrible cab ride, which is a kind of nightmare. Anyway, our trip, which was already sort of got cut even shorter, we made it in time for the conference, but we were just exhausted and the drag, all that kind of feeling not so hot. But we had plans with our New York team, you know, these folks who we only see a couple of times a year and at this restaurant and we just… we dragged ourselves to midtown and into this restaurant and our team was there. And all of a sudden everything was okay and we felt so much better. We were like, oh, family.
Kelly: [inaudible 00:09:14] just fade away. I love it. That’s so great. I love it. Such a tight team. So some of our listeners may not realize that Tito is a real person. Can you speak to some of the complexities of working for a beloved brand that also bears the name of a real person?
Josie: Yeah, absolutely. Yes, Tito is a real person and he’s still in the office today. He’s fully involved with the brand and the company on a daily basis.
Josie: Yeah. He mostly offices at the distillery because that’s where his heart is. You know, vodka is his… that’s his… the part that he… I mean that’s what he loves to do, but he’s absolutely involved heavily in day-to-day operations throughout every piece of the company.
Kelly: That’s great. It may be also a great time to point out his last name, which is also real.
Josie: Yes. Tito’s last name is Beveridge.
Kelly: It’s just too good.
Josie: It’s not spelled like something you drink. But like a ridge, but it’s Beveridge and he says that his thing is nomenclature’s destiny and it is here. But, you know, the spelling issue, the spelling discrepancy that we make of beverage, and his last name is Beveridge but not spelled the same way, is tricky sometimes. We sent an email out one time and his full name was in the headline and we got a response from somebody who said, “I’m a huge fan. I love your product. Just wanted to point out that you’ve made a typo.” And so, of course, we’re on the phone, our hearts are in our throats, that kind of shaky sweaty feeling when you sent an email to a massive list with a typo in the subject line. What? And so we went through it and we cut it all apart and we realized the Beveridge was the typo and it was just how he spelled his last name. So it was actually, it was right. We did not make a typo that time. We wrote back and like, “Thank you so much for being a fan. Actually, his last name is spelled this way,” so
Kelly: Oh, my goodness.
Josie: So that’s the problem sometimes, but also great.
Kelly: Oh, that is funny. Working in the food and beverage industry as a marketer must be one of the, I would think, one of the more creative industries that you can be representing, but can you give a window maybe into the “writer’s room” or the brainstorming sessions for your content?
Kelly: Might be a bit nosy.
Josie: You know, our process is so varied. Our team is very small so we meet all the time and just kind of throw out ideas and come up with things in the moment as well as having kind of a longer-term vision most of the time. And it really is unlike the planning or approach that I’ve encountered anywhere else, either on agency or client side or probably recommended best practices, but that’s okay. We really get our inspiration from everywhere. Our fans, bloggers and brands that we’ve collaborated with in the past, cocktails we see on menus when we travel, what’s going on at events and at festivals, just listening to social trends and what’s out there in the world, seasonal ingredients, our personal lives and interest, our sales reps and what they’re doing in their markets and even what’s happening in kind of sports retail and fashion industries too, and you know, our own history and origin story is a big part of where we source a lot of our inspiration.
Kelly: I’m sure.
Josie: But yeah, we did a drink last year that was a Tito’s Handmade Vodka mint green tea lemonade that’s on our blog and it’s delicious and got a lot of traction and it’s all because this jar of mint sugar landed on my desk and so I looked into it and it was this… somebody found it at a farmer’s market in Buda, which is this little town just south of Austin, and it’s just this… it’s pretty much organic dried mint and sugar and it was just begging to be the rim of a cocktail. And so that created this whole content piece for us. Yeah, so it really can come from anywhere.
Kelly: That sounds delicious if I may say. Yeah, that’s really cool because then it’s just life is sort of speaking to that content. That’s really neat.
Josie: Yeah. And this is actually, this is the first year that we’ve had cohesive through the line programming, which kind of ties a lot of the creative brainstorming together and gives it more of a structure. And these concepts or campaigns, big loose campaigns really touch everything from our social media and email marketing to print advertising and digital media all the way to national event activations and cocktail menus and fundraisers and local markets all over the country.
And this is a big shift for us and I mean it’s huge. It’s just fundamentally the way we’re looking at marketing and it’s opened the doors for a lot more kind of creative content opportunities and it ties the whole brand and team together in a new way and we’re still trying to figure it out, but I think we’re always gonna be trying to figure things out which makes it exciting because things are constantly evolving and, you know. Actually, our Q2 microsite launched this morning because it’s April 1st.
Kelly: Congrats and that’s no joke. Sorry, I had to…
Josie: It’s not a joke.
Kelly: That is exciting. Congratulations.
Kelly: So we worked together on Tito’s email marketing and we’re obviously lucky to call you both customer and friend of Emma. So let’s take a moment, if you will, and look at some of the work that you guys are doing. So you have incredible open and click rates and I believe that’s what we’re all after. So people really engage with your emails so much. How is it that you guys arrived at what’s kind of the “right” content strategy? No small feat.
Josie: I don’t know. I think we live by we only send to others what you would open yourself kind of theory.
Kelly: So good.
Josie: And, you know, every month we look and see what kind of what the highlights are and what people would want to know about and we put that in and just try to give the people what they want, you know. We get a lot of great feedback on recipe content and events that are going on, so we like to put that in. And also, we just… we don’t push email signups. We’d like to just send emails to people who actually are going to be interested in opening them. You kind of have to seek it out in order to get on the list, which is great. We’re not just sending it out to a lot of empty inboxes, people who just aren’t engaged.
Kelly: Right. And tell us about your recent reengagement story of getting folks…
Josie: So it wasn’t that, it was a couple of years ago, but I guess there was a push to just do a reengagement campaign and just be sending emails to people who are real fans and not be cluttering a bunch of inboxes all over. And so the folks who were working here then sent out a reengagement campaign where you actually had to go in and sign up again to keep getting emails from us. And they thought it would be cut by half or more because if you ignore it, you wouldn’t get any more from us and we’d take you off the list. But it more than doubled. It almost tripled. So, I don’t know what happened there. I think people must have forwarded it to their friends and just snowballed from there, but that was a shocker.
Kelly: That is outstanding. That’s outstanding. And it actually makes me wonder, I mean, we get a ton of questions all the time about email frequency, and just to kind of jump back to that for a moment and I know that there’s no… or we know that there’s no silver bullet, if you will, but it’s all about knowing your audience and every audience is gonna be unique. But how did you guys determine how often you wanted to send? So you’ve got the content figured out, how often did you want to kind of be in touch?
Josie: Well, you know, I think it’s just as often as we have enough to say and it’s pulled together and really give people valuable content all at once instead of kind of feeding little bits along the way, which is more work for us and more work and asking more of our fans to open more emails. We want to kind of consolidate the things that we have on a monthly basis and send it out there. And that just change. We do send… we sometimes send more than one email a month, but that’s only when we have kind of a news flash or some kind of… or some bit of valuable information that’s coming up and they just know about it first. So really it’s just not… it’s not that often, one to two times a month.
Kelly: Just leave people on the edge of their seats is probably right. And what you were just saying about the kind of re-engagement and seeing such an incredible increase, that was the total opposite of the expectation. We know that roughly audiences will churn by about 30% annually. And so what specific things did you guys do to accomplish the opposite of that? You absolutely built and maintained the right audience in your email program. So we’d love a little sneak peek into that.
Josie: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s not a numbers game with us. If you don’t want to get info from us, we don’t want to clutter your inbox. So we do often give the opportunity to opt out or re-engage and we do try to provide the content that’s valuable and exciting for people to open and engage with. And, you know, we keep coming back to, “What do we want to read? What are the kinds of things that we want to see? What events are, even if you’re not in the market where something is happening, what’s kind of… what speaks to the brand as a whole and could engage people even if they’re in Oregon, at an event that’s happening in Florida?” So I think that just building our fan base in general and then inviting them to be part of our email list has that been the process.
Kelly: It just seems so simple when you say it. You’re so good at it. Well, as marketers we know it’s vital to measure and track that performance of those emails. So let’s talk about overall measurements of success. What is most important for you guys? How do you make decisions about what’s working and what’s not?
Josie: Well, you know, we make decisions by listening to our fans, to the comments, and the things we post on social and then the emails that we get in response to our [inaudible 00:20:22]. We’re just always in conversation with the people who are drinking our product and even on the shelves. And by listening to people who know more about tracking email marketing than we do. We’re actually… we’re really excited to dive into more of this analytics side of things during the Marketing United pre-conference. We have a whole list of questions for you.
Kelly: We can’t wait.
Jamie: Josie, I’m sorry to interrupt. Josie will be joining us for Marketing United.
Kelly: Indeed. She’ll be there.
Jamie: We’re very excited, April 19th and 20th so.
Kelly: There you go.
Josie: I can hear all of this again.
Jamie: I know. New and exciting and different things. It’s a different flavor.
Kelly: Well, it’s clear to see that the email is obviously a really vital channel for you guys touching consumers directly and with exclusives. And you talked about how it’s your kind of most protected channel for those types of communications. Can you tell us about your social strategy? You guys have like over 33,000 followers on Instagram. So how does social play into that overall marketing plan?
Josie: Well, I mean, it’s obviously, it’s a key piece of it, but like everything else you do, our social strategy is pretty dynamic, you know, we have guidelines about what we like to say and about what we avoid, and kind of a vision, but there’s no corporate handbook we need to abide by which really gives us a lot of freedom. But social for us, first and foremost, it was a way to engage one on one with our fans, which is how the brand started in person. These conversations that were at bars and festivals, one on one, face to face as the brand grew, social has been really vital to that conversation. And we grabbed onto that early, we’ve been on Twitter since it launched and that was the first tool to bring these one-on-one conversations online at scale. So it’s been a way to amplify these personal relationships that we have with our fans that we really value as we grow.
Kelly: Yeah. Even on special days, of course, you’ll see we’ve pulled up the Instagram photo for April Fool’s Day. We just have to encourage everyone to head over to Tito’s Vodka and check it out for yourself.
Josie: And you can see we had fun with it. It’s just because we have freedom, it is so much fun to play around with all kinds of content on social. One of our best performing posts, until I guess recently, was National Root Beer Float Day. Who knew that that was a thing? We didn’t until it was the day itself, but we were like, it was, I don’t know, it must’ve been a slow day in the office or like…
Kelly: You’ve got fun-loving followers. Who doesn’t love every beer float?
Josie: Exactly. And we just made a root beer float with Tito’s, which is delicious. It really cuts the weakness of the root beer. So I would try it. I would encourage you to try it. And, you know, snap to pick on an iPhone and it blew up for us. Like, wait, what happened? We didn’t expect this.
Kelly: That is too good.
Josie: Yeah, but social, there’s always new territory to explore, new platforms to learn about. And until now, everything that we’ve done on social has been organic, all of the growth, we never put any dollars behind it. And this year we’re just starting to kind of dip our toes into that because you kind of have to pay to play a little bit now. We begrudgingly are learning that way. But our goal with that is really it’s to close our fan loop and reach out to folks who are already getting emails from us to our tasters to start conversations that are a little bit more regular and ongoing on social because we do only send out one or two emails a month. And really in terms of replies, people will reply all or reply to us and actually write us an email. Social is a way to kind of have these, these conversations in a more, you know, ongoing way.
Kelly: Absolutely. Well, tell me if you don’t…I alluded to the concept of the kind of most protected channel. Can you speak a little bit to that, because I love how you mentioned that once about the email being this protected? And I know it’s kind of unique content, if you can speak a little more to that, that’d be amazing.
Josie: Absolutely. I mean, I think landing in somebody’s inbox and having them open an email is… it’s a lot to ask first for the signup and second for the open. So we place a lot of value on that and we don’t want to screw that up. We want to keep that stable opening and happy and engaged and every time we send something to somebody it’s an opportunity to, I don’t know, to engage further, find a little bit… find something else out about us and who… what the brand is, that might spark something. And so it is this kind of gated process of landing in somebody’s inbox and actually having them read the email.
Kelly: Right. And a little more formal than just the Instagram to you.
Kelly: That’s awesome. That’s really cool.
Jamie: All right. Well, I’m gonna… we’ve gotten lots of questions coming in. This is Jamie hopping back in. So, I do want to also promote, again, Josie will be joining us at Marketing United, which is our three-day conference in April, 18th, 19th and 20th, 18th if you are an Emma customer, we have today’s the last day actually to get free preconference.
Jamie: I know. So, and it’s pretty exciting, but you can also get $100 off if you use this code on your ticket. So, if you do want to join us, get lots of lots of really great folks and Josie will be with us and we want you here. Also, let’s look here. So yeah, we’ve gotten several questions come in and looks like Phil, we’re going to start with old Phil. He asked, “How do you market to distributors versus end users in email campaigns?” Because I know that you do that really directly and I think I might have rattled through the examples too fast earlier, but I know, I apologize. I was trying to… I was jumping around, but yeah, so, so kind of explain that to us a little bit because I think…
Josie: Well, we’re in an interesting position because, you know, we don’t sell direct, we don’t sell vodka to consumers. We sell… it’s a process. I mean the selling… so spirit is a little bit different than selling something like, you know, salmon or like Snickers bars or something. So measurement is a little bit harder and also reaching one particular fanbase is a little bit harder. We don’t have a target demographic. Tito says, “If you have a liver, we deliver.” With the marketing team if you’re legal drinking age of course.
Kelly: Interesting. If you have a liver, we deliver.
Josie: So we like to think of our target as really, you know, our fans and our distributors and our salesforce. So some of the internal emails that we send out, which really include the programming that we’re working on and all the events where we’re activating, an information about our charity events. Those go to distributors too. We really give those to our sales team, our amazing sales team, as a tool for them to work with distributors. So that’s kind of how we spread the word. And I say internal, they’re not all internal, but it’s all… they’re all marketing to kind of the team that’s working for us to get us on shelves and into people’s home bars, et cetera.
Jamie: Super Interesting. Well, and I, you know, to that end, Carrie has a question just about how you prefer to segment. So I mean we know that you have these two sorts of distinct audiences and your challenges are a little bit different, but yeah. Could you kind of peel back the curtain a little bit and just tell us sort of how you do get these people… how you identify, is it just a distiller’s list and the public list or are there lots of different sort of ways that you categorize them in your account?
Josie: Well, at this point we keep it really simple and partially that’s just to keep ourselves sane because like I said, we’re a very, very small team and until we actually set up a whole automated process of reaching out to people on their birthdays and a whole welcome series, which are all goals of ours, the two of us who are doing this right now, it really is primarily two lists. And that is our tasters, our fans and then our internal list, which is pretty much our sales team and then they forward it along to their distributor partners.
Jamie: And to that end too, I’m just curious. How far-reaching is the brand? I know we know it’s international, but do you have a count on, you know, how many states, how many countries? What’s the weirdest place that the Tito’s Vodka has shown up if you don’t mind?
Josie: Oh, no, I mean, we’re all over the place. We are in every single state and I think 74 countries.
Jamie: Wow. That’s exciting.
Josie: But that sometimes just means that there’s a case in that country somewhere.
Jamie: Somebody’s cousin brought it over.
Josie: Yeah, we have one sales rep who does all of the international so that’ll give you kind of the scale of really we’re still small out there. There might be a bottle somewhere.
Kelly: As long as you’re out there.
Jamie: Yeah. Well, let’s look here too. So Liz actually, she just wants to say, “by the way, I have Tito’s in my freezer right now. So, hey.”
Kelly: Me too.
Jamie: So do I, Liz. It sincerely is my favorite vodka. So no lie. So, and actually Jack asks, and this is great because I do think, you know, the re-engagement campaign story and success of that for you. You spoke to it really well, but Jack is saying specifically, “Why do you think this caused your lists to grow?” So you sort of touched on it, but do you think… was there a way that you were able to try to track? Like how did that email get out there or what did you guys land on was the answer for that?
Josie: It’s funny because one of Tito’s original strategies to getting the brand out and spreading the word was, “If you like, tell 20 of your closest friends,” and I really think that that is probably what happened. I mean, and that’s just a guess, but yeah.
Kelly: I have actually done that.
Josie: Right. Exactly. Forwarding along to people who you think might want to try it and we get that all the time. You get stories from people in emails and on social, “My friends have been trying to get me to try your brand and I was always a drinker of whatever. I wasn’t a vodka drinker, but then I tried it and now I love it,” and we… that just makes our day. That just makes it all worth it. It’s really, really cool to hear the stories.
Jamie: And correct me if I’m wrong. It’s corn based, right, and not potatoes. Is that correct?
Jamie: That’s why. I think that’s why I dig it so much. I love it.
Josie: Yeah, I know it makes it a little bit sweeter. Maybe the mouth feels a little bit different. And it’s gluten-free, 100% gluten-free.
Jamie: Oh, my gosh, hey.
Kelly: Another millennial interest.
Jamie: Exactly. Perfect. So, and this is actually a question I would love to ask both of you. I’m sitting over here just snowing Kelly, but as I mentioned, Kelly works really closely with Josie on their email marketing, on their strategy and she also works with tons of other clients out there of all different ilk. So for both of you, you know, Christina asked, “For someone who has a small list, how big should you grow your list before A/B testing is effective?” So if a client were to come to you, if Christina is your client, what would your recommendation be on testing and what’s sort of your mantra there, you know? I have some opinions, but I would love your thoughts and same for you, Josie.
Kelly: I’ll start by saying, I recommend it always.
Josie: That was my answer.
Kelly: The limit does not exist. I tend to think that getting… trying to figure out and, you know, we make reference to how each audience is unique, but if your goal is to figure out what really interests your readers giving… doing the A/B testing and kind of figuring out what they respond to is so key. And, and honestly, I don’t think there’s any…obviously besides having enough people to run the actual A/B tests. Having that functionality is great because then you can really find out what people engage with. And often it’s surprising. I’ve worked with lots of people who will figure out that, you know, their audience really responds to a traditional subject line and then there are folks that their audience loves something that’s just totally outside the box, even asking a question in a subject line or something like that. And so A/B testing, we see that as just a secret weapon, if you will, in the account side, I’d say always and often, that’s my answer.
Jamie: So don’t wait. Yeah. And, well, into that, I actually will let Josie chime in, but also Derek asks, “How did you guys start building your list?” So I think just talking about the list-building, I know you said earlier that it’s not, which I think is a great answer. It’s not that you’re just… it’s a numbers game and you’re just trying to get a billion people on Tito’s email list. You actually want the people who want to be there on the list, but obviously growing and expanding that is probably, you know, a secondary goal and it’s a good thing for sure. So can you kind of talk about where you started when you joined with email marketing? Was it a list of zero or was it just distributors or how have you seen that sort of trajectory with it?
Josie: Yeah. I mean I have only been with the company for a relatively short time. So there was already a list there. There was already a list going and strong, about 35,000 and since… in the year that I’ve been here, it’s up to 52,000. And that’s really without doing a single thing besides just our marketing and really the only place where people can go to sign up for our list is our website where you go and you can sign up to be a Tito’s taster. And this has been the process for a while. You click on the Tito’s taster link and you take a pledge to drink great vodka and fill out a little information and you get kind of this taster template that you can print out and stick on a bulletin board. At some point we’re gonna look at that process again but the list has just grown pretty much on its own.
Kelly: In short order. That’s amazing.
Josie: Yeah, in short order. I mean, some events we drive to this link to be a taster. But really that’s new too.
Jamie: That’s really interesting because the other day, and I will not mention the spirit in question, it is another brand, a different type. It wasn’t vodka, but I actually… you know, one of my colleagues was served an email trying to get them to fill out their birthday. And to entice them, there was a template to print off an origami shot glass. And so I find it really interesting that you guys are also taking similar approaches and it kind of, you know, this idea of melding the sort of experience literally quite, you know, something you can hold in your hands or tack up on a wall with the digital space. So is that something that you guys do things of that nature often? Are you… you know, what is sort of the experience out in the wild looking like for Tito’s and how does it tie back to sort of the digital realm? You know, how often does that happen?
Josie: I mean, I think we try to tie every single thing back to a real-world experience, something that you can taste, you can make, you can mix it up, you can drink with your friends. I mean we make one thing and that’s just one flavor of vodka. It’s vodka-flavored vodka, which is one of my favorite things to say. But that’s not something that you can experience online. So, you know, everything we do, we want to give our fans real-world tools where they can drink and hang out with their friends and do whatever they want with this one thing that we make. And it’s funny, most of us in the marketing office at least just drink our vodka or our Tito’s extremely simply. We mix it up with Topo Chico or we… some of us like a martini occasionally, but we work with mixologists at different levels of complexity to give our fans the tools that they need that they are looking for to drink it and enjoy it at home or wherever they are. And then at events, we’re at events to creating experiences in the real world and it’s constant. It’s a constant back and forth.
Jamie: So we have two questions that I like and I want to get Kelly’s thoughts because I know she worked with you guys on this aspect of your marketing, but sort of two-fold. So we have Frieda who’s asking, and I love this question. This is really for you, Josie, “Why did you guys opt for the bare bones look instead of the lux lifestyle feel your competitors went for ala Grey Goose or Ciroc, et cetera?” And you were sort of chatting with us earlier about that as well where it’s, you know, Tito’s has been around, like we said, for 20 years and has a very distinct aesthetic. And so can you talk about how that was developed? I know that predates, you know, your involvement with the brand, but how that came about and whether or not you think that is sort of a key differentiator. And then from there, we’ll talk about email again.
Josie: Sure. Yeah. I mean Tito designed the label himself using Corel Draw, which I don’t even know if it’s around anymore, and printed it on recycled paper because I think he was dating a hippie chick or a vegetarian at the time who encouraged him to incorporate some aspect of that into the design.
Jamie: So it’s very Austin.
Josie: It hasn’t changed since. I mean the label is… it’s the same one. Our bottles are the same ones that we’ve been using the whole time. And I think that’s part of reporting to a single guy who had this vision and made this thing and is working. Why change it? I mean, we don’t… it’s been the look of it. And, you know, in the ‘90s when we were starting out, when the brand was starting out, I guess people were more interested in a luxurious feel like you talked about and kind of that VIP experience with red carpets and velvet ropes and that was just never part of the brand. And now there’s been a shift in the cultural zeitgeist towards the more Americana feel. And that’s just who we’ve been all along and it works for us.
Jamie: No, and I think that… And I want to apologize to anyone who’s heard us hacking and coughing. The allergies in Nashville or pollen count is off the charts today. Kelly and I are both like, ooh, all right. So we’re back. But yeah. So, Kelly, if you can speak, so, you know, she was just sort of chatting about the brand and how… and I think it’s really interesting. I think this is what you just said was wonderful. It’s this idea of you stayed consistent with your brand in this authentic way, you know, really stuck to your guns on it and now that’s paying off because the cultural zeitgeist has shifted to where people know they’re being marketed to. We talked about all the time, you know, this brand authenticity, like staying true to your roots and that really resonating with the right kind of audience because marketing is, especially I think in the digital age, is so, you know, “I want to align myself with brands that understand me and that kind of thing.” So I think you guys have got it going on there and that I would attribute a lot of that probably to your success, especially online.
But when it comes to you at the inbox, Dorothy from Girls Leadership has asked that, you know, they’re experimenting with updating the design of their emails. They send to targeted segments. So some is to parents, certain postal codes, and they would love your insight. And I’m opening it up to Kelly too because she talks about email design all day long. So it sort of, how do you decide what those look like? How do you decide what that sort of header or how that changes because that’s a big lever for you guys at Tito’s? Really, essentially the header copy of the content is kind of changing to make it more distinct. But what are… you know, how did you decide or land on what the look and feel is? And I’m actually going to scroll back through and find an example to use as our backdrop so bear with me here. But you guys. Yeah, take it away. Kelly, what do you…?
Kelly: Yeah, I’ll jump in. Frequently, especially when sort of onboarding a new account, which is typically when folks are looking at their template design, that we often revisit after a year or so because brands are usually pretty agile in that way and updating. We recommend that the email header and sort of branding match the website. So you’d be surprised how often people will say, “Oh, well the website’s old. Let’s go a different direction and kind of update it.” And what we’d really usually suggest is that it’d be consistent. Just like, Josie, what you’ve been saying, that it’d be a consistent experience. So we wanted to feel like it’s kind of telling the same story, but obviously in this example, Josie, between this and the love letters and that obviously that branding is incredibly consistent and strong, but there is room for variation.
So you could really like target, for example, the kind of parent list for… that was mentioned in the question, but you could focus on parents, it could be a little more frivolous for an email directed at children, for example, or something along those lines. But we would generally say less is more. You’d want to… instead of going completely having each email look as though it stands alone, you really want a consistent story that’s being told. So keeping things pretty uniform, you know, because obviously, you can see the focus between these emails is a little nuanced because it’s gonna be sort of different content covered, but the Tito’s branding itself is such a consistent story, there’s no question where you’ve landed, right? So that’s it.
Jamie: And this is the webpage or picture of that. So, no, absolutely. And, Josie, any thoughts on how you guys landed on how to take… like you were saying that the label hasn’t changed in 20 years and it’s awesome, but how you sort of incorporate, you know, spicing it up and landing on that sort of look of, of this page or the emails or a bus for instance?
Josie: Oh, yeah. And that’s our Tito’s bus. It goes around South by Southwest every year and people’s rides, and free cocktails. I guess today we’re switching it out or tomorrow. Yeah, you know, we do stick with obviously the same kind of branding and look and feel all based around our label. But in that label, there is so much for our creative director to work with in terms of kind of textures to play with and backgrounds, you know, we always go with the wood and the copper and the burlap and so we can play around and have fun while staying really, really consistent.
And I think this is the year we might be experimenting with even more. You know, we’ve had the same piece of wood that we’ve photographed forever for our wood background and it’s changing color and it’s getting older and it’s splintering a little bit because it is a real piece of wood. By necessity, we have to find something new. So that kind of opens the floor for our conversation too, “Do we want to stick with wood? Do we want to do something else because this piece is getting really old and gross and we don’t want to be carrying it around to photo shoots anymore?” So, you know, it’s kind of a natural evolution.
Jamie: Well, perfect. And, well, and I was going to say… oh, so this sort of goes with the same thing. And I think you’ve kind of hinted at it or answered it, but Alyssa has asked, “How are you able to keep yourselves relevant and unique for your fans in a crowded industry when the customer has so many choices?” So I mean, you know, Freida asked that sort of in a way about sort of the differentiating between the look and feel of other sort of these swanky, “I’m dripping in diamonds drinking my Grey Goose.” Yeah. Whereas Tito’s is like, “Hey, we’re buddies. Come hang out with us, we’re going to get on a bus.” And I’m in. I think that’s more me. But yeah, but how…?
Josie: Yeah, I think of being human. And I think we’re real people here, a few, a couple of us and we’re doing all of it without a corporate handbook and without, you know, above, somebody in the clouds giving us guidelines. I mean, we enjoy these one-on-one conversations with our fans and we try to keep it real. And we kind of, we do listen to what resonates with people and because we’re pretty small and nimble, we can just… we can adjust to fit the tone and fit it into the brand of course. But, you know, because we’re a couple people here, we can read into situations and respond with real answers.
Jamie: Absolutely. Well…
Kelly: Can I ask you a silly question? Can we know these dogs names? They’re so cute.
Jamie: Who are these dogs?
Kelly: Tell us about these dogs.
Julie: And how involved are they with the email program?
Josie: They are quite involved with the email program. Quite involved with our office. And so, Stella is on the left and then Pearl is the black one and then Roscoe is the one who’s [inaudible 00:48:32]. And you know, dogs have been part of our brand DNA for since the beginning.
Jamie: It’s how you got there, right?
Kelly: Direct to dogs, right?
Josie: They’re the ones keeping it real. They’re the ones keeping us sane. And so we have a whole a vodka for dog people program and Stella on the left was the original distillery dog. And there were all these strays on the distillery and Tito and the team out there would take them in and get them spayed or neutered and then find homes for them or keep them because Stella actually, her mom is in the office here with us today almost really many years after. And so we formed a relationship with a local stay neuter and the animal welfare clinic, a nonprofit and we’ve been working with them since then.
So they helped us out in the beginning when Tito could not afford to find homes and veterinary care for these dogs. And now we like to give back to them with our Vodka for Dog People March on our web store. All the proceeds go to support them and this program is just getting bigger and bigger, into new markets, into different organizations and yeah.
Jamie: Well, I was gonna ask too just about your giving…you mentioned giving back initiatives and that being a part of your, you know, your DNA and obviously this is… we ask for their names and got that amazing story. But what other sorts of cause-based activities are you guys doing? Because I think that’s something that resonates with Emma as well. We’re really passionate about that. So, let’s end on an inspirational note. Yeah, what else besides these beautiful dogs are you doing out there in the world?
Josie: You name it, we’ve been there. I mean our sales reps, their interests and passions are extremely diverse and whether it’s raising money for research about a disease or giving back after a natural disaster. I mean, here in Wimberley, in Texas, we felt that this year and then in South Carolina. We have a whole team riding in the MS150, coming up in April. We’re everywhere. I mean, as many people in our company amplify that and multiply it, everybody is doing a million different things to help whatever causes that are close to their hearts. And I think that’s one of the coolest things about this company is they support that. They want their people to give back in ways that actually that inspire them as individuals.
Kelly: So that’s neat. And it’s going to be as varied as the people in the team. So that’s so cool.
Josie: And that’s kind of why love letters came about, why that whole email started because people… I mean our team, even people within the company didn’t know what other people were doing. And yeah, this can serve as inspiration for projects and fundraisers that they want to do too.
Jamie: That’s fantastic.
Kelly: We’re such fans of you guys.
Jamie: I know, we’re huge fans. Well, we have… we’re inching up on the top of the hour and I know you’ve got to get back to marketing a very successful market brand. So I do want to thank Kelly for joining us and for doing such great work with you guys and I’d like to thank everyone for bearing with us coughing. Again, Josie will be joining us, and Kelly as well, in April 18th through the 20th here in Nashville, that’s where we are based, to talk all about this and much more. She’ll be alongside our other friend and customer, Pam Lewy from Mario Batali and we’ll be a chatting through all kinds of great things as far as just, you know, doing great branding for some really, really amazing companies. And so thank you so much for joining us here. Again, we will send a recording out of this and, yeah, just let us know if we can answer any more of your questions to tweet at us or send those to us firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much.