Dani and Mike Zig are the powerhouse sibling duo behind Coconut Cartel — the rebellious, luxury lifestyle brand that pioneered branded coconuts and recently pivoted to spirits by launching its own premium Guatemalan dark rum in 2018.
Though it’s only been a few months since their launch, their rum is now served at many of the most coveted establishments around Miami and New York and is expanding quickly with its next launch geared for the West Coast.
After working and collaborating with Dani and Mike through their rum launch, we sat down to talk branding, delving deep into the brand’s origins, their vision, and even their childhood dreams.
View Coconut Cartel’s design case study here.
1. Where did the Cartel name come from? What’s the story behind the name?
Our name came about organically. We started this business by literally smuggling coconuts from El Salvador to Miami in our luggage, making us ipso facto smugglers.
At that time there was a very popular show in LatAm called “El Cartel de los Sapos”, which you could say was like the OG Narcos.
Jokingly, we replaced it with “Cocos” — “El Cartel de los Cocos”, and when we translated it to English, we knew we had our name… Coconut Cartel.
2. Since inception, your brand has been one of the most talked about brands in Miami, what do you attribute this to?
Mike: I think the fact that we came in with an edgy name with a product to boot helped a lot. Our products have always been about having a good time, and people like to remember and chat about good times.
Dani: I think our name is extremely sticky. The brand is edgy, and likes to push the limit but not. It's really amazing how people remember the name of the product years after having tried it for the first time… I can’t even remember the brand of yogurt I ate this morning, but Coconut Cartel has the touch.
Beyond just a name, we have only released products that we can proudly stand by. They are of the highest quality, authentic to their origins, and taste great, so it takes a great brand name and solid differentiated product to establish a brand here.
3. What defines a great brand for you?
Mike: A great brand needs to have “the sauce.” The secret sauce is different per brand, but it goes something like this: Solid Product, Sticky Name, Proper Timing, Standout Branding /Marketing, and lots of Luck.
Dani: I think a great brand invokes an emotion. Once you can emotionally involve someone, hopefully in a positive way, you’re locked into their psyche.
4. Where do you draw inspiration from?
Mike: Our inspiration comes from our two homes, Miami and Central America. Miami gives us the edgy vice inspiration from the heydays of Coconut Grove, and Central America inspires us with its Terroir and how we are lucky enough to bottle it all up.
Dani: I draw inspiration from my surroundings and my past. There are key elements of the brand that are deeply connected to my life. Two examples: the pelicans on the bottle, which are stuccoed on our grandmother’s Miami Beach house. That house has been our family’s fort forever. We have so many memories there, and it couldn’t be a more “Miami house”, so the pelicans are an ode to our Miami roots. And then the Central American component comes in through the products themselves. Mike and I grew up drinking coconuts on the way to the beach when we were kids in El Salvador. then when I was a little bit older, I moved to Guatemala (where our mom’s side of the family is from), and I learned to drink (at 18 years old) the best rums in the world… So it was only natural for us to smuggle up products we grew up with, that we believe are so delicious, and are an ode to our culturally diverse upbringings.
5. What did you think you’d grow up to be when you were kids?
Mike: I actually thought I’d be a pro golfer — Dani u take this [laughing]
Dani: [laughs] Well, I’m actually exactly where I wanted to be. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Initially, I thought I’d be in the precious stones/gems business… maybe I could have been the “@ringconcierge”, who knows? But no, really, it’s amazing that everything I have ever wanted to do, I’ve fortunately been able to build into my life so far.
6. You already got the celebrities and the coolest event partnerships in Miami, so what is the ultimate vision for the Cartel?
Mike: We have been extremely fortunate to be able to collaborate with Miami’s best. We want to continue to build Coconut Cartel into an identifiably ‘Miami Brand’ around the world.
Dani: I agree verbatim with Mike, it’s all about building a brand that Miami is proud of.
7. It’s been a wild ride, what’s one of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned since starting the Cartel?
Mike: A wild ride to say the least. We have had our ebbs and flows for sure. I think we really learned to celebrate the small wins, appreciate our hometown community, and love our lawyers.
Dani: I would agree with Mike (don’t do anything without consulting with counsel), but besides that, I think one of the biggest things you have to do when you’re trying to start anything is to surround yourself with like-minded people, socially and professionally. It helps to build the energy and intention that goes towards building something.
8. Where do you hope to see Miami in 20 years?
Mike: I hope to see Miami as the Capital of the Republic of LatAm.
Dani: Echoing Mike — I hope to see Miami as a major world player — a place that people can come to live, work, and contribute to the world!