Did you ever wonder why George Clooney was Forbes’ highest-paid actor in 2018 even though he hasn’t starred in any films for the past 2 years? It turns out that he has tequila to thank for his $239 million paycheck—his portion of $1 billion that he and his business partners got from selling their tequila brand, Casamigos.
Everyone has heard the incredible story behind how George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman—the founders of Casamigos tequila, created their brand. They tell this story to different news outlets and fashion magazines of how this “accidental” brand suddenly made a billion dollars.
Well, the story isn’t exactly that accurate, and you will know why as you read on. The official story is that Clooney, Gerber, and Meldman came up with the idea of the brand while vacationing together in Mexico in 2010. They sampled their fair share of tequila from local bars and restaurants and decided to make one of their own that would be just perfect for them.
They found a distiller in Mexico and had the tequila delivered to their homes on a property known as Casamigos. The name is a play on words that can be translated to "House of Friends." They originally wanted to make tequila for personal consumption—just for friends and family, but their distiller insisted on a license when they ordered over 1000 sample bottles.
Thus, the brand Casamigos was officially launched in 2013 and was made available to the public. Since then it has become one of the fastest-growing tequila companies in the world, later on, acquired by Diageo—the largest alcohol distributor in the world, for $1 billion dollars.
What most people don’t know is that way before their distiller had mentioned getting a license, Clooney and his business partners had already filed for a bunch of trademarks. Take note—they didn't just trademark the name, Casamigos. They also trademarked the logo and a couple of taglines.
They filed their first trademark for the name covering tequila services on May 9th, 2011. In December of the same year, they trademarked "It could happen. Please drink responsibly". Then in October of 2012, they trademarked the logo and another tagline, "Brought to you by those who drink it". As of today, they have at least 12 pending or registered trademarks in the U.S. alone.
In a world where deliberate success and wealth is often frowned upon, we can’t exactly blame Clooney and his business partners for embellishing the story a little bit. But the important part here is the lesson every brand owner should learn from Casamigos; the value of a brand, and the importance of actually owning it. All their early trademark registrations demonstrate this is a lesson not lost on Clooney, Gerber, and Meldman.
As Rande Gerber said in one of his interviews: “It's our brand, we own it, it's our money in the brand.” This is why trademarking their brand was one of the first things they did—long before they officially launched their tequila to the public.
And then, just a few years later, they sold the brand to Diageo, the world's largest alcohol distributor, for $1 billion dollars. The partners got $700 million upfront, and the remaining $300 million will be paid to them based on the performance of the brand over the next 10 years.
Going from zero to a billion dollars in just four years is absolutely remarkable. They practically printed that money out of thin air!
You might be thinking that Diageo bought Casamigos for $1 billion because of George Clooney’s celebrity status. But it would have cost Diageo less than a billion dollars to hire Mr. Clooney to advertise Smirnoff Vodka, Guinness Beer, Johnnie Walker whiskey, and all of their other drinks.
Instead, Diageo paid a billion dollars to acquire the brand. It was something more tangible than just George Clooney's face, his name, or his fame. So, there's another lesson here. In order to sell his brand and make so much money from it, Clooney had to properly protect the brand from the very beginning; and that’s exactly what he did.
Before anybody saw a bottle on the shelf, before he and Rande announced it, the first thing they did was trademark the name so nobody could take it. Then, they figured out a way to build a product around the brand and monetize it. So, if you’re going to build a brand, this is a proven and effective roadmap for exactly how to do it.
Thank you, George Clooney for this lesson!
And what exactly is that lesson?
The lesson here is that any brand can have massive value, but only if you take the right steps to protect it and build something around it.
So use this lesson from George Clooney in your business.
Own your brand. Build that brand. Be legendary.