Tequila or Patrón: how the music industry and some high-risk creativity blew away the competition

After being in the business for just over 30 years, Patrón has established itself as a trendy, respected, globally recognized brand with annual sales in the billions. It has blown away the competition, and is now the largest-selling tequila by retail value in the world. Using non-traditional marketing strategies, Patrón has grown based on its infiltration of the music industry, strategic product placement, and a brand that focuses on the name, and not necessarily the product.

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Why Not Tequila?

Patrón has built a brand through association. Just not with tequila. As a drink commonly associated with cowboys, bad decision-making, and terrible hangovers, there was definitely an opportunity for rebranding back in 1989 when Martin Crowley and John Paul DeJoria took on the challenge.

While they say their superior quality and recipe is what set them apart from the competition, I would argue their success came from the mysterious manner in which Patrón was introduced. Blind taste tests were organized, and the word tequila was never mentioned. Patrón is tequila, but it is certainly not marketed that way. Why? Because tequila is most often associated with a whole slew of negative tastes and experiences that Crowley and DeJoria did not want associated with their product. And so they created a brand that distinguished the two. You can order tequila, or you can order Patrón.

Strategic Pairing and Product Placement

To develop this elite brand, there was a focus on pairing Patrón with famous bartenders, clubs, and celebrities. It was marketed as a luxury white spirit, and soon became particularly popular with American hip-hop artists, along with other alcohol brands such as Grey Goose vodka.

Music has been  key to building the Patrón brand, and they have become deeply entrenched in the industry. A recent study out of Boston University and John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found that Patrón was first among four of the most commonly name-dropped alcohol brands in popular music between 2009-2011.  Some of the artists incorporating the brand into their lyrics include T.I, Kanye West, LMFAO, and the Paradiso Girls who released a track in 2009 entitled “Patron Tequila”.

Connecting with the Audience

Patrón continues to work within the music industry to maintain and develop the brand, with concepts such as the XO Café Music Project which encourages unsigned bands and recording artists to sign up via social media for a chance to win expert advice as well touring, promotion, or recording packages. Patrón actively sponsors a variety of music festivals in order to stay connected to their key demographic.

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Despite branding themselves a luxury item, Patrón’s target audience is typically younger and not often associated with luxury purchases. John McDonnell, COO of Patrón Spirits International, calls his product “affordable luxury”, and has developed a cult following thanks to their product placement in music videos and lyrics, upscale bars, and duty free shops.

While their approach is not entirely unique, Patrón stands as an impressive example of the power of creative branding, and the rewards of high-risk decisions. Trying to brand without relying on the essence of the product  (in this case, tequila) is quite the challenge, but it would seem Patrón’s creativity paid off.

Can you think of any other particularly creative branding strategies that worked? Leave us a comment.

Feature image photo credit: The Research Judge http://www.theretailjudge.com/2013/09/patron-silver-tequila-review_11.html

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