Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 2 months ago

S1 Episode 18: Marketing Mixology & the Metaverse with Lander Otegui


As CMO of Proximo Spirits, Lander Otegui markets a host of spirits, including Bushmills Irish Whiskey and Boodles British Gin. But the most renowned brand under Otegui’s watch, legendarily comes from Mexico. Jose Cuervo is the world’s No. 1 tequila, and the first tequila brand on Earth. Now, it’s also the first tequila distillery in the metaverse. It’s one way Cuervo remains relevant with consumers. Sustainability is another. Agave-plant fibers, once discarded at the distillery, now fashion straws and other items, eagerly snapped up online. A native of Mexico City, Otegui was set for life as an engineer. But when he realized his love of drawing, building and deconstructing things applied to marketing, he never looked back.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How to be a David, when you are the Goliath
  • Why category founders should own and uphold traditions
  • There’s a tequila for every consumer and occasion
  • Follow your gut, then get others to buy in 

Brought to you by Mekanism.

Greetings everyone. This is our eighteenth episode and the last episode of season one, the inaugural season of soul and science. So far, we've interviewed some of the world's leading marketers and expert brand builders, and we really hope you've enjoyed our conversations and learned a thing or two along the way. We'll be back in a month, on September five, for the first episode of season two, where you can fast forward your marketing mind in about twenty minutes. We're joined this week by PROXIMO CMO landor or Tegi, a marketer who is constantly looking towards the future and finding new ways to reach the next generation of Tequila drinkers and get them to connect with the brand in an authentic way. Mechanism is excited that we got a partner with Jose Quevo on the world's first ever Tequila Meta distillery. We've helped build a world where socializing is the norm. In de Central Land, there are no strangers. The same goes if you're drinking Quervo, whether online or I R L. Our interactive distillery experience is designed with exploration and friendship and mind. You can meet new people virtually drinks some Quervo and toast your new friends. This activation launched yesterday, July, on National Tequila Day. Fans can head to Quervo Meta distillery DOT COM to visit. We'll be talking more about this and many other things in today's episode. Welcome to the PODCAST. Today I'm joined by Landor Otegi, CMO approximate spirits. Lander is an engineer with a passion for marketing, where he spent most of his career effectively merging the power of ideas and science. Landers received numerous awards for his work, including can Lyons, Effie's D N A, D one show, Cleo and many more. Throughout his career, he has been able to successfully create and grow multiple brands, expand, turnaround and acquire businesses in different categories and markets, with beverage alcohol being his expertise. He was born in Mexico City and he's very passionate about Tequila, and it's one of the fastest growing categories globally, and we're going to talk about that today. So thanks for joining us today. We really we know how busy you are, landers, so thanks for making the time. I always like to start with what is lander's origin story. I know you you had the engineer sort of path, but how did you get from there into marketing? And then once you were in the marketing how did you know it was like the right fit for you and it matched your skill set? I never planned to be on on marketing as a career, but I always loved marketing in different ways. So I was a big fan of creativity since I was a young child. So I love drawing, I love building things, I love, uh, deconstructing things and figure out how they worked. I think creativity has always been a passion for myself and something that I really, really enjoyed. One of the things I remember as a child as well was that I enjoyed actually watching ads. For some people hats are annoying, but I remember watching ads and thinking about what were the people making the add thinking about how they came up with with those ideas. So I was a little bit confused, to be honest, when I was about to enter university in Mexico and I I went to one of these Um uh, these places where they test your capabilities and they tell you more or less what you're going to be good at, and they basically told me that engineering was was my my my top choice based on my capabilities for for numbers, but also for solving problems, and I think solving problems is a big part of of what we do in marketing and solving problems for consumers. And I always kept marketing as a as a as a second time for me. I always said I'm going to study engineering and maybe I'll do a master in the future in marketing, because that's that's what I enjoyed the most. And and actually, when I was about to finish my career in Mexico, one of our our teachers was actually working for Queer in Mexico at the time and and he told me about an intern program that they were doing, like a trade program and he said, I... your profile and I think you should, you should be interviewing for this process. So there I went. I went into this interview process with with Cuerbo in Mexico as the as the largest spirits company there, and and here I am, many years ago, in this role. So it wasn't really planned for, but once I got there I really enjoyed and I really felt like I was in my in my household. I love what you said, though, because marketing and advertising really is deconstructing problems and it is figuring out how to architects success. So I liked that that background has served you well. Um, we started working with you guys around like the beginning of the pandemic actually, and one big focus that we collaborated on was really moving into more of engagement advertising with the audience and and less sort of just putting messages out there. Did you have a gut instinct that that was the way to connect with consumers? Yeah, so I think when I look back at right where I joined the company here in the US, there was a lot of very traditional marketing and traditional advertising, that that was the type of advertising and the type of messaging that was probably very successful in like the eighties and the nineties, where you were just putting out a message and the company that had the most amount of money was the most successful because they were the ones that were able to purchase the ads in the in the prime spot. So I think that the landscape has has been changing significantly for for every type of company, where you have now smaller brands that are much smarder and and much more flexible and and tech savvy that can really even even a tiny brand can have a message right on your phone in in the in a very cheap and very efficient way. So, uh people wanted to succeed as a company in the US, we needed to to ramp up our three sixty approach and not so been so much focused on on linear TV and traditional advertising. And I think if you look at Corbo's history, Corbo has always been about engagement and about connections, ever since the brand was born over two hundred and sixty years we've been pioneers and innovators ever since, since the creation of the company and the brand. And and at that point I felt like we were falling a little bit behind and we were also seeing a pretty a pretty big competitive landscape that was changing as well. There were many, many Tequila brands coming into the market and and obviously, as the as the biggest brand and the biggest company, you are the target for these smaller brands because you are the one that they can take the share from. So it was a red flag for us and we knew that we had to do things differently and we we knew that we needed to engage in a very different way with a new generation of of of Tequila drinkers. So it's been a major shift and I think we're finding success in in talking to consumers in a very different way, talking young talking to young consumers in a very different way, and we're seeing how they're appreciating the brand and how the brand has continued to grow in a category that's been on are by competition and celebrities and just a lot of noise and where we're still are our mother ship and it's it's still growing and I think it's a it's a very successful accomplishment to see the brand continue to be the number one after two D and sixty years, which is easy to say, but I don't think there's a lot of companies that can say that. Do you worry about all that competition, or do you feel like they're sort of going to come and go and you'll be the last man standing? I think if if you talk about the Tequila Category, I think we're excited with what's happening. Uh, this is something that we've been dreaming of for many, many years to see the explosion of the quill in the US the way it's happening right now. Because I think a rising tide brings all the boats afloats and I think we are. We're finally seeing that consumers are appreciating Tequila in a very different way and under seeing that the craft and the quality of the Kila is it's very different from from what they thought only twenty thirty years ago. And the way we we stay on top, I think it's being a big brand.

You have to be everywhere. It's having the right price, it's having the right size or the right formats for for consumers to enjoy being in the in the on premise, in the restaurants, in the bars. I mean there's a lot of trade practices that are very important, promotions, etcetera, but when you talk about the consumer, it's about being relevant. Engagement has been a big priority for us over the last few years, where where we saw consumers getting more interested in the in the in the Tequila making process, in the history, in who's behind the company, what are they doing in terms of production, sustainability, etcetera, so that that was one of our biggest shifts and understanding. Consumers are actually interested in knowing what goes inside a bottle and it's not just about how the bottle looks or how the bottle makes me look. And I think in that case, Guerbo has a lot of things to say. I mean being the first, being the number one, being the largest, but also being the one that cares the most about the category itself and and and being the one that really is trying to educate consumers on on Tequila. I love that. Um, there's the Quai brand and then you have different types of Tequila that you come up with. So how do you think about different audiences and the different marketing mix of products? We have products that are like ready to drink or ready to mix products, all the way up to really expensive high end tequill us like our two hundredsalio or Familia, which is the original luxury Tequila, the first text time Yeo Tequila, the one that created the whole luxury Tequila category many years ago. So obviously every every Tequila has its its consumer, it has it has its its occasion, it has its its own moment moments. And then you have tequill us that are more like your your everyday te Quilla, like traditional or core speciality, different styles and different price points. But all of our portfolios is high quality te quill us, if you look at it that way. We are producing it at the same distillery where we produced Ar Tequila's over two hundred and sixty years ago. As I said, the same traditional methods. We are the company that employs the most amount of people in the a gaby fields we own are the largest agab of crop in the whole industry. So when you see people thinking about core, was this big brand? Yes, we're big, but we're also big in the right way. We're not. We're not doing anything that's different from what we did many years ago. We're trying to keep the traditions, we're trying to keep the history and the and the practices that got us here, but at the same time we have been able to innovate and to create different products for different consumers. Right now, as you know, we were launching the traditional Cristallino, which is a category that we created a few years ago with one of our other brands, and it's now taking off in Mexico. That category is already over thirty percent of the market in Tequila, and it's also understanding what what consumers are looking for, and that's that's where we innovate. We pay attention to what consumers, bartenders are are thinking about or how they're using our products and we try to bring solutions to them. Some of the things that we're trying to do now is kind of re established what Cuerbo means, because for the longest time consumers thought about Cuerbo one way, but I think it was it was a lack of understanding and a lack of really seeing what's behind the curtain and what's behind that bottle, and I think you can see that when people go and visit the key L and when they visit our distillery and they hear about the history and they see that the actual thing being produced, it's a life changing experience for most of the people that that that visit. Also, I think the more we can build on on on Cuervos a franchise and the more we can tell consumers about the the importance and the role that Cuerbo has played in the in the category and the quality of the products that we put out from those factories and those distilleries, I think that's when when that halo effect touches every single thing that goes under the name Cuerbo, because there's a pretty strong history and there's a pretty reputable quality of products that come out of our distilleries and I...

...just think consumers need to rediscover what core is all about. I love that. And you also mentioned earlier sustainability. How do you see sustainability playing a role in the marketing mix and that consumers care about that? Now, funny enough, sustainability has always been part of Corbo, even before it was cool and it was another marketing angle. So, as as stewards and as creators of the category, we have a big responsibility to make sure that that Tequila continues for generations and generations and as a category expands and and and the needs for more a Gatherg to be planted. We are the ones that are most concerned or more involved in how do we make to kill as sustainable for the future. So we were the first to to start thinking about how do we produce the Kila in a much cleaner fashion and how do we make sure that that these production practices are as sustainable as possible with the technology that's available? I can tell you that we have from state of the art water treatment plants in all of our distilleries, where the water comes comes out cleaner than it than it came in. We use the AGA bagasses, the leftover from the from the cooking process and and let's see, the extraction of the juices from the a Gabor left with all the fibers. So we use that in our Romans as uh, we burn it to to heat our robens, for example. We recycled the Agab we use it as a composed for the AGABA fields as well. And most recently we've been experimenting with a Gaby Fibers to create many different things. For many years we've created clothing or or paper and things that are more like artisans and crafts. As you know, we've experimented with how do we use the Gaby fibers to substitute single use plastics, and we were very successful creating the the agave straws, which was so incredible demand. And we're experimenting and you'RE gonna see a lot of new plastic substitute products coming out from from the Corma brand in the coming years. I think we, as the stewards of the category, need to be focused on how te kill that should be in the next tent five years and how do we make sure that it stays as sustainable as possible, but being the number one you know, making making good revenue and good profit margins. Do you have to do some convincing to get that investment to figure out how to make things more sustainable? Is that take a lot of convincing, or is there like a shared vision where everyone knows that's the right thing to do? Or how do how do you think about sort of the internal marketing you have to do? You No, I think. I think for for us as a company, as a brand, since since it has always been part of our our D N A, it's it's not that it needs so much convincing. I think what what what we need to to convince, internally and externally, is that this is this is uh, this is a long term play, this is not going to add value today, you're not going to see the payoff today, but it's the right thing to do and I think brands that that are doing these type of things in a in a very strategic but are very but also a very creative way, that can communicate it to consumers in a very unique way, are the brands that are going to see the long term benefits ahead of anyone that's not doing I think that's a testament to how you stay number one is you have to always think about short term gains and profit and growth, but you also have to have one eye towards the long term future and if you wait to think about the future, you'll be way behind. Are there any obstacles you've had to overcome to keep your the status on top of the category? Yeah, yeah, and I mean I think recently there's a lot of those. But I think the way to stay relevant, as we said before, is for us and also since we're a family company, we're also always looking at the long term and how do we how do we prepare for for for the future, and how do we build not only capabilities, but also how do we make sure that the brands are going to be relevant and are going to stay at the top in the future, because we're not here for for quarter profits, we're here for Generational uh, you know, heritage and generational wealth. So for us it's all about focusing on the long...

...term and the challenges that we've seen. As you know, we were the first Tequila to be sent out of Mexico and and the brand that introduced the world to Tequila. So I think even even when you go back to the branch history, one of the biggest challenges was showing people what Tequila is and how you drink this and why this is a good thing to drink and how you mix it, the creation of the Margarita, the creation of the Paloma. I mean there's there's so many things that that that, as a company and as a category, we had to figure out to show the world that te killer is something that you want to drink and it's something that you want to see in drinking, this in drinking. So I think over the past hundred years, I think it was more about how do we carve our space in the in the spirits industry, and how do we show the world that that Thee Quilla is actually a craft, high quality spirit that can be compared with a scult or or or or a single malt or a CONIAC or anything that that's out there. It's at the same level of quality or are but also it's a category that that that allows you to have much more fun than than the other categories. But challenges recently, just to tell some stories, obviously, if you read the papers or if you read the new supply chain has been a major, Major UH constraint for most most package goods companies, and in our case it's been glass the one that's been, uh, you know, preventing us from growing more and from doing the things that we wanted. So when things like this happen, you have to be creative and you have to figure out how do we serve the consumer and serve our customers without without affecting the brand and not only the profitability but also the long term Um ambitions for the brand. So that has been one of the biggest challenges for us right now, which is how do we figure out as a portfolio, who gets the class, which brands we prioritize? And do you think the family run business, which is very unique for the size of the business, do you think that's helped you and your team focus on the future and the legacy and not about quarter to quarter maximizing profit? Absolutely, I think when when you have a company like in our case, that's owned by by a family that has a vision, not not only owned by a family that's part of the boarder or have shares in the company, but I have a family that has a vision and that have a priority that goes beyond making money and it's more about how do we make this category or this spirit the next biggest thing globally that continuity, that focus and that that ambition and that passion is what drives the whole company, which is very different from having a company that has a CEO that maybe can can be here for a few years and maybe they go out to the next thing and someone else comes and changes things around. So I think that that passion and that continuity has allowed us to continue growing the way we have and to focus on on the on the feature and the and the bigger picture than than the quarterly games. You obviously speak so passionately about Tequila. Where does that love for Tequila come from? How do you get that passion for Tequila? Well, first, first, first and foremost. Obviously, I'm from Mexico originally, so so I carry Tequila in my heart, although I wasn't really a big drinker of Tequila when I when I started drinking in Mexico, my first brand that I managed actually was was vodkas. So it wasn't even into Tequila until I was like two years into the into the company. And I think when you start understanding the craft and the history and when you start start meeting the people that make it and you go and shake the hands of the himlotes and you touch the agave and you experiment the whole process, I think you you automatically fall in love with it. I think the combination of me being from Mexico and loving my country the way I love it, and also working in this industry and understanding the the craft and the process and the and the history that the Tequila has, I mean it's it's just natural that that I'm really passionate about it and I think once you try our liquids, that's that's the best proo of concept, when... once you put one of our tequilas in a glass and you taste them. I mean that's when when your rights are really open and when you when you kind of validate that that everything that I said was actually true. Being from Mexico, you also feel like you're you're giving people a part of your your history and your country when they're getting into Tequila. Absolutely, yeah, I love that deeper idea. Um, you've obviously risen up within Proximo to the top and you are running a ton of different brands. What do you love and what's challenging about where? You said today. Well, one of the things that I love obviously right now is is the just how how the Tequila category has evolved and how the the U s consumer and just a global consumer is more open to to hear and what it is. In the past it was it was a pretty big challenge to get like, you know, a high end restaurant or even like a restaurant, wasn't that what's in Mexican to carry a bottle of Tequila in their menu. So just things like that. And now you see every single Italian, Japanese, every single hotel, every luxury account that that that sells any type of spirit are are caring Tequila. So that's that's really uh, like an outstanding accomplishment for the category and something that really motivates me to to do more. And we see how the how the category is going to be performing in the future and it's just feels us with energy and and excitement about about what's next. And I think another thing that's both exciting, exciting and frightening at the same time right now is just managing the whole uh, coming back from covid and managing remote flexible and the change of culture and the clash of culture has been between, you know, the old guard and the younger employees that we're hiring and what's the right balance. So that's something that I'm both enjoying but dreading at the same time. But but I think we're shaping off a really interesting culture at proximal and I think the future is only bright for us. Tell us a little bit about Meta distillery. You know, when you think about a two sixty year old company and then you think about the metaverse, as you know, the future. Tell me a little bit about that. Yeah, so obviously everyone was talking about it and everyone saw that's kind of coming. And I think also as as the first distillery and as the first Tequila brand, we wanted to be first, and that's always that we've always strived as a brand and and ever since we started seeing that this was actually a thing, we said, we need to be the first ones out there and we need to be the first ones to show up, not only as a way of showing up. We're not the type of brand that just those stunts for the sake of doing it. We wanted to do that as a again, as a as a way to stay relevant for the coming year. So we're not in just for for a blip. The way we're approaching the metaverse is something that can stay for many, many generations as well, if the metaverse becomes that type of thing. So we are we are thinking about this us a way too, to maintain that relevance and approach our consumers in a in a very unique way. We're kind of following their journey and offering different types of experiences and different types of options in the way they can uh, you know, connect with the brand. But this is this is a story that will hopefully last for for as many years as the actual distilleries today. I love the sort of juxtaposition between the oldest Tequila brand, but you also want to be on the bleeding edge and be first two new things. There's all kinds of new things. You know, every year something's last, some things don't. Do you use data? Do you use your gut that? How do you manage? How do you use the head and the heart to make those decisions of where it's right for Jose quaerever to show up? Yeah, so I think in this category in particular, hard to me, is the biggest driver, because the spirits category and the and the the Tequila category in particular, it's a very emotional category. Yes, yes, there's there's a lot of truth about the quality of the liquid, but it's it's about the connections, it's...

...about being there and sharing with friends. So this category is mainly driven by the heart. So that's that's how we think of things and of course there's a lot of validation and a lot of data that we used to to make sure that that our hunches are are right and that the way we're kind of guiding the brand is actually true. But I think we are very guided by the heart, not only by the passion of our owner, but also by the by the way this category behaves. We're not a transactional category, where we see ourselves more as a lifestyle category, and that's something that consumers are really, really passionate about. So the heart has to be at the forefront of what we do, with a ton of data that validates every single move. Do you believe in doing a lot of testing, or do you believe in doing experimenting to see results, or do you like to do a lot of testing before you put ideas out into the world? I think we are. We're a very entrepreneurial company in that way. So we like to test, oftentimes just to see if there's a major risk. But we don't know overtest things. We Are we're very flexible, we're kind of we think of ourselves and I think we act like we're much more dynamic company than than with some people think of giving our size. But we do testing mainly for validation and for and for just measuring any red flex than overtesting, because consumers are not always going to tell you what they want. I mean there's there's an auld saying, you know from Henry for that. He says if I would have asked consumers, they would have told me they wanted faster horses. So so there are there's a lot of times when testing is an overkill. So we we try to be driven by, as I said, by the heart and then use testing as validation of the concepts and as a way to fine tune and redirect. And we've failed many times, but I think we've been successful the most most of the time. I'm gonna ask you some personal questions now. Did you grow up, maybe professionally or personally, with any role models that helped kind of guide the person that you are today? So I think maybe I'm a little bit boring in that way because I don't have a single role model or figure, but I like to collect the things that I like about different individuals and make an imaginary role model for myself. But I think that the people that I admire the most in terms of of like from a from a business stand for from a from a creation standpoint, where like the the creators from the seventeen hundreds and the eighteen hundreds, when you talk about the the test lasts or the or the or the Guttenberg's or the people that live in that area, that the beaches of the world, those guys were. I think that that the biggest innovators and the biggest creators and the and the the biggest restakers that you could ever see, because they were doing things that were completely h out of the ordinary by themselves and they were seeing things that no one else was seeing. And when I compare those creators to the to the model creators, where there's probably more like a team effort and there's a lot of information and technology around, when back in the day it was just I have this crazy idea. I don't know how I'm going to get there with Thomas Alba Eddison and figuring out how how to create a light bulb and I think those ever since I was a child, I was always impressed and admired by the by the fact that these people were creating these things, you know, in a basement with the with the garbage they could find in their labs. So I think those people, to me, were like I want to be one of those creators or renovators. I want to be someone that creates something that can stay for generations and something that people can find useful. Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you always repeat or you go back to when things are good or when you have an issue? Do you have anything like that in your arsenal? It's less so a Mancha, but but I think it's it's more connected to what what we talked about before, like the soul and science of the heart. I think every time I I have a hunter, I think like this is the right thing for... to do. I think it's like follow your God, follow your heart. That's gonna that's gonna be the thing that matters at the end. And I think when, when you do that, and even when people around you might think either you're you're crazier, or that's not gonna work, or or that's that's that's not the way we should solve this problem. I think when you when you really follow your your heart and you and you find out a way to to convince the people around you, I think that's where you find the most successful. To me, it's more, it's more than a mantriates that it's a way of living. Like if you have this this feeling that, as a marketer and as a creator, you you also probably feel that every day you have a great idea is this is the right thing. Let's let's figure out a way to get it done and let's follow our our God and our instinct, and let's get people around it to believe in the same thing. Yeah, follow your God, I think is powerful as the mantra. And my last question. What's your favorite drink? If you had one drink, your last drink on earth, what would it be to kill on the rocks? A good, High Quality Tequila on the Rock. What Tequila? UH, Familia, it's one of my favorite tequilas. Now, if you haven't tried it, you should get get a bottle. Amazing. Thanks for your your wisdom and uh, it's been really insightful and we really appreciate the time on the podcast. Thank you very much, chason. Thanks for having me here, thanks so much for listening to soul and science and we'll see you next week. Soul and science is a mechanism podcast produced by the unbelievable Frank Risco, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Nielsen, Emma Swanson and we'll lead Jablonsky. The show is edited by Daniel Ferrari, theme music by Kyle Merritt, and I'm your host, Jason Harris.

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