The Business Strategy Behind a Spirited Awards Finalist

Rosolio di Bergamotto - ITALICUS spirit
ITALICUS is one of the Top 4 Spirited Awards finalists in the category "Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient."

Just because your spirits brand is smaller doesn't mean that it can't be successful, and ITALICUS is definite proof of that. A year after launching in the U.S., the Italian brand's Rosolio di Bergamotto liqueur has earned a spot as one of the Top 4 Spirited Award finalists for "Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient." Here, founder Giuseppe Gallo discusses his marketing strategies, and how Tales of the Cocktail can be used as a springboard for marketing endeavors.

What was the initial inspiration behind your product's creation? Was there a specific "eureka" moment?

My goal was to create the quintessential expression of what makes Italy the most remarkable and unforgettable country in the world for so many people by bottling the essence of La Bella Italia. I am delighted to bring ITALICUS Rosolio to the U.S. market.

What are the three most challenging aspects of starting your own brand?

  • Legal: there are so many aspects to be covered legally, and every country has different laws or legislation
  • Cash flow: no matter how precise the business plan is, at some stage between the first to second year, the company's cash flow will suffer
  • Logistics and operation: shipment, pallets, timing, etc. It is a full time job aside from the usual PR, marketing, and advocacy work that has to be done

What are the three most rewarding aspects of starting your own brand?

  • It is yours, and your name is attached to it. You put your life story, family heritage, and heart into it
  • Walking in a bar and seeing your bottle on the shelf is like watching your child grow up
  • It is the first step in starting a legacy for your family

How did you first learn about Tales?

From my bar colleagues, from magazines, and from the Internet.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales for the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?

The main obstacles for people coming in from overseas are financial. Flight costs are expensive, and a few days in NOLA can require a full salary's worth of investment.

Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you.

My first Tales was in 2009, and it was a lifetime dream come true to finally meet industry legends such as Audrey Saunders or Dale DeGroff that I had been reading and hearing about for over a decade. They became mentors and guides for my professional life, and ten years later, I'm proud to call them friends. Tales is the platform where all of the bar industry connects.

Giuseppe Gallo pictured with a bottle of Italicus Giuseppe Gallo launched Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto last September at the Savoy in London.

Were there any brand activations that you attended in the past that convinced you to activate at Tales when you had your own brand?

The "Negronis With a Twist" party in 2011 with Francesco Lafranconi; before that event, there were only few bars in the U.S. to have a Negroni on the menu. Today, it is considered to be the fastest growing drink trend in the USA.

The second would have to be the Vermouth Institute with Philip Duff in 2013. Following that event, vermouth became one of the top three trends in the entire world.

Did you use Tales to workshop your product and fine-tune it prior to launch? If so, please describe how.

Of course, I used my visit to Tales to share my brand's concept and recipe with trusted friends and colleagues. Most importantly, I used Tales to monitor the market and identify future cocktail trends.

Why did you choose Tales as a platform for promoting your product?

Because it is the most important cocktail festival in the world, and the only one that is truly a global platform.

How do you think smaller brands can compete against bigger ones at Tales?

There is room for every type of brand at Tales. With good experience and a few contacts, small brands have the opportunity to play a huge role. I actually think big brands act more like small brands at Tales to avoid trade rejection.

What are your product's signature cocktails?

ITALICUS with Prosecco, spritz style, and the Negroni Bianco with ITALICUS.

What advice do you have for small entrepreneurial brands activating at Tales?

Think big and be flexible.

In your overall marketing mix, how prominent is Tales?

Tales represents 50% of our total U.S. market activation in one year.

What is your company's approach to bartender relations?

Credibility, respect, honesty, and transparency are key pillars to forming connections with bartenders.

What is the role of bartenders in the marketing mix? How has this mix changed over the last decade?

The role of bartenders in the marketing mix nowadays is triple compared to ten years ago. Bartenders are setting the trends, shaping the market, and spreading new ideas around the world.

How important a platform is Tales for reaching bartenders with new products?

It is crucial. If you launch a new brand and you are not at Tales, there is something fundamentally wrong in your business plan. The U.S. is the most important market in the world for a spirits brand, and Tales is the top cocktail show.

How does your company connect with consumers?

Emotionally through art and poetry.

Ann Tuennerman Founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Ann Tuennerman is a serial entrepreneur focused on hospitality.

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