JAJA Tequila has all the fun. With its brightly colored label that translates to laughter in Spanish, it stands out on the shelf from its older, more well-established counterparts with sophisticated branding.
And although the brand launched in 2018 and is created by founders who don’t come from the beverage industry, the joke is not lost on JAJA Tequila — it knows its audience and exactly how to speak to it.
“We are nimble as a brand and are able to operate and deliver content and experiences on the fly,” Co-founder Martin Hoffstein told ForceBrands. “It allows us to connect with audiences that most brands aspire to connect with.”
The audience they’re connecting to is one that has long been established by one of Instagram’s funniest influencers, whose meme-filled account @fuckjerry has generated more than 14 million followers. Elliot Tebele, one of JAJA Tequila’s co-founders who tapped his brother Maurice to help launch the brand, is leveraging his social media empire Jerry Media to quite literally raise spirits.
We’ll toast to that.
We caught up with Hoffstein and Tebele to learn more about how JAJA (pronounced ha-ha) is disrupting the tequila industry, building their team, and more.
ForceBrands: You all are childhood best friends — did you have any reservations about going into business together as family and friends?
Martin Hoffstein: Not really — I think trust is everything and I tend to trust friends and family more than anyone else. It also helps break down the classic barriers within the workplace. Building something together is also really fun. It’s the strongest sense of community.
Maurice Tebele: I was thrilled to be going into business with my brother and friend. We would always talk business casually, and to finally set out and tackle this exciting venture together only brought us closer.
FB: Tequila is a very saturated category — what sets JAJA Tequila apart?
MH: Although the tequila market seems saturated, we felt that no brand approaches the market the way that we do. On the shelf today, a lot of the brands follow a similar suit, a similar road to market and, in our opinion, have flat branding. There are a lot of beige, black, and white labels. We wanted to create something that stood out on shelves at bars, restaurants, and retail stores. Our company’s branding reflects the styles of artists Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko with beautiful bright colors. From a marketing perspective, we utilize pop culture, memes, and influencers to create an experience that resonates with a younger audience. Traditional tequila brands focus on an older white male demographic and we wanted to create something inclusive that resonates with everyone. I believe we are building a lifestyle brand in comparison to traditional spirit companies on the shelves today.
MT: We felt that tequila is due for disruption. Anyone who entered the space in the last 10 years has always tried to ride the coattails of previously existing brands. We felt there was a void in the opposite of what I would describe as an antiquated, hyper-ethnic, serious product presentation. I’d like to say we filled the void by not taking ourselves seriously, and creating something with a youthful approach. Seeing as how none of us have any previous liquor industry experience, it gave us a blank slate to reinvent tequila.
FB: What’s in a name: why JAJA?
MH: JAJA means HAHA and LOL in Spanish. Our brand is all about having fun and celebrating with friends and family. We felt the name stood out on shelves and encompasses what it means to have a good time. It also serves as a play on Jalisco and becomes a topic of conversation on how it is pronounced. We tend to hear all things like “JAJA,” “HAHA,” and “YAYA.”
MT: It is short, simple, symmetrical, and yet there is so much meaning behind it, especially meaning that jives with our core brand values, which predominantly is laughter and smiles. The “JA” letters also loosely reference Jalisco, the region in Mexico where all tequila must be made. The H-sounding J, also pays tribute to the Spanish language and the way the Mexican people laugh in exchanges via text messages and on social media.
FB: Who is your target audience and how have you been marketing to them?
MH: Our target audience is men and women who are between the ages of 22 and 35. We utilize our social platform to connect and deliver content that serves both as brand accretive and is relevant to what is happening around our consumers. Our audience tends to follow fashion influencers, meme accounts, and relevant pop culture mediums so we deliver content that is in line with what they are seeing around them. We get 50-100 people each week asking us about how they can get the latest beanie, hoodie, or hat. We are nimble as a company and we are able to deliver what our customers want. Therefore, we decided to launch a merch shop so customers can wear and enjoy JAJA in their everyday lives.
FB: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in building the JAJA Tequila brand?
MH: I would say the biggest challenge was navigating the rules and regulation within the liquor industry. Unlike other DTC brands, we are constrained by legislation from the time prohibition was repealed. We worked through a lot of these challenges with our great partners at Shaw-Ross International Importers who serve as our experts from a liquor perspective.
MT: Learning the landscape of the supply chain and the different state laws surrounding liquor can be somewhat overwhelming. Liquor is a very controlled substance in this country, and every state has their own ideas on how to go about controlling it. Another challenge has been managing the inventory and production of so many of the different components that make up our final package, all of which are completely customized to spec — (i.e. glass bottles, corks, seal strips, labels, case packs, swing tags, etc.). Many of these items have long production lead times which often puts us into a crunch due to the higher than expected growth of the brand.
FB: At ForceBrands, we build the teams that build the brands. How have you approached team building? Who were your first key hires?
MH: Our first hire/partnership was with Emmett Shine, Matthew Haysom, and Alex Brands of Gin Lane. We brought them in as partners as they are responsible for designing brands like hims, Harry’s, sweetgreen, SmileDirectClub, and more. Their focus is on building modern brands, communication systems, and interactive experiences that people really enjoy and we felt they are the perfect partner in creating JAJA.
FB: How would you describe your team’s culture?
MH: The first word that comes to mind is family. We are truly unified, like-minded, and want to create something cool while having fun.
MT: We’re all risk takers. We get excited by the little things and all share a common love for what we’re doing. Everyone is a team player and is considerate of each other’s opinions. In my opinion, it is the blend of input from every person on this team that has gotten JAJA’s final product to such a well-balanced, beautiful place.
FB: What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned about the beverage space since launching JAJA Tequila?
MH: There are a lot of big conglomerates with really deep pockets. We are nimble as a brand and are able to operate and deliver content and experiences on the fly. It allows us to connect with audiences that most brands aspire to connect with.
MT: We learned how important it is to connect with beverage staff at on-premise accounts. Forming quality relationships is the key to success in an industry where the decision-makers have so many choices of what to serve at their establishments.
FB: What’s ahead for JAJA Tequila? What excites you most about its future?
MH: There’s a lot that excites us — I think overall, growing our audience and distribution is at the top of the list. Expansion into new countries is always something that’s top of mind. There have been many instances in which we traveled out of state with no luck finding any good tequila. New product launches also excite us. We are currently working on our Añejo tequila which is scheduled to be released later this year.
MT: Line extensions for sure — as Martin said, our Añejo is set to launch later this year, and we have plans for further variants such as Cristalino, and perhaps a Mezcal.
Interested in working at an innovative beverage company like JAJA Tequila? Explore our specialized BevForce division.