In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser’s complete interview with CMO Award Winner Lee Applbaum, click here.
This CMO of the Week post comes just in time for everyone’s favorite margarita-centric holiday. Whether you’re actually celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain or are just content to hitch a ride on Tuesday’s tequila train, we’re sure that Lee Applbaum wouldn’t mind. Especially if your tequila of choice is Patrón.
Anyone who’s ever worked in alcoholic beverage marketing knows that it’s a product category unto itself, and certainly a tough cork to pop, so to speak, when it comes to branding. So rather than burst through the saloon doors at Patrón with a mission of revamping the brand, Lee Applbaum smartly approached his position as CMO with an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. As far as he could tell, there were no broken bottles to be found at Patrón Headquarters.
So what warrants the Creativity Award he won at The CMO Club Awards? What exactly is so creative about adhering to the status quo? Well, much in the way that a classic cocktail can taste fantastic prepared by one bartender and fantastically terrible by another, Applbaum’s leadership in launching Patrón Roca proved that he has the magic touch as a marketing mixologist. Read below as he describes the recipe for his perfect product launch.
1 Part Digital, 1 Part Mobile
Due to the almost B2B nature of alcohol brand marketing, those who work on new products often take a familiar, passive approach to their launch, Applbaum says. The traditional method of marketing would probably include ads in print or maybe a TV commercial, plus, of course, a snappy slogan — or suggestive, depending on the brand — and clear creative direction. But when it came time to shape the plan for Roca, Applbaum knew that traditional just wasn’t going to cut it. “We quickly realized and understood that a majority of media is being consumed digitally, which presented a unique opportunity here,” he said. So, step one: focus on the digital, and optimize for mobile.
1 Part Storytelling
While all of Patrón’s products are technically crafted by hand, an idea much loved by foodies and sophisticated hipster types, Applbaum says that the Roca launch really played up this aspect of the brand. “This particular launch for this particular product line was rooted in this handmade, artisanal, very traditional production process,” he says. Marketing this, of course, was done with an eye to the brand’s target. “We’re talking to a very specific artisanal audience; the same people who follow the farm-to-table movement. This is a garden-to-glass movement.”
If you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, you know that these consumers are endlessly curious about the origins of the products they’re about to purchase. “They want to know the history,” Applbaum says. “They want to understand the authenticity and integrity of a brand. And maybe equally importantly, they want to share that backstory with others because it gives them inherent credibility.” For as many questions as they ask, it turns out that this artisanal audience also loves to talk. Armed with the insight that this kind of consumer no longer wanted just a nice logo, but also a meaningful backstory, Applbaum’s team set to work. Storytelling, he says, was to be an essential addition to the Roca campaign mix.
Shake and Strain
Add these ingredients together in a tumbler, shake vigorously for twelve seconds (or maybe it was a little longer?), and you’ll end up with the makings of a well-shaken-up alcohol marketing campaign. How did the ingredients combine for Applbaum and his team? In his own words, those hints of digital and mobile: “We rebuilt all of our web assets, including building experiential microsites (all mobile optimized) for Roca Patrón to help consumers learn about the product.” And the backstory and the share-ability: “We explained the artisanal process that goes into making Roca Patrón through a series of vignettes and then allowed that content to be curated and shared. We also created a tool that allows both consumers and the trade to share and comment on cocktail recipes featuring Roca Patrón.”
While this marketing mix may sound complicated, the presentation was thoroughly no-frills. After all, it’s the distributors who are the first recipients of Patrón’s marketing efforts. Applbaum says that at the end of the day, he and his company “wanted to inspire confidence for a bar-owner, restaurateur or spirit storeowner that there’s going to be an ample amount of media gravity owned, earned and paid for” to help them, in turn, sell the product to consumers.
Earlier, I mentioned the traditional route to launching an alcohol product, and Applbaum’s handling of Patrón Roca showed clear defiance of that status quo. “We’ve got a very honest, real, great artisanal product, and we developed really great marketing to go with it. We wanted to make sure that everything was really rooted in authenticity, and that we never got accused of just fancy window-dressing,” he says.
And as for Patrón Roca itself, how were the reviews? “The initial response has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Applbaum says. “I absolutely think that having really innovative and contextually relevant messaging helped to drive early acceptance of the new line.” Talk about a campaign that goes down easy.
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column published every Thursday