How Patrón is using Amazon Alexa and VR to push its vision into the future

The iconic Patrón brand has always been a leader in the tequila and spirits categories. As new technologies emerge it’s not always easy for a brand that faces a lot of competition to stand out. Patrón has made major investments with its Cocktail Lab that is setting a standard for how a liquor brand should engage with consumers in the age of the internet of everything.

Two examples in particular that stand out are the brand’s Alexa integration and virtual reality experience with their distillery. Content creators from video producers to TV networks should take note of how Patrón acted like a content engine to bring their product to life in new ways. Earlier in the summer at Cannes Lions, Found Remote connected with Adrian Parker, Patrón’s VP to learn about the initiatives. Here’s the interview from after.

Found Remote: Why was it important for Patrón to be on Alexa?
Adrian Parker: Weaving Patrón into a platform like Alexa gave our consumers a way of interacting with our brand directly, to learn more about tequila and mixology in the comfort of their own home. It serves as an extension of our Patrón Cocktail Lab, which is the ultimate bar tool for seasoned cocktailers or the casual sippers and actually guides you through choosing a cocktail you’ll like and making it yourself. We’re also launching on Google Home, Microsoft Cortana and have an AI-powered chatbot on our social channels. Long term, though, it’s less about being on a specific platform and really about preparing for a future where voice-enabled experiences will be the norm, not just a novelty.

FR: What have the results been?
AP: Our consumers are excited they can talk to us through Alexa and have a bartender around the clock to find unique recipes based on flavor preferences, occasions, products and more. We’ve had more than 32,000 users and were named a Top Consumer Skill by Amazon last year. What I’m really excited about is the growth in uniques, active users and time spent within our overall Cocktail Lab platform. We’re up more than 40% against a very impressive launch last year. We’re re-writing the rules for how you engage luxury spirits consumers.

FR: How did the idea for the VR experience come about?
Upon joining the Patrón team almost 4 years ago, the first thing I did was visit our distillery, Hacienda Patrón, in Jalisco, Mexico. It’s irrationally disarming to witness how handcrafted the tequila-making process is as most spirits brands our size are highly automated or mechanized to keep pace with production. It dawned on us that seeing the actual process at Hacienda Patrón is the greatest marketing asset we have. It’s also the least scalable. Since we can’t bring millions of consumers to our working distillery in Mexico, VR created an opportunity for us to bring Mexico to them. It educates, entertains and informs in 360-degrees.

FR: How hard was it to put together?
AP: It wasn’t easy. The video was captured by custom drones which literally flew through the Hacienda and agave fields, filming the entire production process. This drone was outfitted with six GoPro cameras and operated by an actual airline pilot – the only drone operator certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at that time. It was the first time a brand used live action scenes and computer animation to create a VR experience – something Oculus themselves told us was impossible several months before we tried. The total project was 8 months in the making and we had an on-site crew of nearly 100 people.

FR: Who did you work with?
AP: We worked with Firstborn for the VR production and then Razorfish on extensions of the 360-degree content to translate the video to mobile & 2D screens . There’s a lot more information here.

FR: What have the results been?
AP: The VR and 360-degree video experiences have become a core part of how we show and tell our handcrafted story. We now have more than 200 Samsung Gear VR goggles and 30,000 Google Cardboard kits across the world right now that are used at events, tastings and business meetings. When you add that to mobile apps on Android & Apple along with the 360-degree videos online, hundreds of thousands of consumers have flown through Hacienda Patrón as a bee to witness our artisanal process. We took a theatrical distribution approach, leveraging the investment in 1 VR video and expanding it into as many audiences as possible via language, formats and device updates.

FR: Plans for the future with VR and Alexa?
AP: As our brand continues to innovate and evolve with the newest technology, Patrón will continue finding ways to make it easier for consumers to learn about us and seamlessly fit into their lifestyle.  We’re finalizing our plans to work with Google Home and Microsoft Cortana as part of our Patrón Cocktail Lab, further bringing personalized recommendations to our consumer’s homes. We have a space in our office dedicated to prototyping and testing emerging ideas so we’re certainly watching AR, VR, NFC and cognitive technologies closely.

FR: Anything else our readers should know about?
AP: As of this summer, Patrón also offers a “Bot-tender” via our website and social media platforms, allowing consumers to chat with our team. Users can get cocktail recommendations and tips from the very people who made them – or as we like to say, our Bot-Tenders. The service is accessible via Facebook, Twitter or our website You can see all of this come to life with data we procured from Foursquare for our “Patrón The Summer” campaign.

Natan Edelsburg

Executive Editor, Found Remote. EVP, Muck Rack & Shorty Awards. I watch every TV show.

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