Its harsh taste is unmistakable. The thick stickiness lingers in your throat long after you drink it down. People pay a premium price for the privilege of drinking this liqueur, yet when the shot comes, either alone or with a Redbull, they hesitate and brace for the uneasiness that is about to come.

I am of course talking about Jagermeister. The most popular drink nobody likes.

Jagermeister has grown 40% per year since 1985.

That kind of growth will make Apple jealous.

So what happened in 1985 that turned a modest selling import among German immigrants into one of the most popular liqueurs of all time?

Everything changed because of a fascinating psychological trigger (For more on this, and the story of Jagermeister, I highly recommend you pick up the book Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. It’s…well… fascinating).

The trigger I am talking about is mystique. More specifically, we’re talking today about using mystique as brand strategy.

In 1985 the man in charge of marketing at Jagermeister, Sidney Frank, who also went on to invent the Grey Goose brand, came across a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate describing the drink as a cult drink. The article claimed it was jacked up with all sorts of drugs; quaaludes, opium, valium and aphrodisiacs amongst other things.

Most people would suppress such bad publicity.

Not Sidney Frank.

He copied the article and posted it in college bars around the country. College students visiting New Orleans would bring bottles of it back to their school and boom, almost overnight Jagermeister was anointed the drink of wild times and partying.

So what made it so popular? The answer itself has mystique. Nobody knows. It just became the cool thing to drink.

It became the cool thing because it was so mysterious. It was shrouded in mystique. Why can I only buy it in New Orleans? What is it made out of? Does it really contain deer blood? What does Jagermeister even mean? By withholding information, the Jager brand became shrouded in mystique, and it fascinated people.

The truth is people didn’t like the drink, they liked the brand, and they loved what the brand said about them.

Sidney Frank even leveraged this in his favor. His bar poster showed a brawny guy just after doing a shot of Jager, grimacing in disgust, with the tagline, “So Smooth.”

Once you have captured people’s fascination. It’s game over. You have won. Sit back and watch as your company and brand take off.

Now keep in mind this is just one way to build your brand, and mystique as a brand strategy doesn’t work for every industry. For example I don’t want my accountant to be shrouded in mystique. I look for different qualities when it comes to tax returns as opposed to my liqueur.

It’s also a very tricky balancing act. Intriguing enough to get noticed, complex enough to stay interesting, yet mysterious enough to prompt questions. It’s tough to pull off, but if you do, it is tremendously powerful. 

This could be a great avenue for your business. So how do we build mystique?

There are four main ways:

  1. Spark curiosity
  2. Withhold information
  3. Build mythology
  4. Limit access

To learn how to these factors work, tune in next week for part 2!

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