Most people assume that PatrÃ³n tequila has been around
forever. But it wasn't until 1989 that Ilana Edelstein's late life partner,
Martin Crowley, returned from Mexico with the "liquid treasure" which he,
Edelstein, and co-founder John Paul DeJoria (also co-founder of the Paul
Mitchell line of hair products), would grow into one of the world's most
recognized liquor brands.
Amazon.com spoke with Edelstein about her first book The Patron Way: From Fantasy to Fortune - Lessons on Taking Any Business From Idea to Iconic Brand, which details the story of PatrÃ³n's rise and
paints an intimate portrait of her role in the creation of an iconic brand.
What led to your decision to write this book?
It's been over ten years since I've been with PatrÃ³n. And
after my time with PatrÃ³n, friends and foe"”everybody"”kept nagging me to write
a book. But I just wasn't able to go there yet, you know? The experience was
still too raw with me. But I guess something shifted two and a half years ag
I bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in years. We were updating each other on
what we'd been doing and she said, "You should write a book," as they all would
say. And at that moment I said, "Yep, I am gonna write a book!"
You're bound to reach
an audience of entrepreneurs curious about starting businesses in the spirits
industry. Do you have words of warning? Words of encouragement?
They would be words of encouragement. Those words are the
same for any kind of business. Do your research, do your homework, then apply
it. Cover your bases. Be thorough. Follow your own best sense. Everything we
did at PatrÃ³n was approached with how we as customers would respond to it, how
it would affect us. We just assumed everyone was like us. We were in our own
little bubble, I will admit. But we are just humans at the end of the day. And
[our marketing decisions at PatrÃ³n] affected people the same way.
What do you consider
your greatest marketing contribution to PatrÃ³n?
If I have to choose just one? With Martin and I we never
took ownership of ideas in the sense of "this idea is mine, this idea is
yours." So it's hard to say. But one thing I brought, whether consciously or
not, was femininity to a spirits brand that didn't have that. Whatever
promotions we did, we had as many females as males there. And we weren't
actually doing it on purpose. By accident, that's what happened with me being
involved. Martin was a bit macho, but he had a feminine side too. So he was able
to embrace those things that I brought to the table. And he singlehandedly put
me in touch with my creativity. I had no idea I was creative before that, which
was pretty amazing.
If you were launching
the PatrÃ³n brand tomorrow, and not the late 1980's, how do you think the
experience would be different?
When we were launching, we didn't know how our competitors
were doing. We didn't know how the industry was doing. So we had to come up
with our own way. So if we were doing it now with the same ignorance, we would
probably just do whatever we felt the moment called-for, just like we did then. It
might have played out differently because of the times. You know, we never
followed a business plan! We were both business people, we had business
backgrounds. The operations were set up in the normal way, but the marketing is
what really set it apart. And that pricing"”we priced the products so the
distributors would be making a bigger profit. So it's obvious why they'd want
to sell our product over another one.
You mention in the
book that one of the cornerstones of the brand marketing was the connection
with celebrity. Would that still be the case if you were launching today?
Absolutely, if you have the ability to. We did, because of
1) living in Los Angeles, and 2) John Paul [DeJoria]. People follow celebrities;
they think they know more, that they know the good stuff. And that's why
they're paid millions of dollars to endorse products. Which we never did! When
it's an "organic" endorsement, it's much"¦louder"¦I think.
Beyond PatrÃ³n, when
you think of brilliant marketing campaigns, what comes to mind?
In its day, I thought Absolut Vodka's Andy Warhol campaign
was amazing. He did all these art bottles. It was brilliant. I also saw a
brilliant billboard the other day. It was for Saab. It said something to the
effect of, "Tired of German techno? Try Swedish Metal!" Isn't that good?
The work or writing
seems dramatically different than how I envision the work of marketing PatrÃ³n.
Very much so. Writing is very solitary, and at a desk. [PatrÃ³n's
] marketing was everywhere else. And it's certainly not solitary. Especially in
the liquor business, it's all fun! You're out. You have your PatrÃ³n girls
handing out sips. You know, it's not hard giving away free booze! Everything
that surrounds that industry is fun and celebration"¦there's nothing better than
marketing a consumable.
The PatrÃ³n Way is abusiness book, but the more I read, the more I feel this book is
just as much an homage to Martin Crowley, your late life partner.
It absolutely is. Would I have preferred it to end a
different way? Absolutely. But I wouldn't change a thing. I had the ride of my
life. I had the love of my life, which I don't think I'll ever replicate. I had
the most amazing good fortune for 13 years, on every level. The business was
intertwined with us. We were not separable, the three of us: [Crowley], me, and
the business. [Our relationship] didn't end well, but I was very sad when he
died. He was a brilliant entrepreneur and an incredibly creative guy. If you
met him, you might not have liked him, but you certainly never would have
forgotten him. I'm not saying everyone didn't like him, but you either took to
that kind or you didn't. This book is a big tribute to him.