UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#23: Navigating In-Person Brand Activations with Dragon Spirits Marketing

Dragon Spirits founder Lamar Romero joins Alison and Karin to discuss his brand activation strategy in a post-pandemic world, offers hope in the form of humanity’s need to congregate, and shares his business philosophy. 

Romero revolutionized the brand ambassador marketplace by creating a more inclusive workplace. He does not believe in the need to hire models to sell products, instead focusing on personality and work ethic. The result is a flourishing business specializing in the marketing of wineries, distilleries, breweries, and consumer products. Romero is always thinking ahead. In a world filled with uncertainties, he’s prepared Dragon Spirits to be a certainty within the marketing industry.

Invest in Dragon Spirits here: https://wefunder.com/dragon.spirits.marketing/

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#23: Navigating In-Person Brand Activations with Dragon Spirits Marketing

[AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPT MAY BE SUBJECT TO MINOR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS/VARIATIONS]

Alison Smith:

Welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Alison and Karin, co-founders of Umai Marketing, and we’re being joined today by Lamar Romero. He’s CEO, executive dragon from Dragon Spirits Marketing. Dragon Spirits is the number one brand ambassador gig marketplace, that helps match growing brands with passionate brand ambassadors for activations across the US. Welcome, Lamar.

Lamar Romero:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Alison Smith:

We’re glad to have you. So, let’s get right into it. We’re curious, how did Dragon Spirits… First of all, we love the name and we love the background. We like how you just own it, so tell us more how Dragon Spirits came to be.

Lamar Romero:

Sure. Yeah, my wife and I actually started in the tequila industry. I came out of high tech, and one day my wife came to me and she said, “Hey, think about helping this tequilero. He needs help with his tequila, and we should do this.” And I was like, “Great. I’ve got some 401k left to sacrifice. Let’s go and do that.” And so we helped push a tequila in Texas for a whole year, back in 2012, and figured out we really like the industry and there was a lot of things we wanted to change. So, Dragon Spirits became a thing because while we were doing that, I’d see a lot of promotion going on that was typically by model types that are in their early twenties, and unfortunately didn’t know a lot about the brands that they were pushing.

Lamar Romero:

And so, I mistakenly or unmistakenly looked at my wife one day and I said, “If I work in this industry, I’m going to change everything. I’m going to teach these people how to sell. I’m going to train them, and educate them, and make sure they can go out there and do a great job.” And for better or for worse, that’s what we did. And we chose the name Dragon Spirits because we wanted to be different. We didn’t want to be model company this, or model company that. We wanted to basically… We were the first in 2013, to my knowledge, to change the paradigm. We didn’t hire people based on looks at all, we’re one of the only companies at the time that didn’t have body measurements on their website application. We just said, “Hey, if you have a great personality and you want to promote, you can come be a dragon.” And that’s how it took off.

Karin Samelson:

What an old school crazy approach, that happened for so long, even in CPG, at trade shows and things like that. And you just never really… Have you ever stopped to actually think about what’s happening, models being hired because they look good?

Lamar Romero:

It’s still a thing. And I’ll tell you, when I was just beginning, we had businesses that literally wouldn’t hire us because they’re like, “No, we’ve seen your people in the field.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but that person I just hired who’s not a model looking gal, just sold 20 units of that thing, while that other gal who was right next to her sold two.” And so, that just became our thing. And then now you fast forward to 2021, now look, models are still a big part of the industry. And I have nothing personal with a model or somebody who’s attractive, if you can be attractive and go out and sell great, then you’re a triple threat, and you’ve got a great personality. And so, we welcome folks from all walks of life. Some of my best dragons have been retired 70 year old people, that go out and just do a great job. So yeah, but I’m with you there. It is an old school industry, and it still is, but it is shifting just because everything’s shifting. We all have to, we all have to change.

Alison Smith:

I’m really glad you noticed that, and decided to make a change with the brand that you started. And just thinking about that, it’s like, I am much more likely to approach a 70 year old woman or man who wants to give snacks or liquor, than like a super hot person. That is much more relatable.

Lamar Romero:

It is, and that approachability is important. I had a small liquor owner tell me that at a trade show. He was like, “You know what I like about your folks? Is that I feel comfortable, because the mom who’s shopping with her kid can be approached and have a conversation, and not feel like,” like exactly what you just said.

Karin Samelson:

Awesome. Well, so let’s just talk about the current state of brand activations in person, especially with how crazy the past couple years have been, and how it kind of looks like it’s going to be shaping out to be in the future. So tell us more about this, and what you see happening in 2022 with this shift.

Lamar Romero:

Yeah, absolutely. First, let’s define brand activation. Brand activation is a tasting, or a trade show, or festival or a street team. It’s basically activating your brand where crowds get together. And regardless of what’s going on with COVID, or any other social shifts that we’re seeing with technology, people still like to get together. So, we feel like this type of brand activation is going to continue, and now it’s going to be offset or added with other strategies, such as social media marketing and advertising as well.

Lamar Romero:

But the brand activation industry is definitely going to a place where, especially for small and medium businesses, it needs to be affordable, and it needs to be available. And I’m seeing a lot of small businesses really like what we’re doing. In other words, being out there, even if you can only afford a couple of activations a month. To be at that clutch store, or that clutch festival, and have some help have, some hands there that know your brand, can do the heavy lifting while maybe you’re off meeting with the store owner who might be present at that particular festival or activation, is absolutely critical. And so, part of what we’re trying to do is set up a system to where small businesses can utilize our technology without having to spend a lot of money every month.

Alison Smith:

That’s cool. And you mentioned how brands, this goes beyond just having an in person activation, what data are you collecting and using, that brands can use across all platforms, and digital marketing and everything else?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. When we go back and talk about what an old school industry, I can remember one of my competitors back in 2016, was literally having their brand ambassadors fill out a piece of paper, take a picture of it, and submit the at as a report. Like, what are you going to be able to do with that data? While we were exporting everything to a spreadsheet, and giving nice rows, and columns and tables, that was considered, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you actually do that.” Now, as we go forward in 2021, it’s all about data visualization. And so, we’re doing a WeFund right now, we’re raising a million dollars so that we can take our homegrown software application, the Dragon Engagement Network, or the dragons’ den, where the dragons live, and we’re trying to reshape it to where we can give true data visualization to our customers. So that if you had 10 reports done in the state of Texas, and they were at all different cities, you could be able to say, “What was my spend in Houston, versus Austin? How many units did I sell SKU, versus that SKU?”

Lamar Romero:

If you’re a national company, you’re a big company, that’s doing hundreds of activations a month, what is it looking like per region? What is it looking like per store? What is it looking like when I went to that festival? Where did my follow through come after that festival? And so, that kind of data is what we’re providing, I would say, in a light way, and hoping we’re going to be providing that in a heavy way as we go forward in 2022 and 2023, when we add some of these features to our software solution.

Alison Smith:

That’s pretty cool. And I imagine just collecting a ton of in person, real qualitative data along the way, helps people define their core customer and all that.

Lamar Romero:

Absolutely. Capturing maybe some demographics that you’re seeing, capturing how many people you saw, how many units you moved, those are the basic metrics that we’re looking at. But also, even when we get to the nitty gritty details, like what were some of the comments about my product? I remember one time we had a client that we simply, after reading all the reports we’re like, “I don’t think I can help you. I don’t think this is working.” And a lot of the comments would come back that it just didn’t taste right, didn’t have the right feel. And I tried to communicate that as honestly as I could, because I never want to be in a place where we’re not providing value. We agreed to walk away, but those were good comments. That is what you want brand activation, whether it’s good or bad, you want to hear whatever data that’s being provided, so that you can go out and do a better job. And so for better or for worse, that’s the kind of data that we collect when we do these brand activations.

Alison Smith:

Yeah. It’s easy to forget, but it’s does need to appeal in some way to some sort of people. So that is extremely important, and just on the digital marketing side, we need that sort of data as well. We’re looking through Amazon comments and social media comments, to try to really understand the customer, and their pain points, and what they are like, and what they’re interested in. So, it’s really cool that you’re collecting that kind of data.

Lamar Romero:

Thank you.

Karin Samelson:

Yeah. A big question I have, and I think that some people that are listening may have is, wait, how do you set these folks up for success? What does training look like for your dragons?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. We got to remember that we’re part of the gig economy. And so, this was the gig economy before it was cool. When models were doing this in the eighties and nineties, nobody called it that. They’re like, “Yeah, I got a modeling gig.” But this is a core part of the gig economy. So one, we’re trying to get gig workers out there to realize that they could do this. If you have a personality, and you want to make 25 to $30 an hour being in one place for three to four hours, not putting wear and tear on your car, and telling the story of a brand and exciting people, then this is the job for you. But now when we find those folks, that’s the secret sauce around how at least we do it.

Lamar Romero:

We actually have a culture test that a dragon must pass in order to even be interviewed in the system. So, half the dragons that apply don’t even take it. Of that half, about 70% of them pass it with an 85 or greater. Once we get that core brand ambassador, and they do the interview, the interview process is more like, “Wow, you’re going to educate me? You’re going to teach me these brands? The other seven firms I worked for didn’t. They didn’t give a damn, they just gave me a sheet.” And so, they get a quick expectation that man, you’re going to be taking a lot of tests here. Because we can’t train gig workers, but we can educate them. And so, then we have over a hundred courses set in our own learning management system within our software. So for instance, there’s a beer course. How do I be deadly just knowing what beer is, and how it’s made, wine, scotch, bourbon?

Lamar Romero:

But then it goes to brand-centric, now you got to pass this achievement, and get this badge on your profile for, like 50 Cent for his Branson brand that we represent. I personally made that achievement for 50’s team, because 50 Cent wasn’t going to make a branding video for nine or 10 minutes to do this. But we wanted to make sure that we went out and represented him well, to really hit the core things that he wanted to talk about. Like, “This is a luxury brand. This is a brand for people who are celebrating life.” And so, to get those essences to a brand ambassador, you have to have a good, repeatable, scalable solution to do so, and that’s what we do with our Dragon Achievement System, to basically educate these dragons so they can go out, and they can promote and really tell the story, and not just say, “Hey, I’ve got a sample of this thing.”

Karin Samelson:

That’s so cool. I mean, at 25 to $30 an hour, take some tests, and get your expertise up and go kill it. If you’re an extrovert, you’re good at talking to people, you can absolutely do this. So, do you only do this for spirits brands? Or have you ever done it for just like food and beverage?

Lamar Romero:

Oh, absolutely. We do this for beer, wine, liquor and food CPG brands. We’ve had some good success with selling cassava flour pretzels. Once the COVID relinquishes itself a little bit and grocery opens up more, we’re going to be doing tastings around a pickle salsa. So, CPG is something that I’m really wanting to attack more. Even though there’s spirits in the brand, and that’s how we started, we’re Dragon Spirits, but we’re the spirit of a dragon. And so, we want to go out and really promote any type of small and medium sized business that’s growing, to do this all across America. And right now we’re in… We went from three states in 2020, to a little over 30 this year. And that’s how we’ve expanded our footprint so quickly. And I’d say we have our toes in a lot of these other states, but we do have like five or six states that we’re core in right here in the United States so far, while we’re still bootstrapping.

Alison Smith:

Fast growth. Well, unfortunately I have to ask it: You’d brought up COVID, and I am so interested to hear what happened when COVID happened? It’s still happening, obviously. How did that change the trajectory of your business, and people who rely on activations?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. Well when 2019 ended, I can remember doing a champagne toast to my wife and having a tear in my eye. Because we had been building our business for seven years, and we finally felt like we were going to make it, like 2020 was going to be our year. In March of 2020, we canceled every activation in the system, we waived all fees, and we sat on our hands for six months as we waited to see what was going to happen. I have to say that government assistance was hugely important to us. I furloughed everybody except for myself and my financial person, and they all got paid well enough to be furloughed, and to take care of their families during this time.

Lamar Romero:

But I found that coming out of COVID, was a lot of pent up demand. So at the end of 2020 Q4, we went from no revenue to instantly profitable in Q4 2020. Because when the floodgates started opening, brand activation was huge. And then finally karma happened for our company, in terms of our achievement system, because I had made an achievement based on the COVID, that you had to wear your mask, and you had to pass our test, and you had to watch our video and understand you need to go out there with gloves and a mask, and you weren’t going to argue with nobody, and you were going to go do it, and you’re going to be good at it, and you’re going to get an extra $5 in pay for doing it. And that really worked, because then all of a sudden we had stores going, “Hey, go hire those dragon guys. They know what they’re doing. They’re the only ones showing up completely COVID ready.” And so, we got a lot of business coming into Q4 2020.

Lamar Romero:

So when I look back at it, [crosstalk 00:17:14] yeah, and then government money too, with PPP loans that were forgivable. So when I look back at it, I think I actually might look back at COVID and go, well, that might have been a real turning point for our business for the better. We’re not out of the weed yet, so I can’t go back and look at it like that yet. But we learned to adapt. And just I’ll always keep saying, digital’s extremely important, but people aren’t going to stop congregating in groups, we’re human beings. So this type of brand activation’s always going to be important. It’s going to change, and it’s going to alter itself. But getting in front of a group of people and going, “I’ve got this wonderful thing, and you need to try it,” is still going to appeal to folks as we continue in this post COVID world.

Alison Smith:

That’s really cool to hear, that you guys were prepared and keeping it safe, and it sounds like you did it right. I am curious though, do you talk to your brands openly about this? And what’s the backup plan that brands should have in their back pocket, if things are to shut down, if or when things are to shut down again?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. I always tell my brands that brand activation strategy is just one part of your marketing strategy. When I see a brand’s just doing that, I actually try to have a talk with them of like, I can have an honest conversation, say, “Hey, you might need to back up some of these efforts with some social media.” Maybe drive people to our brand activations, whether it’s a festival or a trade show, or a tasting or a demo. Because you have to have a full, round strategy, and we can only control what we can control. So, as Omicron is the new scare, and we’ve already seen our Northern markets start to shut down, New York is shutting down right now. What we do, is because we already have a very friendly business way of doing things, we don’t have any contracts. We’re of the only companies that I know that do this, that don’t have contracts, so you can come and go as you please.

Lamar Romero:

So, if somebody’s got 20 activations in the system, that are going to be fulfilled for the rest of the month, and COVID shuts it down, usually there’s cancellation fees if you pull something out. But we’re like, “Hey, we’ll waive all cancellation fees. It’s not in your control.” And so, we just try to do the right thing, and hopefully that brand’s got some other marketing strategy, because now that brand activation part of it is being shut down. And that can really hurt a growing brand, especially if you’ve just got an A to B, and you’re like, “Man, I’ve got to really show some movement in my product,” and they killed one of your main marketing engines, which is, “I have to get this liquid to lips, or this food to mouth, because everybody’s going to be amazed by it, and now I can’t do that.” Find some other great folks that you can consult with, that can help you in your or other marketing. I know two other individuals I could think of on this line, that could help with doing that type of marketing. Because for right now, brand activation ain’t part of it.

Karin Samelson:

Wow. We love that omnichannel approach, you got to be hitting people from all sides.

Lamar Romero:

Absolutely.

Karin Samelson:

For brands that aren’t in retail yet, what are some amazing other places that they can have brand activations?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. We just did a great brand activation for a client of ours, at Startup CPG, which was basically out in front of about a hundred to 150 folks in Austin, right at Ellis Bar. Brand activation can happen anywhere, and we actually encourage brand owners, especially just starting out, you need to go do it yourself. First of all, you’re the founder, or you’re the founding group of people, and you’re going to sell better than even a trained brand ambassador could. For the most part, we do have some brand ambassadors that can run circles around everybody including me. But for the most part, a founder’s going to do better. And then go and feel that pain, and then when you start getting to a place where you can’t be at five places at once, that’s when you’re going to call us.

Lamar Romero:

But you have to be at house parties, or farmer’s markets, or anywhere you can, where you can get in front of a group to start showing off that brand. Because you never know what’s who’s going to be at that party. I actually remember doing a brand activation, I used to do event parties. And so, I did a brand activation at some wealthy folks’ house, and one of the folks in there was a person that worked at HEB. Came up to me and said, “Hey, what do you know about this? I’m in love with this.” And I said, “Hey, I can put you in touch with the person who makes this.” And then a few months later, that product made it into HEB. So you just never know, so you got to go out there and you got to get in front of groups, however and whenever you can.

Karin Samelson:

The power of networking. It’s super intimidating to be an introverted person, somebody who really is uncomfortable talking to others, and getting out there and doing it. So, what would be some of your best advice for founders who are nervous to really sing their own praises, and to really sell?

Lamar Romero:

Wow, that’s a good one. We all have our talents and our strengths. I’ve actually seen introverted dragons over the years do very well. You don’t always have to be the loud, boisterous one to have a good conversation, or to attract attention. But in some of those cases it might help, if an introvert founder really had a hard time being out in front of a crowd and doing that, then you’ve got to hire help. That needs to be a part of your team strategy, you need that cheerleader on your team. Unless your product’s just that damn good, and it gets in the right mouth, and the whole world’s buying it. Whether they’re buying it on a D to C strategy, or for a retail store.

Lamar Romero:

But for the most part, every brand needs a lot of promotion in order for folks to know. I even know that from my own business. We’ve grown from word of mouth the last seven years, but one of the first things brands say when they find my company, they go, “Where the heck have you guys been hiding? And why haven’t I heard about you before now?” And I’m like, “I know, I’m a marketing company, and I suck at marketing my company. Because I’m marketing 200 other clients.” And that’s something I’m aiming to fix. I had to hear that 15 times before I was like, all right, I’m going to go to WeFund and raise a million dollars so I could stop bootstrapping.

Lamar Romero:

Because it’s all about getting out there and having good presence, and especially right now having a great digital presence. And having a good digital strategy, it really, really does help. And I’m talking to a lot of entrepreneurs that are taking a more D to C approach, and that’s really interesting to me. Because it can work and it can’t work, and it just really depends on how you’re going to do that, and do you have the right people or the right talent to do it? But it’s something that I’m definitely seeing more and more.

Alison Smith:

Yeah. So before this call, you said something really interesting. You told us that there’s trends in activations, and you were telling us that in the beginning of the year, you see health brands who run activations have the best results. Which at first we were like, hmm, and it makes perfect sense. Everyone’s got their body goals, their health goals, all those things. So what other interesting trends do you see throughout the year, in terms of activations with brands?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. Well, I would say that you need to be activating, especially brand activation, if you’re a seasonal business, pick that season and go and do it. If you have to spend 50% of your marketing budget on the three months, or that quarter that’s good for you, then go and do it. For spirits, that’s OND, that’s what they call it. OND, October, November, December, Q4. 50% of all the beer, wine and liquor that’s bought in America is bought in OND. And so, that’s a great time to go out and promote.

Lamar Romero:

But in January when everybody’s got a hangover, if you’ve got a health brand and you’re not promoting, what the heck’s the matter with you? I don’t care if you need to be on the street yelling at the top of your lungs, if you’ve got something that’s non-alcohol or it’s healthy, January and February is your time. Because that’s when minds are open. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’m hungover from the last three months, man. I really need to make a change.” Whether that’s a protein product, or a healthy energy drink or whatever the case be, I don’t see a lot of brand activation from health brands in Q1, and I always wonder why. So, you really need to understand that trend and follow that. And I hope that answers that question.

Alison Smith:

Yeah, it does. It’s very interesting, and just to be clear, I was just thinking about the last thing you said about brands only going D2C. That’s like you said, it’s totally fine if that’s the route you want to take, but activations aren’t just for pushing retail traffic, activations are for brand awareness, like Karin was saying, word of mouth. They’re extremely important, whichever avenue that you’re working towards.

Lamar Romero:

If I was D to C, I’d be at a trade show festival with my, with my QR code on my paper going, “If you scan this and you go to my website, you get 25% off today.” That’s how you would drive that D to C behavior, but you still need the brand activation to do that. And so, but you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t have to just be retail, though that’s typically what we think about that.

Alison Smith:

Yeah. And I would love to hear more. So, when I think activations, I think in groceries or festivals. What other places are you seeing good results come through? Can you get really niched down, I guess, depending on your brand?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah, you can. It really just depends on what you’re promoting, and what your strategy is, and have you identified your audience? So if you haven’t identified your target audience yet, that might take some time or some consultation, but find with that is and stick your brand activation strategy around that. For instance, I had a really great client called BeatBox Beverages. And in the beginning, they had this five gallon bag of wine. And they hired us for brand activation at HEB stores, and that was tough. You’re in the fine wine section going, “You want to try my five gallon flavored bag of wine?” And even at the HEB store, people were like, “This is crazy. What are you people in here for?”

Lamar Romero:

But that worked. We had a lot of orders, we did a lot of it. And then they went to Shark Tank, got a million dollars from Mark Cuban. And Mark Cuban was like, “We’re not doing that anymore,” which sucked for me, but it was great for the brand. Because they were like, “We’re going to go to college campuses. And I’m going to get you on planes, you’re going to fly to different fraternity, sorority houses.” And that was the right strategy for them, at that time of their life where they were. And so, sure, that wasn’t good for me, but it was great for the brand. And so, you have to understand that audience, and make sure you’re doing those brand activations the right way.

Lamar Romero:

But it doesn’t have to be… First of all, I’ll say this, I’ll give you all some free advice: don’t ever give your product away for free without sending a representative. So when somebody says, “Hey man, give me three cases of your stuff for my party, I’ll talk about you.” You say, “Yeah, but I’m going to send either myself, or my co-founder, or somebody from my company, or a dragon, or whatever, who’s going to go and talk about that product for at least five or 10 minutes.” Because that’s the cost of the free. And where can I buy it, where can I get it? I see that happen all the time, where products are just given away for free without any strategy alongside of it to do it.

Lamar Romero:

So, it can be a party, it can be a festival, it can be a trade show, it can be a street team. It can be just about anything you can imagine, and put some organization into, but it’s an important part of, especially any kind of retail brand, CPG brand, because there’s a lot out there. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new product being developed in America every two minutes, that’s an actual fact. So, now that you made it to of the shelves of HEB or Spec’s, you’re like, “Great, I made it here.” But yeah, there’s a hundred other vodkas now. So, are you going to differentiate your vodka from the other hundred? So you have to be cognizant of that, and know that half the battle’s getting on the shelf, the other half of the battle is depleting it, and putting it in the hands of consumers, and their minds, souls, so they’ll go out and tell their friends and family. And that’s the basics of a just good marketing strategy.

Karin Samelson:

I love that advice, to never give away free product without having someone there to talk about the product. Because we see that a lot, it’s like somebody reaches out, you can afford it, you want to get your product into all these people’s hands, but what happens, what comes from it? And usually not much. So, I love that piece of advice to send someone there, because the optimization of that is probably like tenfold. That’s super exciting. In terms of timelines, like if somebody wanted to work with a dragon, what does that look like?

Lamar Romero:

Yeah. We generally make sure that, one, we have a consultation call to go over what fee structures look like, how much they cost, all that type of deal. But the most basic thing that it still behooves me today, is that I say, “Well, I need a product marketing presentation.” We internally call it a PMP. And they’re like, “What’s that?” I’m like, “Well, it’s about a two to six page document that we can have at the brand activation, so we can show pictures, maybe show where it’s made, or the founder’s picture.” That can either be in a flip-board, or it can be on a tablet that I scroll. But it, instead of having handouts that are very expensive, point of sale is so expensive. You can have it, but it’s expensive.

Lamar Romero:

But instead of having that, we require our dragons to have a PMP. And that’s the thing that usually slows us down the most, I’m like, “Hey, I need your PMP,” and it will take the company a week or two to get it to us. But that’s it. Other than that, if we’re activating at a location, we need a week’s notice, sign a CLA, put a credit card on file. But basically make sure that we understand how we’re going to communicate that story, so that we can go on and do that great job for you.

Lamar Romero:

Because we called it the dragon engagement model, but there’s a hook, there’s a story, and there’s a close to everything. So the hook might be, “I want you to try 50 Cent’s cognac. He had every hand in making this. It’s delicious, it’s way better than Remy. Give it a try.” That’s the hook. Then I’ll tell you the story about how, “50 Cent made it. Here’s his picture. Yeah, he was a rapper from the nineties, it’s really cool.” And then the emotional close might look something like, “I’m so glad you like it. I’d be honored if you take a bottle home, share it with your friends and family, this is how we get our word out.” So, those three need to be a part of your brand activation strategy. Whether you’re doing that yourself, or you’re hiring us to do it, but make sure you’re putting that in there. Because it’s all about putting that product in the heart and mind of people, so they’ll take it home.

Karin Samelson:

Yeah. I mean, step one, two, three, closing deals. I like that. When it comes to training the dragons to know who the customer is, to really understand the customer avatar of the brand, is that part of the process? Is that something that the brand owner should really, really understand and be able to communicate to you?

Lamar Romero:

That depends on the type of brand activation. Because at a retail store for a tasting or a demo, we don’t want to discriminate against anybody. But it is good to know in the back of your mind that this is a product for 25 to 39 year olds. And so if you see somebody that fits that demographic coming, you’re probably a little bit more amped to go, “Hey, hey, hey, you need to come try this.” That education is definitely communicated towards our dragons. But that is something that when it comes to general brand activation, you never know. A lot of times, I’ve done over probably 700, 800 tastings at this point, myself personally. And I’m still surprised when I give a sample to that one person. I’m like, this person ain’t buying nothing, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ll take a case of that.” I’m like, “What?” You just never know. And so, when you’re doing a brand activation, try to not exclude anyone. But obviously if you know what your demographic is, you try to go after them a little bit harder too.

Karin Samelson:

Oh, that’s great advice. Yeah, because in digital marketing, there are so many people to speak to, we have to narrow it down. That’s so true, in person you have no idea. And if they can taste it, if they can walk away with it right then and there, anybody’s fair game.

Lamar Romero:

And I’m glad you said that, Karin, because that is the time to dial in your marketing, with digital marketing. And when you want to attack your demographic, that’s when you should do it, is in your digital marketing strategy. But don’t do it in your brand activation strategy, because you never know. And BeatBox actually had a great following with folks that was way out of their demographic, I’m talking about old people like me, because of the activations we were doing at HEB. And for a while there, they had a social media following which was surprising. Now they’re a grown up company and they’re in little Tetra packs, they’re not sold in five gallon bags anymore, I am their audience. And so, it’s just things like that evolve as the company evolves. Sometimes you start out with a 25 demographic, and now you’re at the 35… I know I’m only using age here, but it’s important to understand that. And digital marketing-wise, go after your demographic, but in brand activation don’t exclude anyone.

Alison Smith:

Yeah. That was apparent, I had a little chuckle about you, imagining someone explaining who 50 Cent is to just some older person who just has no idea. But if you can get that story across, then it’s pretty cool.

Lamar Romero:

Sometimes they’re just like, “He’s a what?” “Never mind, sir, this is a great cognac, you want to try it?”

Alison Smith:

He makes Cognac.

Lamar Romero:

It’s just sometimes you have to find that little thing right then and there, that works. So yeah, definitely.

Alison Smith:

It’s all about pivoting. That’s cool.

Lamar Romero:

Yes, ma’am

Alison Smith:

All right. Well, you gave a couple of tips. If any, you talked about smaller brands getting the founders out there. What are some other tips for those small brands who aren’t maybe ready to hire Dragon Spirits, who want to get out there and run some activations themselves? What are maybe three tips?

Lamar Romero:

If you’re just getting started, one, get with as many friends and family as you can, do parties with AB testing, and make your friends fill out your survey, or they don’t get the free product. And what I mean by that is, maybe you have a new coffee drink. Invite 50 people over and tell them, “This is the reason for it, I’m going to do mine in one cup, and another. And you’re going to fill out a survey at the end, and that’s the cost of the party.” That way you can start knowing right away. Tito changed his vodka formula like 50 times or something, before he found the right formula back in the late nineties. So, that would be one.

Lamar Romero:

Another one would be, do the brand activation yourself, and I think we kind of covered that. And three, start your social media presence early. If you don’t know how to do that, get with folks that do, and experts. Don’t spend a lot of money at first, don’t be running ads in the beginning, just get it set up right. Your website, how it looks, and how your Facebook feels, and do some organic posts until you kind of have it dialed in, before you can start really spending that money and spending that social. Because all of it is a part of the overall strategy, because it’s a loud world out there. I always think of Twitter, and when I think of Twitter, I think of people just yelling at the top of their lungs. And that one million follower guy, he’s louder than everybody else, right? But you’ve got to navigate that noise with a joint marketing strategy, and find your fans, find your lovers, and build that relationship.

Lamar Romero:

And then I’d say, if you want to raise money, once you have that audience, do a WeFunder, man, because now you turn your customers into investors, and it’s ching, ching, ching all the way. Because once they put money into your company, then they’re going to push you even farther. And now they’re not going to have 50 beers at their next party, they’re only going to have your beer. Because they’re an owner, dammit, and they want to show all their friends. And so, you build brand evangelists. But that’s the next stage, that’s for part two.

Karin Samelson:

That’s awesome, Lamar. Well on that note, great advice. Is there anything you would like to leave the audience with? A link, final statement?

Lamar Romero:

Sure. I will take this moment to say we are doing our own WeFunder. If you like our strategy and how we think, check it out. Wefunder.com/dragonspiritsmarketing. We are at current, at this time, 220 K into a one million dollar raise. And then I’d also say, I don’t mind offering my time, 10 minute calls for a free consultation, just to ask a quick question. So if somebody heard something here today they liked, feel free to find me, I’m easy to find online. Write me through any of my social channels, and you mention this podcast and I will definitely give you a 10, 15 minute call to help you out.

Karin Samelson:

Awesome, Lamar. Thank you so much. We’ll provide all the links to how to get in touch with Lamar in the show notes. So, thank you again for joining us. We really enjoyed it.

Lamar Romero:

Karin and Alison, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate being here today. Thank you.

Alison Smith:

Thank you, appreciate it.

Alison Smith:

UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.

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