“Create engaging content, then worry about advertising”

 

Seth Hillstrom:

We’re here with Carlos Boughton, the director of brand innovation at Patrón Spirits Company to explore his views on properly leveraging research for innovation, and why we as marketers must create engaging content long before worrying about how we can use it to advertise our brands.
For the unfiltered, unabridged version of conversations like this, join us at eBev this fall!
Carlos, thanks so much for joining us today!

Hi Seth, thanks for having me!

Let me give you a little ‘About Me’: I was born in Monterrey Mexico, where I graduated with a marketing BA from ITESM. I then got an MBA from IESE in Barcelona Spain. I’ve been in the alc bev business for over 16 years, over 14 of those in the US. These days I run innovation at Patron Spirits. Before Patron, I held several brand management positions in Heineken USA, working with brands like  Tecate / Tecate Light, Bohemia and Heineken. I want to think that I’m a creative marketing nerd who aspires to be a story teller. I love design and creativity, I’m skeptical about research, and completely agnostic about technology.

Seth:

Carlos, we’re so excited to be chatting with someone whose fingers are on the pulse of “what’s next?” in the world of adult beverages. Before we really dive-in, can you describe your role as Director of Brand Innovation at The Patron Spirits Company?

Carlos:

Patron is a very cool company in many ways. Probably the coolest thing about it (besides having the most powerful brand in ultra premium tequila) is that it is a remarkably small company for such a big brand. This means that everyone gets to wear a lot of hats. While ‘innovation’ is usually defined as ‘new products’, I get the opportunity to work across a very large range of initiatives, from (obviously) new product development, to collaborations, events and others. Whatever is needed. “Not my job” is not something you hear ’round these parts.

Seth:

So, in order to identify and understand these opportunities, innovation is generally preceded by a period of research. I know you have different views than many constituents on how to best utilize research – and consumer research, in particular. Can you tell us how you deploy consumer research? …What about marketplace & competitive research?

Carlos:

This is a very interesting question. I’m blessed to work with an incredibly powerful luxury brand and an amazing group of professionals – in marketing and importantly in our distillery – true masters in tequila making. I mention this because with a luxury brand needs to come a certain level of confidence, of swagger. Knowing your brand is as paramount as understanding your consumer. Our innovation initiatives are driven as much by emerging market trends as they are by encouraging our production team to experiment and stretch their considerable capabilities.

I think that research can be very effective as long as you’re asking the right questions. If you’re using it to guide your thinking and / or to anticipate trends, that’s one thing. If you’re using it to replace your own judgement, that’s when I start to question it.

Seth:

Speaking of consumers, I think we’re both in agreement that the way people are consuming advertising has made a significant shift (if not a fundamental change). How does this impact the way you think about telling your brands’ stories? And does it go so far as to effect which stories you tell (and why)?

Carlos:

This is critically important. Advertising used to be reliant two important principles: a) Consumers accept advertising as an interruption for free content and b) Advertising is a one way street. We used to try desperately to become ‘relevant’ by finding that ‘insight’ that reflects consumer behavior in a clever way. These days, consumers have so many options of (paid) uninterrupted content that it is almost silly to expect great engagement from traditional advertising. Additionally, advertising can’t live in a vacuum anymore. If you want your advertising to be effective, it needs to drive consumer conversations. And those conversations must be understood and quantified. This sounds incredibly basic, I know. However, it is also something that we tend to forget. We used to count on putting our ads in front of consumers. Now, we must create content that consumers look for and engage with.

Seth:

Much in the same vain, you’ve shared that you believe brands need to create engaging content first, and advertising second. This gets right to the heart of what we’ve been learning/sharing/seeing at BMA for some time now – making it clear that you care about what’s in it for the consumer when you (the advertiser) chose to consume their time. Can you tell us why this is so important, and how it plays when you’re thinking about content creation?

Carlos:

“Know thy brand” is a paramount principle. You need to know what your brand stands for. You need to know what your brand’s story is. And then you tell that story. And then you tell it again. And then you tell it again. And you need to find new and engaging ways to keep on telling that story. Understanding that story and the ways to tell it is absolutely critical. If you’re thinking like that, you’re not thinking in terms of ‘this year’s campaign’, but in a longer term horizon.

To give you a couple of quick examples on how EVERYTHING must serve the story. Every year we launch a 1L limited edition for the holidays. Every year we chose a different aspect of our story as inspiration and we blow it up on a cool design for our bottle. We’ve had our bee, Mexican architecture and Mexican art as inspirations. This year, we are tapping into the handcrafted origin of our glass bottle. Stay tuned for that one! Another way we tell our story is through collaborations. Last year we launched an epic collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. As a master storyteller, he took the Patron story, fused it with tequila lore and Mexican culture and created something amazing, beautiful and unique that drove (and keeps driving) thousands of consumer conversations.

Seth:

Finally, the content we create and stories we tell are more important to our overall goal (build the brand, sell more drinks) than just creating awareness or interest. They drive relevance. Can you explain how/why this is so important as we look to ultimately drive conversion and growth?

Carlos:

Bingo. There’s that word. So overused and so misunderstood: RELEVANCE. Relevance is everything – the most valuable currency a brand can have. “Building the brand / selling more drinks” are results, but the way you get to them, the way you build relevance, is through the stories we tell.  To quote an article from Frank Rose:  “Just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature – a face, a figure, a flower – and in sound, so too it detects patterns in information. Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.”  That’s why telling our brand story is so critical. That’s how you gain relevance. It helps consumers answer themselves that most fundamental of questions: Why should I buy this brand over that one?

Seth:

Carlos, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your story!

Carlos:

Thank you Seth! This was fun. Best of luck with eBev!

 

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