Patrón believes experiential and education are key to growth

Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer of Patrón Spirits
Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer of Patrón Spirits

Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer of Patrón Spirits, reveals his experiential marketing strategy to grow the brand and redefine the ultra premium tequila category.

Looking back, 2016 – and a few years prior – were incredibly robust years of growth globally for the 28-year old tequila brand and the ultra premium tequila category, says Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer of Patrón Spirits. Patrón has enjoyed substantial growth in the UK and, most specifically, in London. Applbaum explains: "The UK continues to be an important strategic focus for our brand. London is a globally important city in terms of trend and style and in the areas of cuisine and mixology. As a global brand served in more than 150 countries, when we look at our global priorities, London and the UK is at the top."

What is your biggest marketing challenge?

"Consumer and trade understanding of premium tequila still has a long way to go. When you say tequila, a lot of people still think about a bad tequila experience they had while at university. It’s important to transform those perceptions - ultra premium tequila is materially different, most likely, to what people may have consumed back in their university days. A lot of our marketing focus is aimed at the trade and consumers and the education is around the virtues of artisanal hand-crafted tequila. The role we play in leading that conversation is very important. We built the ultra premium category in the US, and globally. and we continue to be its flag bearer around the world."

How important are events and experiential for the Patrón brand?

"Events and experiential marketing have been a critical part of Patrón's marketing programme for nearly three decades now. You can talk about ultra premium tequila, you can educate around it, but nothing is more important than the consumer’s ability to taste the tequila in a curated setting where we can lead the conversation and make bespoke cocktails to highlight Patrón’s versatility.

"There is always value in traditional above the line media, and also digital and social media, but there is no replacing the value of experience. Increasingly we are doing events that we own, where we control the conversation and that are solely focused on our brand and the key messaging points that we want to drive to consumers and trade."

What are those key messages?

"Firstly, this idea of artisanal and handcraft. The focus at events is to highlight this artisanal process.

"The second is versatility. Consumers think about tequila as a shot or the key ingredient for a margarita cocktail. Consumers don’t immediately think about a Patrón tequila and tonic, or a mojito made with tequila, or a Bloody Maria rather than a Bloody Mary. Events afford us an opportunity to bring in world class mixologists to make unexpected cocktails to allow consumers to rethink their paradigm on tequila as a spirit.

"The third piece is the alignment between culinary and mixology. Our events are increasingly focused on taking a region, city or market and bringing along top chefs and mixologists from that area to develop a cocktail pairing menu to show that Patrón beautifully complements food. Food pairings are understood, but pairing cocktails with dining is less so. With bespoke events we have the opportunity to bring cuisines and cocktails together to inspire a creed of conversation around it."

Last month, the Patrón Secret Dining Society event series launched in London. The society first launched in the US eight years ago, and is now being rolled out to 20 cities globally. The event is about bringing together up-and-coming chefs and mixologists from each city to surprise and delight a small group of 20 to 30 consumers, trade and press at invitation-only dinners. Applebaum adds: "We do larger scale events, such as Art of Patrón for 500 guests or more. We also activate at other events, and there’s sponsorship, which has a broader reach, but these bespoke dinners allow for much more intimate and richer conversations around the product between interested parties."

In 2017, Art of Patrón will return, which revolves around live music, art and mixologists, plus a number of pop-ups and activations at iconic art events.

More: Event TV: Patrón's Secret Dining Society

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