How did Margaritaville go upscale?

Forget classic cognac, single-malt scotch, beautifully bottled vodka, even hipster bourbon. Nowadays the most stylish spirit for the 1% appears to be tequila. So no wonder that Patron and other designer-label tequilas are trying to stake their claim in this profitable market.

But perhaps it's just as much the other way around. Patron and others have positioned their tequilas as premier brands to the upscale audience, which very likely has wooed away a number of yacht clubbers and business titan-wannabes from their Glen Fiddich. Quite an accomplishment for what used to be little more than a cheap ticket to frat boy drunkenness.

Why was this monumental perception shift successful? My guess is that, by changing the setting for their tequila and giving it the sheen of exclusivity, these brands have been able to be simultaneously perceived as individualistic and superior, rebellious and successful, familiar and new to the scene.

Of course I'm not the first to notice tequila's social climbing. In fact, BusinessWeek ran an article on the subject nearly four years ago. But take heart, one of my goals for 2012 is to be up with the curve at the very least, if not a tad ahead of it.


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