Teah Teriele peeking out of a Death Wish truck



“Test what you are doing - marketing yourself is also huge.” Teah Teriele, marketing manager, Death Wish Coffee Company





Would you like your coffee made by robots? On Science, Jeff and Dustin talk about how robots are getting smarter and can perform menial tasks and even beat world chess masters at their own game. Plus, when we work towards a goal it is the speed bumps and obstacles that make achieving it more worth it, and this is the idea of What Fuels You. Finally, new T-Shirts made right in the USA from the World's Strongest Coffee Company, and our friends at Albany Distilling Company are expanding.


Teah Teriele was brought on to the team at Death Wish Coffee early on but not before she had some other experience in the coffee world. She joins in on the entire show this week and talks about her background as a barista and how she learned to market a growing company by diving head first into the field. Plus she gives her predictions of what is in store for the future of the Death Wish Coffee Company.


Jeff: ... tell us exactly when you actually started working for Death Wish?

Teah Teriele: Definitely. So I started working for Mike at the coffee shop, and that was in 2011, I believe. And obviously, Death Wish was not at all what it is now.

Jeff: Right.

Teah Teriele: It was definitely still kind of thrilling to see Death Wish coming up and down the stairs with packages and everything like that, but it wasn't a big business yet. Although, we kind of still had a little bit of pride despite it being small. When I came onto Death Wish, we were a 750 square-foot warehouse right across the way over there. And I believe I started as an accountant.

Jeff: Oh wow.

Dustin: So you weren't in the basement days?

Teah Teriele: I was upstairs during the basement days.

Jeff: You were working at Saratoga Coffee Traders-

Teah Teriele: Exactly.

Dustin: Oh, okay.

Jeff: ... when they were doing Death Wish in the basement?

Teah Teriele: Right. Right. In the-

Jeff: Crazy.

Teah Teriele: Right, yeah.

Dustin: What was that like? For the employees upstairs to have this coffee company running in the basement? Was that weird?

Teah Teriele: It was a little weird. Again, there was that sense of pride of having Death Wish right underneath us. And actually, we didn't even sell Death Wish Coffee upstairs at that point. So-

Jeff: It was just strictly online at that moment. Wow.

Teah Teriele: Strictly online, so people weren't even allowed to come in and buy it behind the counter at that point.

Dustin: Did they get mad at any point like ...

Teah Teriele: I think-

Dustin: I mean, what was the biggest accolade of Death Wish at the time? Were they well-known at that time?

Teah Teriele: A little bit. Obviously, the national coverage hadn't hit yet at that point.

Dustin: That is before Good Morning America.

Teah Teriele: Before Good Morning America.

Dustin: Yeah.

Teah Teriele: Yeah.

Jeff: So, basically, when you started working for the company is when they had their smaller warehouse and Death Wish hired you as an accountant, you just said.

Teah Teriele: Right. Accountant but there were so many things to do. So I'd be pulled away from that.

Jeff: How big was the team when you started?

Teah Teriele: I believe it was five of us. Five or six of us.

Dustin: Wow.

Teah Teriele: Yeah, yeah. So my first day there, I wasn't doing any numbers of any sort. I actually was cutting-

Jeff: You were a terrible accountant.

Teah Teriele: Mike knew I hadn't had any experience accounting, but he just needed some help filing papers basically what it was.

Jeff: Right.

Teah Teriele: But my first day, I actually didn't do anything with numbers. I was cutting open Valhalla Java bags because it was our first time ever selling it. And we over-packed them.

Dustin: Oh no.

Teah Teriele: Which we thought would be a nice thing to do, but they all came back from USPS, so I cut open every single Valhalla Java bag, poured out about .5 ounces and sealed it back up. So that took all day.

Dustin: Oh no.

Jeff: That's incredible.

Dustin: Yeah, you're a little bit past those days now, I hope.

Jeff: Wow. Okay, so that took us back to you starting. Now bring us to where you are now. What exactly is your role in the company?

Teah Teriele: Sure. I handle marketing here, and that kind of entails a lot. But it depends on the day, really, so I've been able to pull myself out of the day-to-day a little bit, but anything from the emails that the customers will see down to social media posts and everything like that.

Jeff: I mean, marketing, even for someone like myself who was just a fan of the company before I started getting involved in it, marketing is such a huge part of this company, you know what I mean? Death Wish as a brand is not shy about showing you exactly that we are the world's strongest coffee, the tagline says it all.

Dustin: Yeah, I feel like whenever anybody's like, "Oh, you work for Death Wish? Who does the marketing over there?" That's like their first question.

Jeff: Right.

Dustin: Every time, it's like ... It just stands out. It's brand strong.

Jeff: So I got to ask then, did you go to school for marketing? Or is this something that you kind of learned on the job or ...

Teah Teriele: Sure. It's interesting how that position came. I obviously started in coffee, so my background is not marketing at all. It's just coffee. So at the time when I first started, we needed people to write blogs, and since I knew about coffee, I started writing the blogs. And that turned into a content marketing position. And that just turned into pretty much taking over the marketing division as a whole.

Jeff: Crazy.

Dustin: I feel like that's how it ends up working here.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: The job you work is kind of vague at first, and then Mike seems to find your strong points and you kind of end up on the track you're supposed to be on.

Teah Teriele: Right. Definitely.

Dustin: I feel like you're kind of made for what you do for the company. It's definitely your strong point.

Teah Teriele: Thank you. Thanks.

Dustin: Not a problem.

Jeff: So speaking on the marketing term then, obviously this company has grown exponentially since winning the Super Bowl commercial last year. What has it been like being the marketing? The head of marketing for this company after a push like that? Was your desk just consumed by [inaudible 00:04:36] work after that?

Teah Teriele: It was intimidating. Like you said, a lot of people do say amazing things about the marketing, and it's definitely not a one-person effort. Every single person that works here contributes to it and uses their own social media to push it and everything like that. So it was definitely intimating. I can think of one time when we went to California for the commercial and there was something called the game room, but really, it was a place where the social media teams would come and we had Intuit social media and RPA advertising social media, and there I was. And I kind of just felt like a small fish in a big pond, but at the end of the day, it's just talking to people on a larger platform. So as long as you don't lose that personal touch, you'll do fine with marketing.

Dustin: And I feel like that's what people recognize, that it's authentic. It's not like Death Wish has an executive marketing team of people who are well educated in the manner of foolproof marketing and all that jazz. It's more like we really love coffee. And we know the parts of it that we love, and therefore, we just share our love. And that's more of our marketing. It's not so straight up the middle, you know?

Teah Teriele: Agreed. Yeah, I think that's why it works so well. We don't go on social media and say, "Hey, we're Death Wish Coffee, talk to us." It's more of I-statements I think and anyone that has some social media for us they say, "Don't talk like you're a robot or like you're a part of something bigger, just talk like your person," and I think all of our personalities are kind of reflected on our social media and through our influencers. So influencer marketing for us doesn't go through the marketing department, it goes through the personalities that are here.
Dustin, for example, obviously you know the UFC market and everything like that, so you'll be the person to reach out to something like that. Same with Jeff with comics, so I think it's definitely very organic and that's why it works.

Jeff: Totally. And what's interesting about the marketing of a company like Death Wish, too, is, like you said, you set out to kind of have that I-statement and kind of be inclusive of the fan base. And that in itself created this incredible community around the company. And I think that that is just a testament of how well the marketing actually works for something like this.

Teah Teriele: Right. I think that's obviously the huge part of the marketing is our community just being so supportive and not only supportive but honest, too. Because they'll us if they don't like something.

Dustin: Totally.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: If there's an issue, it's almost like a canary in the coal mine.

Teah Teriele: Right.

Dustin: It's the idea, the official fan page there. But how did that community get started? Where was ground zero for the beginning of that community?

Teah Teriele: It's crazy to think about that because I can't even imagine Death Wish without it at this point. So obviously our main Facebook page has a combination of the community that we have now, the very tight-knit kind of, you know, very excited fans. And-

Dustin: The Pushers.

Teah Teriele: Right. The Pushers.

Dustin: Yeah.

Teah Teriele: And the people who are our casual fans. So when that page started, it was just a group of people that were so happy to talk to other people that felt the same way about Death Wish. It's their lifestyle it's just a part of who they are, so I would say the best thing about that page, it hasn't really changed much. It's still the same people talking about the same thing. They've got-

Dustin: It's growing.

Teah Teriele: It's just growing. And then we have what they call the veterans of the page who have been there since the beginning, and they can tell you all the history about this and that. And that's really fun to chime into.

Jeff: That's crazy. Getting back to the kind of what you've created for this company, I know some of the larger marketing campaigns you've done. In fact, one of them being the Wake the Cup Up campaign. I believe it was you, correct? Is there a favorite of yours that you came up with that worked out really well that you think back on fondly maybe or something?

Teah Teriele: Sure. So I think about last year's Super Bowl commercial and that was great. So there's something called the Brand Bowl, and that's when a ... So the provider of a specific Super Bowl commercial essentially gets re-twitted more than any other brand on Twitter. And that ended up being us surprisingly, even as the smallest business. So we did what we always do. And we just included the conversation and we included what was going on during the Super Bowl and things like that. So I'd say that was probably my favorite thing that I've done.

Jeff: That's really cool.

Dustin: Can you about maybe some of the instances that maybe weren't your favorite? Maybe some speed bumps?

Jeff: 'Cause obviously not everything's a home run. Not everything you're gonna hit out of the park. Especially when you're talking about subversive marketing, Death Wish is so good at doing, you might miss, I'm sure.

Dustin: Well, even EJ Snyder said it. You either win or you learn.

Jeff: Right.

Dustin: So it's not necessarily a failure, it's just like, "Oh, maybe it shouldn't work like that."

Jeff: So what have you learned?

Dustin: [crosstalk 00:09:55]

Teah Teriele: I mean, everything here has been kind of throw-it-at the-wall and see what sticks. Use the analytics that you can to make sure that something works out well. However, my first Halloween as marketing at Death Wish Coffee, I tried something called 31 Days of Halloween.

Dustin: Which is obviously like [inaudible 00:10:17] of like 31 Days of Christmas just like for Halloween.

Teah Teriele: Right. You do something every day, exactly. So we were a small business at that point. I think we were five people then. So I tried to put together a blog and a campaign every single day of October. And that by date, I think, 10 or 11, I think I was still doing shipping and logistics and a few other things.

Jeff: No, no.

Teah Teriele: Either way, it just went, it went behind, and the first day that I announced it, I don't think I told anyone that I was gonna start doing it, so they said, "Teah, that's a lot of work, you know? Maybe you should do the 12 days of Halloween." I said, "No, it doesn't have the same, it doesn't have the same [crosstalk 00:10:55]-

Dustin: Doesn't ring the same.

Teah Teriele: "... doesn't stick. So we'll do the 31 Days of Halloween." And ended up being, I think, maybe around 12 days of Halloween. And I think those posts are still live. I'm pretty embarrassed by them, but if you go and you search on Death Wish's website, you might be able to find a few posts from that. And it's as embarrassing as I'm saying it is right now. So go ahead and check that out.

Dustin: Do you think you'll ever bring it back? Will you redeem yourself?

Teah Teriele: I considered. So now obviously we have a bigger marketing team. We have an actual in-house writer, Alissa, she's amazing. And so this year, I figured maybe it would be a good year to bring it back, but I think everyone's kind of jaded on the idea. I don't think.

Jeff: Well, it is the middle of February. So we could do, I don't know, a couple of hundred days of Halloween starting in tomorrow.

Dustin: Okay. Yeah.

Jeff: Like ...

Teah Teriele: Oh boy.

Dustin: I'm in.

Jeff: I'm in.

Teah Teriele: So that's one of many times that something just, it just didn't end up working out. But hey.

Jeff: Hey, like you said, you throw it at the wall and you hope that it sticks. And that's what's so interesting about the marketing. I think your job is really interesting in this company because it's not necessarily the voice of the company but it is the inclusion of the conversation. Kind of like how you said that. And I think that resonates so much more with people because this company is so down to earth and so about the personability from coffee to consumer. From company to fan kind of thing.

Teah Teriele: Definitely. Definitely.

Jeff: And I think that's really interesting. Speaking on successes and failures and that kind of thing, is there anything in the future of this year that you're looking forward to that maybe you can talk about? I know a lot of the stuff, I'm not looking for hints or anything 'cause I know a lot of the stuff we like to rule out in a timely fashion, but is there anything coming up that you're excited about marketing-wise?

Teah Teriele: Yeah, definitely. So as our marketing team expands, we're just always looking to put our more content for people and just putting out better content. A big thing is video. We have a larger team now and so hopefully video will be on the horizon. So look out for that. We do have a major campaign coming up which you guys I think will touch on. As we kind of put it together a little bit more and as it gets a little more cohesive, but look out for something in the coming months. Definitely very exciting.

Jeff: Very, very cool. Speaking on that, we kind of touched upon this a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about, this is something that the community at large loves but also is one of probably the strongest marketing tools for Death Wish coffee is the newsletter, is the blog. Can you talk about how that kind of coalesced as you were part of the company? The inception of that?

Teah Teriele: Sure.

Jeff: To what it is now?

Teah Teriele: Yeah. So when I started, I think Mike told us and everyone knew this that, "Hey, our newsletter is the biggest asset we have," because it's the only way that we can ever truly communicate with our fans one on one if we need to. You never know. Facebook will be if they're gone, our Facebook fans are gone. If Instagram dies, we don't have that connection anymore. So with the mailing list, the thing has always been, it's everlasting, we can always reach out to our fans.

Dustin: People will always have an email but we don't-

Teah Teriele: Exactly.

Dustin: ... know if they'll always have a Facebook or a Twitter or an Instagram.

Teah Teriele: Right.

Jeff: yeah, that makes sense.

Teah Teriele: So that's always been my biggest push is to make sure that our mailing list is as large as possible and just to get as many people on board as possible and to communicate through the best way. So every week, I'm seeing what people like, what people click through on just to make sure we're giving people what they really need, really want. What they-

Jeff: That's awesome. 'Cause it is. It's such a juggernaut of a news source. And it's like the lifeblood of the company because every week you know what products are coming out, you know what marketing is gonna be happening, the different campaigns that are gonna be happening. And now we're lucky enough to have Fuel by Death Cast as a part of it as well. To be able to talk to all of our listenership about the company and it's really such an ... Mike's right, you know? It's such an important tool to have. And it's done so right. And that's a lot on you, so congratulations on doing a good job.

Teah Teriele: Thank you. Thanks.

Dustin: Speaking of important tools, for somebody who's freshly getting into marketing and getting their toes wet, do you have any pieces of advice that you would give somebody who is just getting into it for a company?

Teah Teriele: Yeah. I'm definitely still new to the game, and every day I learn something new. The biggest thing is to test what you're doing. Seeing if it works. I mentioned doing the AB testing which is basically sending two versions out of something, seeing which one does better and using that on the next week. Marketing yourself is also huge. If you don't know how to do that, then chances are you're not gonna be able to market anything. So start with your own personal Facebook pages or Instagram pages and see what works best for that and go from there.

Jeff: Very good. With all of the success that you've had as part of the marketing team and then also some of the stumbles that you've come across and the things that you've learned, what fuels you to keep coming back and doing that? Especially after a company blows up after a Super Bowl commercial you're, like, we were joking your workload triples and all that stuff. What fuels you to keep coming in every day and pushing that extra mile?

Teah Teriele: That's a great question. Of course, I drink coffee every day.

Dustin: That's a great answer.

Jeff: That's what it is.

Teah Teriele: But honestly, it's just seeing the growth of something like Death Wish and even in my personal life, starting out small and growing and just seeing the potential in things that actually work, I think that that's a huge part of just taking a step forward. So, for example, at my first coffee shop job that I ever had, there was an espresso machine, and you weren't allowed to touch it for, I think, two months.

Dustin: Oh, my goodness.

Teah Teriele: So I was there washing dishes and every day with that espresso-

Jeff: Wait, why? Is it dangerous?

Teah Teriele: They just wanted you to appreciate ... I mean, they can be dangerous.

Jeff: Okay. So yes.

Teah Teriele: So yes, they are dangerous. They get really hot, but it was kind of the unattainability of it and, "Oh, once I can get my hand on that espresso machine and make a beautiful latte." And so I think that is kind of a nice parallel between obviously the coffee job and just life in general. Just kind of really appreciate things. So the appreciation is I guess what fuels me.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Dustin: I feel like if things are just given to you-

Teah Teriele: Exactly.

Dustin: ... you definitely don't have the same amount of appreciation for it. But if you're working for it and working hard for it and dealing with roadblocks and speed bumps and then you achieve it, it's so much more satisfying.

Teah Teriele: Exactly. Exactly.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: Very cool. Final question that we ask every employee that we are lucky enough to talk to on this podcast, Death Wish or Valhalla Java?

Teah Teriele: Ooh. Gosh, okay. I don't know if you've gotten a direct answer.

Dustin: And no both.. Yeah.

Teah Teriele: Blah, blah, blah, okay. Fine.

Dustin: Everybody tries to be, "Oh, both. If I want more caffeine, I drink Death Wish, but if I want an earthier flavor, I drink Valhalla Java."

Teah Teriele: Okay, okay, okay. If I'm being completely honest, I'll drink Death Wish ... I drink Death Wish every single day.

Jeff: Ah, it's nice.

Teah Teriele: So that's what I reach for. I can make a case for both, of course. I'm sure everyone that works here can, but I grab-

Jeff: Yeah, I hope they can.

Teah Teriele: ... for Death Wish every day. I just do.

Jeff: Awesome. Well-

Dustin: I used to be solid Death Wish, but I've recently have switched over.

Jeff: To Valhalla?

Dustin: Yeah.

Teah Teriele: Okay.

Dustin: I don't know. I recently got a batch where the beans were just like extra greasy. I don't know what it was, and I made some in a Chemex and I had company over. And I was like, "Damn, this is really good. I think I'm gonna stick with this for a while."

Teah Teriele: Just gonna stay in the kitchen for the entirety of the night.

Jeff: I keep watching all those videos that Zakk Wylde keeps putting up on his Instagram.

Teah Teriele: It's hilarious.

Jeff: And if there's any a time in my life that I look at something and go, "I want whatever he's having," it's always when I'm seeing those videos. It's like I've been drinking a lot more Valhalla, too, because of that.

Dustin: Talk about marketing yourself.

Jeff: Right.

Teah Teriele: Right.

Jeff: That guy's a genius.

Teah Teriele: He is. And so badly do I want to do like a marketing with Zakk Wylde kind of a thing.

Jeff: Zakk Wylde.

Teah Teriele: Step one, talking in all caps.

Jeff: Step two, props. Lots of props.

Teah Teriele: Lots of props. Screaming. He's great. He is good.

Jeff: He is great.

Dustin: How was that? Were you in the company before the Zakk Wylde thing came about?

Teah Teriele: No, my first day I was cutting open those Valhalla Java, yeah.

Jeff: Open those bags.

Dustin: Oh right. Yup, yup.

Teah Teriele: Right.

Jeff: So it just happened. It just happened.

Teah Teriele: So it was still new to all of us. At that point, none of our fans have tried it yet. We didn't really unveil it. We did a presale and I think that that's what we were doing then, but Zakk Wylde is so funny. He was here, what, a few months ago now.

Jeff: Yup. Yeah.

Dustin: About two months ago, yeah.

Teah Teriele: He's just as funny in person. It really is not a shtick. It's not a game.

Dustin: It's real.

Teah Teriele: That's him. That is Zakk Wylde. If you meet him in person, you'll know this. It comes through in his music as well. He's just powerful.

Dustin: Yeah. He is.

Jeff: He is powerful and he's got a powerful coffee behind him. It's pretty great.

Dustin: But that was wild. That was like-

Jeff: That was Zakk Wylde.

Dustin: That was the first time we got to meet him after the whole time of ... What was that like finally getting to meet the guy that you've been pushing his coffee for so long?

Teah Teriele: I would say ... obviously, it was incredible. But I think it was a little reassuring that I feel like I already met him, and I think that that's why so many people love him because you look at him on social and you feel like you're talking to him. You feel like he's talking to you. And that's why shooting a shoot with him, it was no problem because I feel like I've done that already. But yeah, he's great. He's great.

Jeff: That's cool.

Dustin: So cool.

Teah Teriele: The guy can talk.

Jeff: He sure can. And hopefully, we'll get him as a guest down the road-

Dustin: That'll happen. It'll happen.

Jeff: ... on a Fueled by Death Cast.

Dustin: For sure.

Jeff: But speaking-

Dustin: Next week.

Jeff: Yes.

Dustin: Next week, Zakk Wylde.

Jeff: But speaking of guests, I just want to thank you so much, again, Thea, for taking time out of your busy schedule to be a guest on Fuel by Death Cast because one of the people always ask about, like Dustin said, is the marketing team and the people in charge of that for Death Wish Coffee, so it was incredibly interesting to hear you talk about it.

Teah Teriele: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. And of course, you guys play a huge role in that at this point.

Jeff: Yeah, we're trying.

Teah Teriele: So we're all excited. We all love it.

Jeff: Yeah, we're one big happy family.

Dustin: Yay, teamwork.

Jeff: Yay, teamwork.

Dustin: I just got chills.

Jeff: Awesome.

Dustin: Cheers.