Brands on Fire: DIAGEO Marketing SVP Talks Don Julio Apple Vision Pro App

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

Don Julio Tequila is developing an app for the Apple Vision Pro, launching this spring, which will virtually transport consumers to Mexico to experience the brand’s four-part tequila-making process.

Just a small portion of the public has the $3,500-device on hand, of course. But leading with high-tech consumer experiences was the key driver here, according to DIAGEO, and some content will be distributed through other channels to build awareness.

The goal is to create “a destination where the brand is a portal for transporting people to modern Mexico, and whilst we are doing it, helping people experience what it means to make tequila and all the magic that’s involved in it,” said Sophie Kelly, SVP of Global Tequila and Mezcal Categories at DIAGEO. “And before long, they’ll get more and more scale. So why not get in there in the beginning—start, learn, experiment and understand what a great experience is—before everybody else is in there doing it?”

We spoke with Kelly about the creative development process, content distribution, brand awareness strategies, DIAGEO’s “Breakthrough Innovation team” and other tech-enabled products in development.

Chief Marketer: What’s behind the decision to create an experience for the Apple Vision Pro?

Sophie Kelly, SVP of Global Tequila and Mezcal Categories at DIAGEO: The heart of our brands is about creating experiences and being on the leading edge of how we translate those cool experiences to consumers. So when you look at this as a piece of tech that can enable you to transport people and have an experience that they maybe couldn’t access otherwise, it felt like a good area to start to experiment with. We can’t get people at scale to the agave fields… to see the process and be part of the magic. So capturing that in a way that transports people there is amazing.

The other part is Mexico City, the nightlife, the culture, the arts, the creators that are emerging. How do we capture that and bring it to more people and more fans?… We become a channel or a destination where the brand is a portal for transporting people to modern Mexico, and whilst we are doing it, we’re helping people experience what it means to make tequila and all the magic that’s involved in it. Did we have to do it, given the scale and size of the experience? No, but I feel like that’s the point of tech. It’s to help you explore, experiment and understand how you can create new experiences for consumers. And before long, they’ll get more and more scale. So why not get in there in the beginning, start, learn, experiment and understand what a great experience is before everybody else is in there doing it?

CM: And why is Don Julio the brand for this?

SK: Bringing modern Mexican culture to the world and as a result of it, the food, the cocktails, the spirit and the vibrancy of Mexican culture, is something that only Don Julio could do…The the brand purpose is to bring modern Mexican luxury to the world… and this is an awesome way to start, whether it be the experience of going to the agave fields, being transported there, the making of the product, or even just nightlife across Mexico. It’s a little bit disruptive, and hopefully appealing to people who like to travel, explore, experiment and learn about new things.

CM: You’re still creating the experience, but can you share any details?

SK: We are working with Trigger XR, to capture content in the agave fields and of the process. Right now we’re working out what the minimal viable product looks like. We’re starting with being in the fields, how we make the tequila and introducing people to our brand home in that. Then we’re taking that out into nightlife and modern Mexican culture. We’re in the process right now of mapping out what the chapters of the story would look like and making sure that it has as much interest to it as the tech does in the Apple Vision Pro. It can’t be that linear; it has to open up doors and new experiences. You have to get started and do the minimal viable product and then add to it over time.

CM: Are you distributing the experience beyond the Apple Vision Pro?

SK: We’ll start our channel on the device, and some of the content we’ll seed in other mediums or channels. It won’t be the same as the content that’s on there, but hopefully it’ll build awareness. Then also, we’ll do events, whether we’re activating in Coachella, Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead… we will have experiences… You can’t just look at who’s got the device and where that’s going. You have to look at the broader people you will touch through the channels that we already have available to us. And hopefully this will enhance the experience at those.

CM: Given that you’ll need to continually build on the experience as the product evolves, what’s that creative process like?

SK: We have a breakthrough innovation team all around the world. We’re working very closely with them and our head of digital… to create the experiences. You need to have a small team that is allowed to own it. And you need to run it like a project team with certain gates on approvals. But you need to have enough confidence and empower the team to go and explore. You can’t have 10 different senior stakeholders involved in approving the content.

The key thing to keep in mind is… Why would I want to go here? As a consumer, what’s in it for me? How do I find out about it? And when I go there, what either entertains me, surprises me or is super useful to me?… Beyond production values and making sure it’s super beautiful, enticing and premium, [it’s] making it interesting enough to make people want to go and open it up. No one needs another thing to have to go and do. You have to go and do it because it adds something to what you’re interested in.

CM: What does the global breakthrough innovation team do?

SK: They work on tech-enabled products. This is just one part of our digital ecosystem that we’re developing for tequila and Don Julio. Another part of it is working with a product called Halo, which allows consumers to digitally go in and play with the brand world assets and create their own custom labels. It allows customization at a level we haven’t had before. Another one is working with AI to develop your personal bartender for home. The other one is a system to purely educate people about the liquids and profiles of different tequilas. And that’s the one where we are matching with influencers and bartenders in the drinks business to make it an at-home experience. The challenge is making it frictionless, but entertaining and something that you would share as you’re socializing at home.

They are a group set up to focus on finding the tech and helping create and enable the experiences we develop on them alongside the people who own the brand. It’s great because it allows them to run in parallel with the rest of the business and for us to get ahead and learn on new tech opportunities… We can’t have an experience where the tech is leading. The tech needs to become invisible. The experience needs to take over.

CM: What’s next for the brand this year?

SK: From that perspective, it’s playing across the total ecosystem and making each of these experiences feed each other, whether that is people going to an Apple Vision Pro app, or bringing our AI virtual bartender into home, or going to e-comm to do gifting and to customize, or logging into our virtual educational immersion session on digital.

The focus is to get all of these things happening across the digital ecosystem, learn how people are interacting, and how we’re potentially changing how they feel about the brand. I’m also interested in how digital and AI can generate packaging and product. The end goal would be to see all that working… and then to help that feed what people want from the brand in the future, and send signals back to us to make better experiences for people.

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