Adrian Parker is the Global Vice-President of Marketing at Patrón Tequila and he has a very different take on influence marketing than many big-brand marketing leaders. In fact, his perspective is very much in line with the concept of Winfluence. Adrian and I talk about his take on transactional influence marketing versus that focused on relationship building, how Patrón views influencers and the unique influence audiences in the alcoholic beverage world.

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Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast is a companion piece to my forthcoming influencer marketing book, Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand, set to publish in early 2021 from Entrepreneur Press. I interview the Who’s Who of Influencer Marketing weekly — from brand managers to software creators, and from agency strategists to influencers themselves. If you know someone who should be a guest on the show, shoot me an email at jason – at – jasonfalls – dot – com.

Winfluence Podcast – Adrian Parker Transcript

Jason Falls: [00:00:31] Hello again, friends, thanks for listening to Winfluence the Influence Marketing podcast. Such a treat today for both you and me. We’re going to talk booze, well, at least about influence marketing in the spirits industry. Adrian Parker from Patrón Tequila is with us. A few years ago, he was heading social media for RadioShack. Fast forward through a stop and into it. Then five years leading digital for Patrón. Now, Adrian Parker is vice president of global marketing for the premium tequila brand. We talk about his take on influence marketing, which I think you’ll agree, sounds very familiar to the things I’ve been saying about the practice and certainly in line with many of the ideas I cover in our soon to be available book, Winfluence. Adrian is truly one of the smartest people in the marketing world and always a treat to talk to. So let’s get to it. Here’s my conversation with the global vice president of marketing for Patrón, Adrian Parker.

Jason Falls: [00:01:29] Adrian, when I was in college athletics, one of my radio guys was the biggest Patrón fan in the world. And outside of bourbon, tequila is probably my number two most consumed alcohol and Patrón leads that that that brand, that bucket by far. You got some really good stuff to sell there, man.

Adrian Parker: [00:01:53] Well, you know, thank you. I think, you know, tequila or as some aficionados call it, Vitamin-T has. Yeah, I think it’s been such a growing category. And Americans have a love affair with tequila, and it’s been such a great journey for me seven years on on the brand to learn so much about it, but get an appreciation for how it’s made as well. So you tell you and your buddies continue to enjoy Patrón.

Jason Falls: [00:02:17] Well, but if anybody has ever seen so my color guy who was the big Patrón fans guy, Matt Coulter. And if anybody has if you’ve if you’ve ever seen, you know, the Ricky Bobby movie … “Talladega Nights.” Right. So when they give the award toward the end of the movie at Talladega, the announcer of the TV show who’s given him the big award, that’s Matt Coulter. That’s that guy. So he wow, he was my color guy. And he loves Patrón. And so we used to enjoy a Patrón and I would never do shots because Patrón tastes too good.

Adrian Parker: [00:02:52] You got it.

Jason Falls: [00:02:52] You got to sip that stuff. But he was the guy. So if you ever run into Matt Coulter out there that and you recognize him from the movie or whatnot, that’s him. So you are I mean, you’re now the global vice president for marketing at Patrón. And when I first met you, you were writing tweets for RadioShack. What the hell?

Adrian Parker: [00:03:14] Yeah. You know, I’d say I don’t know if I’m lucky, blessed or probably a little bit of both. Yeah. I think, you know, it’s been such an incredible journey from, you know, a background and really PR and traditional advertising to getting into social kind of at the right time. Right where we were. It was the Wild Wild West, about 2009-10. We were just figuring it out. And so I remember having calls with people at Facebook and Twitter and it was all we were just making it up and it was fun. So it’s funny. I would be totally unqualified for the job I had ten years ago because Social has become such a specialized, sophisticated and expert driven, I think, channel and practice. But yeah, I think, you know. Right. Time to learn enough about consumer experiences and storytelling, you know, hopefully parlay that into a digital career. And now, as of a year ago and to being a global marketing leader for a really great, amazing brand, but definitely surrounded by smart, smart people who are much more intellectual than I am to help us steer this Patrón.

Jason Falls: [00:04:17] Yeah, well, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t undersell yourself when you’re a global vice president of a company of that size, that’s you’re right there with a man. So it’s been fun watching you because you were RadioShack for a while and then you were head of social and mobile at Intuit. So you bounced around a couple of different industries. And I know the whole time we kind of grew up in the industry about the same time and the whole time through the span of your career, I know you were around in the in the 2007-08 range when we were talking about sponsored content and sponsored tweets and IZEA and Ted Murphy kind of came on the scene. And now all of a sudden it’s like, well, there’s these people out there that we always called mavens. Maybe back then and then we had blogger outreach and we had, you know, sponsored blog posts and sort of as as influencer marketing emerged. The point I’m getting at here is you’ve been a part of this whole social explosion as that particular niche has grown up. And I want to get your overall take, whether it be at Patrón or whether it be just. In different circumstances over my career, this is where I’ve encountered that, how have you, you know, sort of looked at that whole topic of influence marketing, how have you used it? How have you not used it? And where do you think it sits in the grand scheme of things for your marketing?

Adrian Parker: [00:05:45] Yes, such a timely discussion. I think influence as you know, it’s a fact. Influence is a force of nature. It it determines the gravity of culture, you know, how we communicate, how we make decisions, how we purchase influence as like a force has been with us since the beginning. And I think is interesting. About 10, 15 years ago, marketers decide how to influence and sales. Right. It is such a a connected, I think, idea. How do we scale influence. And then you saw the birth of all these influencer related and I love your walk through. You know, I think history like I remember native content and blogger conferences and blogger outreach Foot Locker.

Adrian Parker: [00:06:30] Almost 20 years ago, I remember sending pairs of Nike’s to deejay and radio producers so that they would mention the shoes on their own air and then they would hopefully talk about our store. Right. And then you fast forward 20 years later and you can see how we’ve been able to harness the force of influence. So I’d love to see how influencer marketing or the the practice of influencer marketing has so evolved. And I think some of it for the best. I think some of it you know, I would say there are some areas where I’ve seen that we probably thought to short term or to transactional. You know, I think at the end of the day, you know, influence is a force to harness, nurture and understand how do people make decisions. That’s the influence of marketing, though, is a tactic to manage and a tactic to measure.

Adrian Parker: [00:07:22] And I think how I I’ve looked at it as, you know, really across two dimensions. Right. So are we is our objective to build a relationship long term or short term transactions at best, long term. In the case of Patrón, you know what? Hey, we’re going to invite you down to our hacienda in Mexico. We’re going to put in the time to educate you on our brand and our people and our heritage. And then, of course, we might work together in the future. But it’s really about building a relationship and that’s time intensive, is labor intensive, takes a lot of time to do that.

Adrian Parker: [00:07:55] On the flip side, though, you see the transactional pieces, which we don’t do a lot of, to be quite honest. Hey, you know what? We have a launch coming out next week, Friday at five o’clock. We need to pay five people to post and do this thing. Right. So it’s a transactional piece and that is bad. But, you know, it has a role. So we look at that as one dimension. And the other piece of it is, you know, is it true earned media or paid? Now, this is the big debate, right? Because like, well, at least it look like earned, but it’s truly paid. And that’s where the debate gets a little foggy. You got PR agencies who are now pitching for four four paid programs and you have earned media that now is actually more of an ad buy because it’s based on reach, frequency and CPM. So, yeah, man, it’s it’s a it’s an interesting model and one that, you know, I have some opinions on. But yeah, I, I’ll try to be somewhat diplomatic.

Jason Falls: [00:08:48] Well, you don’t need to be diplomatic here. This is we’re all real friends and the debate in the discourse is good and I love. But when you first started sort of your answer there, you you seem to be careful to treat the word influencer very different than the word influence. And that’s actually the gist of my book is, you know, we’ve got to reframe how we think about, quote unquote, influencer marketing and focus on the action more than the person or the channel that we’re using, because that’s ultimately the goal. We’re trying to influence an audience to take action what not. So you and I are way more in alignment then maybe you thought coming into this conversation. But but I do want to ask the question, though, so I totally agree with you and talk about in the book as well how there are the two different sides. There’s the transactional we need a post now. Go publicize this, move people to buy, etc. And then there’s the relationship building. And I’m glad to hear that Patrón has the perspective of, hey, we’re going to build this over time. What makes it what’s the crux of the decision when you have to say, OK, we have to push the transactional button as opposed to the other one where we’re going to sort of build a relationship?

Adrian Parker: [00:10:03] Yeah, it’s an excellent question. I view them as two sides of the same coin. So one is, am I pitching you to say something or am I paying you to say something? Right. So pitching to say is, you know, I know you carry influence and I’m trying to influence you because I truly do want I desire your audience. Right. Because you have influence over a number of people, a certain geography or demography. Whatever it is, I’m going to pitch you, so I’m going to position my product and my messaging to enable hopeful and potential placement right in your whatever media or your social media, etc..

Adrian Parker: [00:10:41] So I’m pitching you and I think and explaining I got a PR degree. So I’m a I’m a PR guy at heart. That’s a little known secret. I’m starting a PR agency. So pitching to say was what I did, like buy, buy, buy, practice. And I got the press clips and all that kind of stuff. When you’re paying to say, though, like paid endorsements, paid partnerships, which is not a bad thing, I mean, their entire sections and portions of marketing budgets and teams dedicated to paying people to say something, what is a paid endorsement? That’s where I think you have to be careful because depending on your category or your vertical of your product could actually be that short term transaction could actually be a detriment. So in our case, Patrón, because we grew so fast and so big, we never actually went back to tell people why Patrón is so expensive at that time. You know, when we launched 30 years ago, we were at 30 dollar bottle of tequila when everyone else was 15 bucks. Right. So but we have the back story to back it up. We have the credentials. I mean, 60 people touch every single bottle of Patrón with almost two thousand people in Mexico making every drop of it. We are by far one of the most handcrafted spirits, but also the most handcrafted tequila in the world at scale. And it defies logic to scale our artisanal process. But because of that. Right, it’s people perceive that, oh, Patrón, just pay somebody to do it. So we get asked all the time, hey, did you guys pay to have Snoop Dogg put you in the song or Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift or Lizzo is on stage at the VMAs chugging a bottle thrown. Right. And here’s what’s funny, Jason. When that happened, she had actually had an endorsement deal with absolute competitive company. And the category into thing was people.

Adrian Parker:[00:12:33] People always see us as kind of paying to say. And the reality is we don’t we didn’t have to. And I think for us, it’s probably more of a sensitive brand topic because I think we almost we get the perception that we pay, but we actually don’t, because we’ve we built relationships and we have the certainty in the product to really back it up. So I’m all about the pitch to say I think the pay to say has a role when it’s an endorsement. But I think when it when it goes beyond the transaction to true relationship, that’s where I think you could have longevity. You know, we all heard the stories of, you know, Jay-Z doing a Reebok deal as an endorser, but he’s wearing Nike’s right. And that happens all the time when you have a misalignment of either values or a misalignment of of expectations. So I think for us, it’s a it’s a trickier landmine because of where we are as a brand and a business.

Jason Falls [00:13:27] Well, and I can assure everyone out there, because I work in the spirits industry, too, that no spirits company would pay anyone to chug a bottle of their product on television because that would be like a super violation. And you’re going to get a lot of trouble for that. So but yeah, I mean, you’ve got a good product, though. And when you have good spirits products, they seem to emerge in places. You know, there are certainly endorsements out there. I mean, Jim Beam and Kid Rock have been, you know, sort of a partnership for about ten years or so now. But but there are plenty of songs out there that mentioned, you know, Hennessy and and Jim Beam and Jack Daniels and other things, that there’s really no pain going on. It’s just part of the pop culture. So, let me let me kind of dive into a different angle on this, because if you guys are focused on such relationship building and you’ve been able to take something artisanal, very hands on in the manufacturing side of world, a relationship type thing and scale, that how are you scaling or are you scaling those influencer relationships because you’re a huge brand? I would imagine you’re doing this with more than a half dozen people.

Adrian Parker [00:14:39] Yeah, you know, it’s it’s the paradox of like, how do you how do you scale authenticity. Right. And I think for a lot of influencer models, a lot of brands, I’ve obviously, especially in our industry because, you know, think about spirits, it’s a very discretionary purchase. A lot of it, you know, is you know, it’s a it’s a luxury at the premium level where you’re paying 40, 50 dollars for a bottle or 20 dollars for a cocktail. Right. And so that irrational desire that we have to build oftentimes is built upon perception is built on irrational perception. And I think for so long, it’s been about like, how do you rent trust? And, you know, how do you give the perception of trust, of the perception of relationship? So we’ve been renting relationships, I think, as an industry for so long that I feel like we almost forgot how to build a relationship. And I think for this has been going back to this, the this is a tried and true narrative of like, hey, welcome to our home. Come on down. And here’s the deal, Jason. That’s that was hard work, like getting a schedule where somebody can come down and explaining them three days in Mexico and then, hey, let’s work on something in the future. It’s so much easier to send you a brief, a budget and a schedule to post before us. We actually don’t have a ton of what you would call formal influence or partnerships. We do have what we call cultural managers. We will we have people who have been down to the hacienda. They spent time there and then, hey, you know, we are paying you for your time. So we’re always like, yeah, if you’re a photographer or you’re a DJ, whatever you do, we’re going to pay you for your time. So we’re going to we’re going to give you exchange for your time. But then, hey, you’re OK. You’re going to create something for your audience that is inspired by Patrón. And so I think a lot of some of the best influencer marketing it isn’t I think for so long, influencer marketing was probably seen as a shorthand or shortcut. And I think when it’s done right, it actually becomes a bona fide practice that you invest in. You get the right people, you get the right relationships, and it doesn’t become a short term pact. It becomes a longer term deal. But yeah, for us, we definitely focus on long term relationships and commitments and people who share our values as well. And so it’s it’s a harder task. It’s a it’s a lot messier, to be quite honest. But for us, because we make tequila the hard way, I think we’ve always embraced, you know, let’s build relationships the hard way, which is the way to do it. Right, for authentic relationships that’ll serve us maybe for this campaign, but service for years to come.

Jason Falls [00:17:13] So I know in the seven years or so you’ve been, you know, with Patrón Bacardi, I think you’ve also worked a little bit on Grey Goose and a couple other brands. Are there are there other opportunities or brands? And maybe even this goes back to, you know, Intuit or RadioShack or are there other brands where the the attitude towards influencers was this is we’re just going to use them for or at least in some some cases we’re going to use them for a transactional thing? This is not about building relationships. We’ve got to move needles now. And or have you always been the guy who raises your hand and says, this isn’t how we want to do it?

Adrian Parker [00:17:49] You know, I think for me, I’ve always been the pain in the butt at the table or on the call at the meeting who say, hey, hold up. Like who, are we? What is our criteria? Do they know our brand or business, etc.? So I’m on my team. Listen to this. They’re going to be like nodding their head like, oh, gosh, they probably like everyone. Well, here we go again. Right. And so I have criteria. Right? I have standards. It’s almost like somebody’s coming to pick my daughter up for a date. Right. And so what? They could be any relationship. Right. I check check the social accounts. And you know this because you’re in social, but the amount of fake fans and followers that have been deliberately amassed over the years, I won’t name any brand of celebrities. But there are tools where you can audit and I always audit. Right. And you’ll find disturbingly high numbers of fake or fraudulent bot accounts. That’s one. It’s a are they real to us? Hey, how they engage with competitors? Why are they this every week? It’s a new it’s a new brand. The new thing. Right. How do we build authentic relationships based on shared shared values as well? So I’ve always kind of been a stickler in terms of how we approach and get even on brands I worked on and with where they had a much more aggressive model. You know, and I think worst case is when you you have work on a brand or a campaign where. Hey is reaching frequency base, which isn’t bad to use reaching frequency, but when it’s so transactional, we’ve never worked together before. They hashtag it, you know, call it X brand sponsor, X brand partner. And you click on that hash tag you see on Instagram, all these posts that are so manufactured, so overly so for us to match the influence tactic with the brand objective. If the objective is authenticity or aspiration, hey, maybe work harder to build authentic relationships. But hey, you know, there are examples of brands where you would transactional is a limited time. So I wouldn’t I wouldn’t, I guess, decry or diminish the overall approach to to maybe being transactional on some brands I’ve worked on, I would say. And for me, I think that transactional short term should never be a replacement for building long term relationships. And that’s the the threat is that I can see teams or agencies start to think that transactional one day piece is a replacement for relationships.

Jason Falls [00:20:09] And that’s where I have to draw the line ranking things, these categories of influencer or influence prospects for me. I think I have my own perspective, but I want to hear your perspective, too, OK? You got three different categories of people specific to the spirits industry. You’ve got your online influencer. You’re you know, we have a name for a small group of them called Drinkstagrammers, you know, people who have nice followings online and they talk about cocktails and whatnot. And they have influence over people who might want to go buy or try a specific spirit. So that’s a Category one. Category two are not really they don’t have a big online audience. But there are people who are just really passionate about your brand. They really love Patrón. And so you’ve got influential online people who reach a cocktail community. You’ve got fans of your brand who maybe they don’t have a whole lot of online influence, but they’re really passionate about you. And then your third category would be bartenders rank those in order of importance for me.

Adrian Parker [00:21:11] Oh, that’s a good question. I’d say in terms of importance and actually would put bartenders is one because the bartender and only even if their social audience online is small because they have an overwhelming impact on the offline. If you’re at a restaurant or a bar and you’re ordering like that, that bartender can easily make a recommendation or unravel a perception that that could taint, I think, or help your brand. So I think bartender number one, I think we spend a lot of time only getting bartenders to Mexico, but we have we have an entire team dedicated to obviously building bartender relationships, educating them, giving them tools, etc.. It’s. Oh, yeah. To us by far. That’s the easy number one for bartenders. I think number two, I would look at probably brand brand fans. I think there’s people who have that natural gravity for your brand. And you look at Patrón, our brand health metrics are enviable. I mean, we’ve got like ninety six percent brand awareness, our consideration, our purchase. I mean, it’s it’s the heart. The strongest brand I’ve ever worked with is you hear names like RadioShack or I worked at Foot Action before they went bankrupt. So I mean so like I said, it’s easy for Patrón to be the big fish. But I think the brand fans are so, so critical because their offline conversations, not not in social, but in their families in business meetings are so critical. And then I think lastly, Drinkstagrammers.

Adrian Parker [00:22:45] I know some amazing people who are influencers in the cocktail space, et cetera. But I have noticed it is a very insulated community, meaning like the people I would follow who are drinks, the grandmas, like my wife had never even heard of them. Right. So it’s like it’s like this little echo chamber. I think that we have some times where I think disagreements have a role. But I would say, you know, I think the bartender, because I think the overwhelmingly impact the offline transaction, but the offline activation is I think because we know a lot of the power of influence leads to something that happens away from a social channel.

Jason Falls [00:23:22] Very good. So I love to hear you rank him that way, and I hope the audience paid close attention there because, you know, really, I kind of set Adrian up for that answer because I really wanted him to talk about the offline influence. And, you know, I talk about that a lot in the book. I talk about that a lot on this show. And that gets to the overall point is influence marketing in my mind, is not about finding a YouTube or an Instagram or someone on LinkedIn or whatnot. You know, to amplify your message. It’s about influencing an audience to take an action, to change a thought process or a perception or to try to buy a product. And there are people who are influential who are between you in that audience, but they can be anywhere. And I think in the spirit world, the bartender is the perfect example of that because like, you know, like Adrian said, the spirits brands that I’ve worked with, the bartender is often the most important point in that chain. And they don’t have to have any online presence at all. They just have to have people in their bar. And that’s that’s their job. That’s what they do. So, Adrian, where can people find you and connect with you online? Because I know there’s going to be plenty of people who want to follow up and pick your brain on this some more.

Adrian Parker [00:24:38] Absolutely. Yes. Thanks for having me. Jason, if you want to follow up, debate me or disagree. Absolutely. I welcome it. is my blog. Adrian D. Parker. And then, of course, that same for Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. Adrian D. D as in dog, Parker. So Adrian Parker, blog or social media definitely feel free to reach out and we can debate the merits of tequila or influences either one.

Jason Falls [00:25:08] Well, and and I’m going to be following up as soon as travel restrictions release a little bit here because I’m coming to the hacienda. I don’t even care if you’re going to invite me.

Adrian Parker [00:25:18] I’m just going to go absolutely long overdue. I can’t wait to get back down there. I mean, when you see our process and the way we make it, you will become even a bigger fan of Patrón. And I can’t wait to host you myself. So let’s definitely get that going as soon as we can.

Jason Falls [00:25:19] We’ll make it today.

Adrian Parker [00:25:20] Awesome man.

Transcribed by

The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.

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