Austin Founders Series: Tito’s Vodka

Introduction

Welcome to the Austin Founders Series, where we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that thrives in our vibrant city. As an entrepreneur born and raised in Austin, I am particularly excited to highlight the ingenuity of our local businesses. Today, we shine the spotlight on Tito’s Vodka. Behind its success lies a smart use of food and beverage marketing strategies. These tactics have made Tito’s a local favorite and propelled it onto the global stage, proving that Austin brands can go anywhere with the right approach.

The Founder’s Story

Bert “Tito” Beveridge didn’t embark on his entrepreneurial journey with spirits in mind. Born and bred in San Antonio, Texas, Tito initially pursued a path in geology and geophysics. His career took him from the oil and gas industry to overseeing seismic crews in South America, yet his heart remained tethered to Texas soil. After a stint in Houston’s drilling business, Tito’s thirst for something more meaningful led him to Austin.

In Austin’s eclectic atmosphere, Tito’s ventures took a different turn. He stumbled upon the idea for what would become a vodka empire at a party in the early 1990s. A chance encounter dubbed him “the vodka guy,” a label he initially resisted. However, the seed had been planted, and Tito’s curiosity bloomed.

Tito Beveridge in a distillery for Tito's Vodka.

Intrigued by the challenge posed by friends and liquor store owners to create an exceptionally smooth vodka, Tito embarked on a journey into the world of distillation. Armed with determination and a lack of prior experience, he sought guidance from those who dared him to enter the spirits business. 

In a pre-internet era where resources were scarce, Tito’s research led him down a path of discovery that involved old photographs of moonshiners and stories from prohibition-era busts. Undeterred by the lack of readily available information, Tito began experimenting, building stills based on photos and using simple outdoor fryers for heat. Through this process of trial and error, Tito honed his recipe and distillation technique. Today, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is a testament to Tito’s ingenuity.

The Rise of Tito’s Vodka in Austin

From the get-go, Tito’s Vodka understood the power of connecting with Austin’s locals. They dove headfirst into the city’s vibrant scene. Tito jumped into every festival and event they could find, providing free samples to encourage word of mouth. Whether sponsoring music gigs or setting up booths at food fests, Tito’s was there, mingling with the crowds and making friends.

But they didn’t stop there. Tito’s got cozy with Austin’s businesses, teaming up with bars, restaurants, and shops to spread the word. It wasn’t just about selling vodka but about being part of Austin’s fabric. 

Tito’s unique branding, aligned with Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird” ethos, set it apart in the market. The distinctive burnt orange color on the label, synonymous with the University of Texas, further deepened its connection to the city. This emotional tie resonated with locals, enhancing Tito’s appeal and fostering a sense of belonging within the community. 

Expansion and Beverage Marketing

As Tito’s Vodka expanded beyond Austin, it faced stiff competition from established brands like Stolichnaya and Absolut. However, Tito’s differentiated itself by focusing on taste, emphasizing its local, hand-crafted production methods. This approach resonated with consumers and formed the basis of Tito’s expansion efforts.

Tito's vodka on a bartop.

Utilizing digital marketing, social media, and experiential campaigns, Tito’s reached new audiences across Texas and the United States. By staying true to its roots and embracing authenticity, Tito’s connected with consumers on a deeper level. This growth isn’t limited to the domestic market. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is now available in all 50 states across Canada and over 150 countries worldwide.

Tito’s tapped into unique selling points, such as its gluten-free certification and philanthropic initiatives, including the Tito’s Foundation. The brand’s commitment to authenticity extended to playful initiatives like creating dog leashes and launching their canine foundation, showcasing Tito’s genuine affection for dogs and community engagement.

Collaboration with Food and Beverage Marketing Agencies

Tito’s has partnered with food and beverage marketing agencies to amplify its brand visibility and market reach. With a focus on authenticity, Tito’s leverages user-generated content (UGC) to engage its audience across digital platforms. Choosing Stackla as their UGC partner, Tito’s seamlessly aggregates authentic customer experiences on their website, enhancing brand visibility and driving audience engagement.

With Stackla’s support, Tito’s quickly found the best customer content across the social web, curated and showcased it throughout their webpages, and used it as compelling social proof on their online store. This collaboration empowered Tito’s to leverage authentic customer experiences to reinforce their brand’s identity and engage their audience effectively.

An artist drawing a mural for Tito's vodka, displaying its food and beverage marketing strategies.

Impact on Austin’s Economy and Community

For over 25 years, Tito’s Handmade Vodka has called Austin home, and its commitment to the city goes beyond crafting exceptional spirits. Recently, Tito’s, alongside other community-minded organizations, contributed $4 million to Austin Habitat for Humanity in 2022. This initiative aims to build 150 affordable homes in the capital of Texas. 

Affordable housing has become a pressing issue, with the median home price in Austin soaring to $615,000. These Habitat homes, priced around $250,000, offer hope to families struggling to find stable housing in our city.

Tito’s dedication to Austin extends beyond financial assistance; it’s about making a meaningful impact in the city. By partnering with local organizations, Tito’s exemplifies the spirit of giving back and collective action, showing that when we come together, we can tackle even the most challenging issues facing our city.

An artist rendering of Tito Beveridge outside his distillery and the laid back attitude that has propelled their food and beverage marketing strategies.

Conclusion

From its modest origins to its global recognition, Tito’s Vodka’s journey epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit of Austin. Among its many grassroots campaigns, food and beverage marketing played a crucial role in its success. As we applaud Tito’s achievements, let’s support other local brands shaping our city’s business landscape. Together, we can continue cultivating a thriving community of innovation and prosperity in Austin.

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About
Dan Ben-Nun

Dan Ben-Nun is a successful entrepeneur and digital marketing guru. He’s founded & grown 2 companies from zero to multi-million dollar businesses and has helped hundreds of companies grow with digital marketing.

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Austin Founders Series: Tito’s Vodka

Tito's vodka bottle on a table to display its food and beverage marketing strategy.
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