Moving from booze to tech was (and continues to be) one of the biggest challenges of my life, primarily because they’re two completely different industries with two completely different work cultures. However, every now and again I manage to find a parallel that gives me at least some sense that I might be getting the hang of it.
In the software world, it’s incredibly important that a product be user-friendly, intuitive, easy to understand, and immediately accessible right out of the box. The best possible feedback you can receive for a UI? “It just works,” as I’ve heard many a VC say. That’s the gold standard for any app/platform/program. You want to create an experience for the consumer that doesn’t require directions, manuals, or much of a learning curve. They turn it on, begin using it, and hopefully never stop.
That’s called “frictionless.”
As much as I tell people that I no longer work in the drinks business, it doesn’t stop companies from contacting me on the regular, asking if I can provide feedback or consult on their latest projects. I end up doing it (mostly for free) because I like helping people, and I’m always looking for a way to put some of my tech lessons into interdisciplinary practice.
Lately, I’ve been trying to help a few friends in the booze industry reduce friction in their consumer experience, by reducing the workload necessary to enjoy their spirits. I tell them: “If you’re expecting your average customer to buy multiple mixers, a shaker, and a coupe glass in addition to your bottle, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.” That’s not a frictionless drinking experience. A shopping list is the definition of friction.
If you want to understand how to reduce friction to maximize spirits consumption, look at Patron’s new project with Fever Tree, my longstanding choice when it comes to tonic water, ginger beer, and other carbonated mixers. One might consider the Margarita a relatively-simple drink to mix, but do you know what’s even easier to make? A gin and tonic. You put ice in a glass, you pour in the gin, you pop a bottle of Fever Tree tonic, and you’re done.
I drink (on average) two to three cocktails a day and (on average) 90% of them include Fever Tree products. Why?
1) They’re delicious
2) They’re frictionless
I’ve done absolutely no research or reading into how this collaboration came about, but I can assure you that Patron realized the limitless value in a signature drink that meets both of the above criteria. I tried the new Fever Tree citrus tonic water on Monday for the first time, mixing myself a frictionless Tequila and tonic (albeit not with Patron). It was fucking spectacular, so I drained that drink in under two minutes, then made a second. My wife tasted that one, her eyes lit up, so then I made her Tequila and tonic.
Within twenty minutes we had exhausted our four pack of Fever Tree and 25% of our Tequila bottle. Within twenty hours, I was back at the store buying more Fever Tree. That’s the power of “frictionless.”
I still talk with marketing execs that want their spirit to be seen as “interesting,” “innovative,” or “complex.” However, If I were starting/running a brand today, I’d be in search of three simple words from my consumer tastings:
“It just works.”