The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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38  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2016 BUSINESS SOLUTIONS F or many bartenders, one of the most coveted jobs in the industry is that of a brand ambassador. For spirit brands, it's important to have a brand ambassador that can accurately represent the face of their brand and have the personality to get the spirit to shine within the oft-oversaturated market. Alex Straus saw the importance of creating that perfect match, and started Cornerstone Strategy and Marketing to fulfill that need. Straus, a bartender since he was 21, earned his stripes working with many heavyweights in the spirits world, including a tutelage under Sasha Petraske, opening up Tao Beach in Las Vegas and Beso in Hollywood. He then joined the spirits marketing and consulting team the Bon Vivants in 2010, which Straus says "helped me understand spirits from both a marketing and sales position. We were all bartenders who wanted to help others and develop- ment behind the bar." At the end of 2015, Straus set out on his own to create Cornerstone. Working with spirit and beverage brands such as La Niña del Mezcal, Atlantico Rum and East Imperial's tonics, ginger beers and sodas, Straus connects smaller companies who might not have a national network of bartenders who can act as regional brand ambassadors, raising awareness of the brand and working in tandem with distributors. "The ambassadors hit key accounts that are crucial to the brand, provide a voice in the market and help build great growth and traction. It's important to have your brand at the forefront and achieve something beyond trade recognition." As the Vice President of the Southern California USBG and a veteran of the business, Straus has built a healthy list of bartenders that he contacts to help fill the positions as needed by the brands. So what does he look for in a brand ambassador? "As Willie Shine once told me, you can't teach personality. You need someone with hustle and drive, who takes this seriously as a career. Someone who is listened to as an authority on spirits in the community." As for the future of Cornerstone? Straus is self-assured: "I want to help as many brands as possible to grow creatively and step in when they need our help so they can focus on what they need to, and we can take care of the rest." A Foundation in Spirits Marketing CORNERSTONE BUILDS MARKETING FOR CRAFT SPIRIT COMPANIES by Jesse Hom-Dawson PHOTO: MARGARET SOSS Alex Straus, founder of Cornerstone Strategy and Marketing.

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