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Fast Talk: Shake and Stir

For Jon Deitelbaum, marketing a new brand of vodka is as much about the experience as the taste.

Fast Talk: Shake and Stir

Jon Deitelbaum

President and CEO, Planet 10 Spirits
Chicago, Illinois

Deitelbaum, 39, calls himself the "Willy Wonka of spirits" because of his strict customer focus and witty marketing (the gnomes are his Oompa-Loompas). His Effen Vodka has become one of the fastest-growing luxury vodkas since its 2003 launch.

"The problem with the spirits industry is that the almighties like Diageo and Absolut don't look at what their product is really about. No one is talking to me, Jon, the guy who drinks these products, as a catalyst for socialization. It's just spirits in a bottle to them. That motivated me to work from the outside in. After finding a vodka that my friends liked, we thought about making a connection with people in the industry. We said, 'Who touches more liquor bottles than anyone?' Bartenders. So why don't we get them to help us design our bottle rather than a design firm? Because of their input, we put the first nonslip rubber grip on a liquor bottle. We picked a name that would evoke some emotional response. 'Effen' is Dutch slang for smooth. It obviously has the double connotation here in the United States. It's a fun call: 'I'll have a dirty Effen martini.' But people get past that real fast. When it comes to marketing, we try to create some mystery. How many brands have that? For Fashion Week, we got the hottest designers to outfit our bottles for charity. It just so happens that our first bottle got stolen. We got tremendous press. People asked me if I stole it. Does David Copperfield steal his props when he makes them disappear? It's all about taking what people are jaded about—another bottle designed for charity—and making that next step. It's a calculated circus."

A version of this article appeared in the October 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.