We ask Luca Quagliano and Alessandro Palmarin, Founders of NIO Cocktails, about the story behind the brand.
Give us the elevator pitch. Tell us about your brand.
NIO Cocktails was born from a real insight, with the aim to create a new habit of consumption that didn’t exist before and becoming a leading innovator in the world of mixology, bringing its premium ready-to-drink cocktails to every place and occasion. The concept behind NIO, which stands for Needs Ice Only, is simple: just shake, tear, pour and enjoy NIO Cocktails, all of which boast the seal of approval of Patrick Pistolesi, Italian master mixologist and brand ambassador to some of the world’s most prestigious spirits brands. All under the banner of sustainability, which is the heart of the brand.
What inspired you to set up your company?
We were inspired by a single, simple idea while hosting friends one evening: to bring home ready-to-drink and expertly mixed cocktails while staying in the comfort of your own home or anywhere else you feel like having a drink. The idea was to make a dream come true. We gave to a product category a unique shape, quality and atmosphere to overcome the initial barriers of mistrust and scepticism. As well as make it appreciated by the general public, offering them products that tell them about the same expertise, premium brands, quality ingredients of cocktails that you’d expect to find in the world’s best lounge bars.
What was your biggest challenge in year one?
If we are talking about startup, I would say that the passage from being an employee of a company to opening one is a passage to be made with great humility and tenacity. Big commitments, big worries, repaid by big satisfactions. If you take this step with a partner, you must have a lot of respect and esteem for each other to overcome the stress of the difficulties together.
Moreover, when you enter the world of spirits you know you are going to face complications: there are difficulties related to the fact that it is a world highly controlled by the Customs and Monopolies Agency, they are complex sectors. But you must not give up, because it’s a market segment that for many reasons can be discouraging but in reality, if you believe in it, everything can be done, with a little bit of will. We have definitely been pioneers in this field.
What would you say has been your biggest marketing success?
The strengths of NIO Cocktails are quality, sustainability, design and being 100% made in Italy. What makes us special is also the speed of intuition, thought, execution, as well as innovation and being always attentive to find ourselves one step ahead of the situations that lie ahead. The philosophy behind NIO Cocktails is the concept that an experience is worth much more than a commercial spot. It’s an evolved Customer Experience that manages to create one-to-one connections between brand and customer, able to amplify engagement through the possibility of personalisation of the offer, with an emotional touch, able to reach the heart – and the wallet – of the consumer.
NIO Cocktails allows the consumer to “live” the brand, making them feel at home in a club, a sort of home speakeasy. Thanks also to its innovative and urban chic packaging design, and its practicality, it does not give the idea of a homey escape, but of a private luxury: a smart cocktail for smart people.
What has been the biggest mistake you made?
We decided to move very quickly towards new countries and therefore we faced cultural specificities that today help us to look at internalisation with a more mature and selective approach. To date, we have learned to move gradually, first laying the foundations of the business, then looking for an appropriate local partner and subsequently thinking about DTC and B2B according to the characteristics of the country, from the relationship with the mixology culture to digitalisation and the level of national service.
Tell us about your plans for the future.
We have just landed in the United States and in general we are moving towards understanding foreign markets, a project of internationalisation of the company is underway. The future for us is to make NIO Cocktails a global brand and to do this, we need to be present in different markets and have the goal of consolidating the same perception in all countries. In addition to the consolidation of mature markets and growth in new markets, our goal is obviously to remain a point of reference for all consumers and to be impeccable in the quality of the product. We will certainly complete the study of packaging making it increasingly green and we will continue the strategy of collaborations in the lifestyle world with the aim of offering an increasingly strong differentiation.