Tuaca Liqueur – A Secret Worth Uncovering

V2.Tuaca_750_newbottleWhat happens when a great tasting product, but one that has been gathering dust on the shelf, tries to make it?

To tell the tale of this wannabe spirit, we need to start with its pronunciation. It’s Two-AH-Ka and it’s named for the two brothers-in-law that created it in 1938. Messrs. Tuoni and Canepa named it after themselves –TUACA, their combined names, get it?  The liqueur is said to have come from a recipe dating back to Lorenzo de Medici and the Italian Renaissance. So they say.

I first encountered the brand during my Seagram days and, despite efforts to make it happen, the brand languished as only an orphan brand could at that company. According to Sam Ellias, who worked on the brand at one point, they tried everything to make it a contender – changed the package, reduced the alcohol (to minimize the harshness) and worked hard at developing mixed drinks using Tuaca. (My favorite was the hot apple pie, consisting of Tuaca and hot apple cider.) Nothing helped the brand catch on. Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and into the 21st century, the brand, as they say, couldn’t get arrested.

Yet, there were pockets of strength including bartenders in different parts of the country. The poor little brand was kept a secret and hidden away. (Sob.)

Enter Brown Forman in 2004. The brand starts to grow a bit, but no real traction or spotlight to build a franchise among consumers. Still a stepchild.

I have a feeling that this is about to change.

Led by a smart and aggressive brand manager named Tracy Johnson, BF has just launched the brand’s first ever TV and digital campaign called “The Spirit of Adventure.” It will run in three markets initially and, I think the ad is a doozy. Very well done.

It was created by a St. Louis based agency called Boxing Clever (where do they get these names?) and presents the core message of the brand – a vanilla, citrus spirit best served cold as a shot. Forget about the recipes and concoctions, icy cold is the way to enjoy it and, in fact, 70% of the consumption is straight or on the rocks.

You can find the ad here.

Can Brown Forman bring this brand back from the dustbin the way they seem to be doing with Southern Comfort? Does success in the Colorado and Texas markets translate into a national ground swell? Will consumers add Tuaca shots to their repertoire along side Jägermeister, Jameson and flavored spirits?

Hey, it’s the booze business. You never know.

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