On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe look at the growing trend of fashion and lifestyle brands entering the beverage alcohol industry. From a Tommy Bahama rum to Vera Wang’s Prosecco, the branded products are starting to roll in. And on this Friday episode, our hosts try their hand at brainstorming the next drinks that fashion and lifestyle brands will launch. Tune in for more.
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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And Joanna is a homeowner now!
J: Oh my God. You are saying this on the air?
A: Yeah, congrats.
J: Thank you.
Z: Well, now I’m not going to say April Fool’s Day, because now it’s going to sound real.
A: It’s totally true. Congrats!
J: Thank you so much.
A: If anyone wants to send her any housewarming gift, like wine, wine glasses, wine racks, you can send them to the office and we’ll get them to her. She now needs to set up a whole new space, a whole new bar. Really cool stuff. But yeah, it’s a big deal to be a first-time home.
J: Yep, very big deal.
A: Yeah, congrats.
J: It is not easy, folks.
A: It’s not easy.
J: This is why millennials don’t buy homes.
A: Yeah, exactly. It ain’t easy. But it’s also a Friday episode. So, fun times today.
J: It’s always fun times.
A: Always fun times. I don’t know if you guys noticed this, but I feel like a lot of fashion brands and things like that now make alcohol. We’ve seen quite a few recently, like Tommy Bahama, Vera Wang, and others.
J: Hard Rock Cafe.
A: Lifestyle brands, everything. Why do you think that is?
Z: Look, for some people, Hard Rock Cafe is absolutely a fashion brand.
A: Oh yeah, totally. Hard Rock Tokyo; that was the biggest flex when the kids wore that. “I went to Tokyo with my parents this summer.” That’s great, good for you. So how do we feel about this? And why do you think brands are doing it?
J: I think this is a really interesting thing. I was talking about it with Katie on our team. This was her idea, because we got a lot of these things sent to the office, and she notices them quite a bit.
Z: They’re not housewarming presents for you?
J: What I think these brands are meant to do is that they want these beverages to be an extension of their brand. They think that if you love Tommy Bahama shirts — like my dad.
A: Your dad’s a big Tommy Bahama guy?
J: A huge Tommy Bahama guy. I get it: easy, breezy.
A: Easy, breezy.
J: And it looks good. Anyway, if you love Tommy Bahama, then why wouldn’t you want the Tommy Bahama Rum? Then you’re a Tommy Bahama Rum guy. I think it’s about brand identity. That’s what I think. What I wonder, though, is are these fans of these brands actually buying the spirits? Are they like, “I gotta have this Tommy Bahama hard seltzer.” That’s what I don’t know. That’s why I just don’t know if there’s a real business case for releasing these drinks.
A: I don’t know. What do you think, Zach?
Z: It’s fascinating to me because we’ve seen this whole category, in particular, things like hard seltzer or maybe spirits more broadly be open. I don’t want to say infiltrations, maybe that’s the wrong way and too negative, but it’s an open category. If you have a strong brand, you’ve certainly seen lots of attempts to capture some of the market. But prior to this, it’s really been more established beverage brands. You’ve seen your Topo Chico Hard Seltzer.
J: It makes a lot of sense.
Z: What’s fascinating to me here is the notion that, would someone who’s in a grocery store who is perhaps like your dad and wearing Tommy Bahama and sees a Tommy Bahama hard seltzer or RTD be like, “Huh? Cool. This matches my shirt. Let’s buy it.” I mean, maybe that’s the notion. I don’t think that Tommy Bahama devotees are scoping out where they can get their next drop. But maybe. I think it’s more just people throwing sh*t at the wall and hoping it sticks because the hard seltzer category, in particular, is so wide open. With Hard Rock, I think it’s a little bit more straightforward. Presumably, they’re selling Hard Rock Seltzer at Hard Rock Cafes. So it’s like having their own branded thing. We’ve seen a ton of gimmickry in this category more broadly. At one point, someone gifted my wife a bottle of University of Wisconsin red wine — she went to University of Wisconsin. Some California winery had some kind of marketing agreement with, I don’t know who, the University of Wisconsin itself or a lot of universities. You could buy a Wisconsin-branded red wine that just had the Wisconsin logo on it. Or a Michigan State wine, or whatever. If you’re going to buy your dad a Father’s Day gift and it’s going to be a new Tommy Bahama shirt and “haha, it’d be funny if I threw in a 6-pack of Tommy Bahama Hard Seltzer or a bottle of rum.” Is it just a gag gift that we immediately dispose of, like Oreos/Barefoot Wine collab? Or does someone actually think this will be a real brand? I don’t know. Like I said, we’re recording this for April Fool’s Day. This feels like an April Fool’s prank to me.
A: It depends on the kind of lifestyle brand that you’ve built. But I do think that if you have built a lifestyle brand that is synonymous with a certain kind of thing, like Mr. Bahama has, the idea that your brand is connected to rum kind of makes sense. There’s a little bit of a lower lift. You walk into the liquor store. You don’t know much about rum. There’s a Tommy Bahama rum. Oh, Tommy Bahama knows a lot about island lifestyle, just how to kick back and relax with your feet in the sand. I think I’m going to buy a Tommy Bahama rum. I think that makes sense. I think there are people that do that now. Do I think that when you’re going down the vodka aisle and you see Tommy Bahama vodka, you’re like, “That guy knows nothing about what it’s like to live in a place that is cold and hard.” Why am I drinking Tommy Bahama vodka? Absolutely not. That makes zero sense. When they sent us that one, I was like, “What are we doing, guys?” Stick to rum or don’t. I think that the Vera Wang Prosecco is another amazing example. She has become 100 percent connected to weddings and bridal couture. Champagne and Prosecco are so celebratory, that her making it makes a lot of sense. Not only can she do what you said and what she’s clearly doing, Zach, which is sell a f*ck ton of it through her stores when you’re trying on her dresses. But if you are that type of person that is also like, “Oh, well, gosh, she’s known for weddings, I’m sure her Prosecco is great,” why would you not just buy it for your wedding? I’ll do a few cases of this for the wedding, it’s going into glasses anyways, but I’m going to trust the Vera Wang quality. It has to be super tight, though. I think that where it fails is when the brands make no sense. I would like to take the rest of Friday, because it’s a Friday episode, to have a creative meeting with y’all.
J: It’s a brainstorm.
A: We’re three creatives at a new, trendy, hot design and branding workshop. And we are about to pitch some great brand on the new spirit they should make because their brand is so synonymous. Which brands would we pick to go after?
Z: Oh man, you guys have to go first. My creative juices are not flowing.
A: I’ve got one. If I were a massively successful bourbon brand, Carhartt bourbon, y’all.
A: Because Carhartt is Americana. It’s coming back. There are all these other alcohol brands I’ve seen who are doing collabs with them. Why would Carhartt just not make their own? Not even a bourbon, an American whiskey. It’s for the working person who’s out there just living life and working the land and feeling good. I think that it would be a very, very successful whiskey.
J: That just made me think, is there a John Deere beverage?
A: There is not, but that’s a good one, too. John Deere moonshine for all those John Deere people.
Z: I feel like John Deere has to be some kind of hard seltzer brand.
A: Oh, that’s pretty good, though.
J: Yeah, that’s a good one.
A: Come on, you guys have to have others.
Z: I was thinking about this because I was thinking about, what are some iconic fashion brands that are different? I was thinking, what about Levi’s? It’s classic, it’s connected to California. But it’s not really a California lifestyle brand in any real way.
A: Levi’s California brandy.
A: Yeah, because California brandy was the original spirit during the Gold Rush. I was the one who was at the California Brandy House, just to let you guys know. It was the original spirit. It was what they were making when everyone was going to the Gold Rush. We had grapes out there. We were distilling the grapes into brandy. And Levi’s also was invented during the Gold Rush, so Levi’s California brandy.
J: It’s the San Francisco brand originally, right?
A: I would probably say the most famous brand ever coming out of San Francisco.
J: Except for Rice-A-Roni.
A: The San Francisco treat?
A: You’re right. And the Gap. No tech, though. Tech’s lame. Anyways, what else we got? Come on, people.
J: I wish you had mentioned this before the recording.
A: This is what’s fun about brainstorms.
Z: Fun and terrifying at once. It’s like being back at school, I like it.
A: There are so many amazing brands out there, but there are some that just won’t work. You have to be enough of a lifestyle brand that the connection can be made, but not so much of a lifestyle brand that it feels cheesy. Gucci Champagne; lame. Louis Vuitton Champagne; lame. They can buy the high-end Champagne houses. Trento DOC bought by Ferrari, the cars, that doesn’t really make sense. It’s very confusing, two different families. Those things, I think, don’t work. It’s more of these mid-level, very famous brands. But they have to have some part of their culture that does connect back to drinks. You could arguably now make a Nike hard seltzer. But you’d be hard pressed to have done that four or five years ago because Nike’s about fitness, running, etc. You don’t really think about drinking, right? The Nike version of Gatorade, 100 percent. I don’t know why they never did that. But that makes more sense.
Z: I’m still in this canned cocktail RTD phase. What’s the most synonymous with boating?
A: Oh, Sebago.
J: What is that?
A: Sebago are the boat shoes.
J: Or Sperrys.
A: Or Sperrys is even better.
Z: Sperrys and canned Bay Breeze.
A: That was all Joanna.
J: I don’t know what Sebago is.
A: Sebago is another brand of shoes. Sperrys are much more famous. You were better. The only one I could come up with really quickly was Sebago. Or Vineyard Vines.
J: Oh yes, of course.
Z: But they don’t actually have a wine? How is that possible?
A: Vineyard Vines hard seltzer, for those times when you feel like wearing a pink polo and being with Nate the Great and Chad the Lad.
J: What about this: Supreme Hard Seltzer?
A: Oh, that’s awesome. That is so good.
J: I’m trademarking it. Can I have that? Can I sell it? There would be lines.
A: There would be lines. “Yo, when’s this next case drop?” That would be awesome, Supreme Hard Seltzer. I like that one a lot. I’m also surprised there’s no Brooks Brothers vodka. For when you’re all together with your Brooks Brothers friends and you’re just trying to numb the pain of boarding school. That’s basically just Brooks Brothers vodka. That’s a good one, right? You gotta think about these things. We haven’t gotten to a wine. Besides Vera Wang, she’s done it. Who else is going to do it that well? Tory Burch, for I don’t know. Like Diesel jeans, none of those work because it has to be so pervasive in the culture.
Z: Are we going to get either an Ed Hardy or a Von Dutch hard seltzer?
A: I think Ed Hardy actually has a wine. I’m pretty sure they did it at one point. For sure, they had wine at one point. Or at least there were a lot of people who were ripping off their design to work with their labels. I’m struggling with something like Ralph Lauren. There’s so much. Polo has the Polo Bars already. There are too many liquids you could use that it just doesn’t work.
Z: A gin, maybe?
A: Maybe a gin.
J: Well it’s all-American.
A: It could be another whiskey, but then it would have to be a really high-end one, like a Pappy Van Winkle-style whiskey.
Z: I don’t feel like you see people wearing Polo and drinking whiskey.
A: I think you do, especially in the South, all over. But you definitely see Buffy and her mom drinking Brooks Brothers vodka all the time. I love Brooks Brothers vodka. This is the best thing I’ve created all day.
J: Poor Buffy.
A: Poor Buffy. I just think of Lucille Bluth drinking the Brooks Brothers vodka. We can leave it there unless you guys have other ones. I think we can just mic drop on Brooks Brothers vodka.
J: Yeah, no. I think we nailed it.
A: I think we did, too. With that, let us know what brands you think work.
J: Send us your ideas. We love to hear from you.
A: It’s April Fool’s, and no idea is a bad idea. Let us know what really funny brand connection you would come up with.
Z: And if you’re interested in hiring us, [email protected].
J: Brand consultants.
Z: Creative genius, on demand.
A: I’m filing trademarks on all of them. If any of these brands do this, I’ll be filing suit in New York State Court with jurisdiction. Thank you so much, and I will talk to you both on Monday.
J: See you then.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.