As a new venture for spirits industry veterans, branding, experiential marketing and consulting company FLUID prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit. CEO Guillermo Rodriguez seeks out team members who embody that ideal and are willing to fill any role to help the company and its clients advance, or as the FLUID’s tag line touts, “Venture Forward.”
“No one here is above anything,” he says. “We encourage everyone to take calculated risks for our clients, even if it doesn’t always work out. You can’t be afraid to fail,” Rodriguez says. “People who are afraid to fail typically don’t fit into our culture. Our team knows the family is here to help them pick up the pieces, learn from the lesson and keep going.”
The Three Companies
A team of adult beverage industry veterans founded FLUID more than one year ago to help new and rising brands navigate the market. “The industry is complex. We offer everything from brand creation to liquid development to consumer activation or any part in between,” Rodriguez says of FLUID’s comprehensive services. Within FLUID, there are three subsidiaries – FLUID Live X, FLUID Creative and 4 Corners Spirits Company – each of which has different areas of expertise but collaborates with the others to meet clients’ needs and deliver solutions that work in the real world.
FLUID Live X (FLX) serves as the experiential activation arm of the company, developing programming that engages brands with target consumers, whether at an event that connects them to the brand’s lifestyle or directly at retail to influence the point of purchase. “Today’s consumer is seeking affordable luxury products and experiences, we bring those two together to impact the consumers decisions and gain share of mind,” says William Domico, Director of FLX. FLX employees are experienced representatives of a client’s brand. Whether hosting tasting dinners, executing sales calls or training bartenders on the intrinsic qualities of a brand, the FLX team not only brings the brand to life, but personally makes an impact on the consumers, retailers and trade that drive sales.
On the marketing side, FLUID Creative is led by Veronica Camaraza, an experienced and innovate marketer who has worked in the luxury lifestyle space with alcohol beverage, high fashion and travel brands. FLUID Creative handles clients’ brand identity and positioning, product packaging, campaign development and digital and social media marketing to help brands develop an essence and tell their story. “The one marketing strategy that never fails is showing you care. We make it personal – for our clients’ brand, their audience and ourselves. Everything else is simply an executional success or failure. If your heart is not in it, neither is theirs,” Camaraza says of what differentiates brands today.
4 Corners Spirits Company completes FLUID as a vertically integrated ecosystem dedicated to spirit and wine brands, according to Rodriguez. The company leads clients through each step of the brand development process from production to bringing a beverage to market, including developing distributor relationships and creating a market sales strategy. 4 Corners was founded in 2013 and merged with FLUID in 2015 as the result of a 23-year relationship between Rodriguez, a former Bacardi executive and sixth generation family member, and FLUID founder Todd Graham, who also founded Team Enterprises, the largest beverage alcohol activation company in the U.S. before it was sold in 2014.
FLUID and 4 Corners Spirits have been collaborating on jobs for much of the past year but only officially came together in March. “Merging FLUID and 4 Corners Spirits truly felt like we were coming full-circle and realizing our original vision. The 4 Corners Spirits team brought the expertise FLUID needed to take brands from authentic to iconic,” Camarza says. Between the three divisions, FLUID has the capability to take any adult beverage brand to the next level no matter what its current position in the market. “If you have an idea and you need someone to develop that idea we have the diverse and unique team of industry experts to do it,” Rodriguez says.
When it comes to clients, FLUID approaches its work as a series of partnerships. Each of those partnerships requires unique needs as beverages may be in different stages of growth or market position. Much of FLUID’s work so far has been with startup brands looking to come to retail and create an initial consumer base, such as Clyde May’s Whiskey. FLUID has also done route-to-market consulting for Fabio Viviani Wines, a new product from rising restaurant star and “Top Chef” finalist Fabio Viviani.
To help startups refine their products, FLUID has a secret weapon in the form of Luis Planas Navarro, the master distiller and executive consultant at 4 Corners Spirits and previously the global Bacardi rum master blender. Navarro advises clients on distilling, aging and blending techniques in order to ensure the highest-quality liquid
But not every client is just getting on its feet. FLUID also works with beverage makers that need to re-launch their brands to gain a better position in the market. The company recently helped wine maker Veramonte and Afrohead Rum develop new positioning and packaging as part of a rebranding efforts, Camaraza explains.
Even established brands have benefited from FLUID’s services. FLX Director William Domico collaborated with Jim Beam to create a program called World Whiskey Specialists, which consisted of experts across the country who promoted the art and quality of Jim Beam’s extensive whiskey portfolio, which includes brands like Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark and their recently added Suntory Japanese whiskies. The program worked so well that Jim Beam has since taken it in-house.
Before a drink arrives in a customer’s hand, there is a marketing push to put it on store shelves and beyond bar counters. Most of FLUID’s activities revolve around those smaller marketing efforts such as sales information, shelving materials and social media messaging. But the company is gearing up to offer television advertising as it courts larger customers. “We fully expect as we continue to grow we’ll get some of those bigger brands and do that kind of work,” Camaraza says.
For now, FLUID is enjoying developing tools to help smaller brands on behalf of companies of all sizes that allow FLUID’s leadership to have a significant, hands-on impact for clients. “One thing we like about being a small company is we can get behind and drive a lot of things ourselves,” Rodriguez adds.
Being able to offer direct involvement from FLUID leadership has been a key part of the new company’s appeal to customers. Rodriguez believes ensuring that existing clients receive the attention they deserve will naturally lead to growth. “Our biggest goal right now is converting our current customers into long-term partners,” he explains.
Graham attributes three aspects to FLUID’s first year of success: its brands, its relationships, and its people. It’s that last part that makes the difference in the other two. With a small team of only 12 staff members, FLUID has strived to create a strong culture that encourages employees to work hard to build the company from the ground up.
Graham views the team as the “FLUID family” and says the company, driven by Camaraza, celebrates birthdays and regularly schedules after work activities to build a sense of camaraderie. By giving the workplace a family feel, FLUID has put a support structure in place that employees can lean on during the good and bad days every entrepreneurial business experiences. “We’re a small team so everybody has to do their part,” Rodriguez says.
The Next Drink
With its branding and consulting businesses becoming established, FLUID is already thinking about its next challenge. The company is in the process of raising $30 million for its fourth subsidiary, Brandtenders.
The concept is a spirit incubation fund that will match investors with upcoming brands. Rodriguez notes that craft spirits continue to grow in popularity, often luring millions from investors hoping to launch the next trend or mixologist dream.
Brandtenders takes a different path than that individual investor method. FLUID created a portfolio approach where investors can work with Brandtenders to put money behind four to six different brands with the expectation that it only takes one success to payoff. “So now your chances for success go up, your chance of failure goes down,” Rodriguez says. FLUID uses its own familiarity and expertise with the alcoholic beverage market to support the brands and give each beverage the best chance to grow.
“We have the team in place to not only spot the brands that have potential for success but also the infrastructure to make it so,” Rodriguez says.
A year after starting 4 Corners Spirits, Rodriguez admits making the jump from the corporate world was scary at first, but his faith in FLUID has grown with every new client. “The experience has been unbelievably positive,” he says. “After spending over 20 years in the corporate world, the amount of support we as a company have received – all of our connections in the industry – has been really amazing.” The encouraging feedback FLUID has gotten from clients continues to affirm the company’s approach. “Doing things the right way does pay off in the end,” Rodriguez says.