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Published On: Thu, Nov 30th, 2017

Technology and tequila: What virtual reality has come to mean for Patrón

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On the surface, Patrón and Lady Gaga don’t have much in common. Though both inspire countless people to sing loudly and poorly, one is a tequila brand and the other is a pop star. Still, Adrian Parker, Vice President of Digital Marketing at Patrón, draws a comparison.

One of the biggest names in spirits, Patrón sold nearly 2.5 million cases of tequila in the U.S. last year. But despite its large size, the tequila is not mass-produced. The entire process is handcrafted, something many people don’t realize or expect.

“It’s like how you think of Lady Gaga’s outsize personality and wardrobe and makeup, and you forget that she’s a classically-trained musician who was playing the piano at four,” says Parker.

Right in time for Cinco de Mayo two years ago, Patrón launched its first virtual reality experience. “The Art of Patrón” aimed to “unlock the magic of Mexico” and educate consumers with a bee’s-eye view of its artisanal process. At the time, nobody anticipated the huge role that piece of content would eventually play in Patrón’s marketing strategy.

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Teachings from a new technology

Executed by digital agency Firstborn, “The Art of Patrón” was treated as an experimental learning exercise. One thing the brand learned is that VR is extremely expensive and involved; “The Art of Patrón” had a crew of more than 100 and took eight months. They also learned that VR experiences are appealing to people other than gamers.

“I underestimated consumer interest in VR,” says Parker. “People want brands to show them something and ‘The Art of Patrón’ is about a brand, but it’s not really advertising. It’s more about storytelling and learning about tequila, the interest in which I also underestimated.”

Patrón doesn’t have figures to share, so Parker can’t say definitively that the experience has had an effect on ROI. But over the last two years, perception of the brand’s artisanal process has grown significantly.

That contributed to Parker’s most important learning: that VR technology could be a core part of Patrón’s business practice. “The Art of Patrón” has evolved from a single piece of content to part of the brand’s enterprise approach for talking about and selling tequila.

Unexpectedly evergreen content

Two years later, the experience is featured at events all over the world: tastings, launch parties, even duty-free shops. As an onboarding tool, “The Art of Patrón” educates new employees and prospective buyers about how the tequila is made. The IT team is even trained in VR technology so they can troubleshoot.

The experience has evolved technologically, as well. In addition to the original immersive version, which can be viewed on a VR headset, there are apps available on both iOS and Android. Two months ago, Patrón launched an augmented reality (AR) experience, a video game replica of the brand’s Mexican distillery.

“We found that sweet spot because people can have the experience on their terms,” says Parker, adding that 75% of VR content is consumed on mobile devices. “If you want to go fully immersive, great. You can also experience it on a iPhone. There’s no device barrier.”

Looking forward

Though Patrón is still reaping the benefits of their first VR experience, the brand is thinking about the next. They’re working on prototyping more interactive experiences, approaching them with a stronger understanding of the technology and its commercial impact.

“AR and VR today are more about complementing activities I’m already doing,” says Parker. “The technology gives us a critical opportunity to touch real consumers and use everyday moments to listen, learn and add value—when they’re ready.”

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