Nick Storm: Hustle and CÎROC

Originally posted on CultureFeed.co June 2017

What do get when you take the hustle of a salesman, the energy of an entertainer, and the foresight of a CEO? You get Nick Storm, the national director of promotions for CÎROC (the luxury vodka of the Diageo brand). Part marketing extraordinaire, part life-of-the-party, Storm is essentially responsible for changing the liquor and spirits marketing game. Before his residency as a CÎROC Boy brand strategist, Storm spent numerous years honing his skills in the music industry. It was exactly this skill set combined with his personality and drive that propelled him into his current role: Diddy's "right hand man."

Leap of Faith

Sometimes in life, you have to be willing to take a leap of faith and trust your gut and your passion. That is precisely what Storm did when he traded in his six years as a promoter for Sony Music to take on developing the promotional strategy for a little-known spirit, Hpnotiq.

From the trunk of his car in 2000, Storm took the Hpnotiq Brand--a blue liqueur concocted by Raphael Youcobi in his home kitchen--and turned it into a household name. From music videos and the nations hottest VIP sections to your neighborhood bar or the most luxurious restaurant, Hpnotiq (or "the Hpno") was on the lips and in the glass of everyone including Fabolous Ludacris, Missy Elliott and Lil Kim. Dubbed the “Million Case Man", Storm's unique marketing platforms pushed 1 million cases of Hpnotic to the masses in less than 3 years, a feat unheard of at the time.

Enter Diddy and CÎROC

Then in 2007, Diddy called and the rest is, well, history. He asked Storm to join in helping with a new brand of premium vodka called CÎROC (unique as it is derived from grapes also making it gluten-free). With Diddy as the face, brand manager and chief marketing officer and Nick as the muscle and national director of promotions, by 2013 CÎROC had grown its sales by 600%. With the advent of social media, influencers and young people alike have turned CÎROC into one the most recognizable products on the market today. From being name-dropped in songs by everyone from Rick Ross, Future, French Montana and DJ Khaled, to having a barrage of flavors including Apple, Mango and the new sensation, the Summer Colada, it seems as if the in-your-face marketing strategy has really paid off. 

Q&A with Nick Storm 

I had a chance to ask Nick a few questions about what motivates him, what has changed in the promotions and branding industry and what it is really like to work for Diddy.

How different is the liquor promotions/branding business now than when you started out 15 years ago?

Well a lot has changed since then. Back in those days there was a lot of sampling done in the clubs where you seen between 3 to 4 models walking around with samples of whatever drinks you were pushing. And there were less laws back then of what you could and couldn’t do in clubs. In addition, there was less bottle service so you were able to promote at the bar a lot more instead of in the VIP area.  

How is it the same?

A lot of things have changed so its not the same because there’s different and new consumers, there is a whole new millennial. Back then there was only a few brands out like Hypnotiq and Moet that people were drinking. Then vodka and cognac took a real rise these last years and a lot of flavors are key.

 What keeps you going after all these years? Do you have any mantras/quotes that keep you going?

First, my kids and my responsibilities, but what keeps me going is my drive. One thing I love about marketing is it keeps your mind moving everyday just the passion of it alone. My quote from when I was young and I was just coming up in the business was “I’m going to get busy living or I’m going to get busy dying and I chose to get busy living.”  “Work hard, stay humble, and never stop dreaming” is my always quote.

 Legend has it that started out from the trunk of your car to selling 1 million cases in 3 years. What was the major takeaway from that time?

My major takeaway was never give up. The biggest thing was getting up everyday and hearing places such as restaurants, lounges and liquor stores all telling me (NO!) I think hearing that word made me want to fight even more because I believed in the product.

 Are there any new strategies you are starting to employ that you've found success in and/or failure? Or do you still rely on your music background for inspiration?

Well, music is always the key. I used to use my bartenders as my djs, but the strategies of course has changed. Some of the strategies used back in the day were the use of music videos to promote the brand but now with Internet and social media wave we had to change up our strategies.

 What's one piece of advice you'd give to anyone looking to step into the liquor/branding industry?

I would say you got to learn how to be very ambitious. You have to really want to work hard and developing relationships is key, a really big key.  Meet everybody in the room. Meet as many people as you can because the owner of one club may leave and become the owner of another club. Those are the relationships you want to keep inside the business.

 What, if anything, is left that you'd like to accomplish/see happen in your career?

I want to be able to teach and educate the younger generation about the wine and spirits business and the benefits of being in the business. Also, I want to mentor those who really want to be in the marketing field.

 What is on the horizon for the CÎROC brand? What's the best part of working for Diddy?

We can never tell you what’s next because we always want to surprise you but we have some new hot and innovative ideas coming down the pipeline. It’s been a blessing to work with him. I love his drive and persistence and one thing I learned and developed is he will find a way to get it done by any means necessary. He doesn’t care what the problem is; the goal is to figure out the solution.

 For more information on Nick Storm and his aspirational life, head to his website, therealnickstorm.com, follow him on Instagram, @iamnickstorm, and Twitter @nickstormciroc.

BADBOY & CIROC (FROM HARLEM TO THE BARCLAYS) a day in the Life of Nick Storm