Some Updates on the Coca-Cola Freestyle

About a month ago I detailed Coca-Cola’s futuristic fountain machine named “Freestyle”, in which you can mix and match your own beverage flavors to create your own custom soda (link here).  In that piece I also wrote that it would be interesting to see what Pepsi’s response would be and BevReview came through with a piece on Pepsi’s own futuristic fountain unit that can provide over 100 beverage flavors for the user (read the post here).

However, since BevReview has already wrote about what the competition has done, I decided to take a different approach on the Coca-Cola Freestyle update.  BevWire has been following the Coca-Cola Freestyle twitter feed (@ccfreestyle) for a few weeks and noticed that they tweeted about having an smartphone app on which you can play with the Coca-Cola Freestyle function (see Facebook page here).  This YouTube video provides a good introduction on how the app’s functions work.

This may not be ground-breaking news, but it shows Coca-Cola making use of social and mobile tools to connect with the consumer.  Compared to the traditional Foursquare check-ins and Facebook likes, this app is somewhat revolutionary in the sense that it demands strong audience engagement.  The application not only allows the user to find out where their closest Freestyle fountain unit is, but also play memory games with the available Coca-Cola beverage options.

This is quite a smart way to get the mobile user excited about the Freestyle machine.  Not only does the iPhone/Android user get to learn about different Coca-Cola beverage flavors and company history, it also creates demand (marketing term = consumer pull) for the unit itself.  Educating users  to differentiate Coca-Cola products from Pepsi products will also go a long way to help the two refreshment giants gain loyalists to their beverage portfolios.  The location function will provide insights into which cities to launch the machine next, by virtue of people that downloaded the app in cities where the Freestyle is not yet found.  And the fact that smartphone app is a touchscreen-based app, similar to the touchscreen functionality of the Freestyle also helps in getting users accustomed on how to use the Freestyle fountain machine when it does become available in their area.

In theory, this is a very cost-effective way to get the consumer excited about Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine.  It’s also important to note that the smartphone user population is only about 30% of the total U.S. mobile user population (link here).  It’s further segmented that about  50% of the smartphone users might be interested in the Freestyle app, specifically users that are ages 18-34, and a lesser extend the 35-49 age group.  This means that the reach is much smaller than it really could be, but given the small cost associated with the app it should be very efficient.

The other limitation is that this app is only a U.S.-based smartphone application – I’ve been trying to download it from the Apple iTunes store but am kicked out because my AppleID indicates that I’m in Canada.  I’m still working on connecting with a friend that lives in the U.S. to let me use their AppleID to get this app and test it out.  Readers that live in the states or have friends that are willing to share their ID with you, feel free to test the app out and let me know how you like it!

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Lush Recovery’s Use of Social and Mobile Marketing

Lush Recovery BeverageWithin the energy drink category, an emerging “recovery” drink segment is penetrating the beverage market.  Most retailers still lump energy drinks and recovery drinks together in the same beverage area, causing confusion among shoppers.  Adding to the confusion is that these recovery beverages have similar packaging and sizes, and bigger name manufacturers include Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy.  Lush Recovery is a beverage that is leveraging social media (among other traditional marketing tools) to help gain brand exposure and educate the shopper on the differences of recovery drinks.

First of all, what is a recovery beverage and what social media tools has Lush been using to differentiate themselves and educate the public?  A recovery beverage helps the body regain nutrition following rigorous activity, containing both caffeine and electrolytes.  The latter normally found in sports drinks like Gatorade to replenish the body on hydration.  Lush Recovery incorporated an iPhone app, a blog section, and a usage/formulation section on their website (link here).  Having a blog, a product information page, a Facebook page link and a Twitter account are nothing new anymore, so I won’t really be talking about these components of their social media plan.

What intrigued me most was their iPhone app.  In addition to alerting you on where their latest San Francisco-area party will be hosted, there was a section educating you on recovery and how to best use the beverage.  In a emerging category where consumers are not fully educated on the benefits of your product, this is a smart move.  Similar to how Red Bull “created” the energy drink category by educating the consumer on the product benefits, Lush Recovery educating the iPhone app user on the the product’s benefits may propel them to market leader status.  As consumers understood the uses for energy drinks before with Red Bull, consumers will also understand the uses for recovery drinks with Lush Recovery.  By improving everyone’s understanding of their beverage, they will be associated as leaders of this category and reap the benefits of promoting recovery drinks.

How can Lush further leverage this iPhone app to gain more brand exposure, as there are so many more opportunities to build on?  Would providing samples through location check-ins at promoted events help?  How about providing coupons through the iPhone application so users can purchase their beverage as a discount, in order to drive demand and push for more distribution?  Those ideas and many other possibilities exist to help raise the beverage’s profile.

I also contacted Lush Recovery to find out some more information on other (if any) social or mobile promotions they may be.  Their response indicated that they will be coordinating an email blast with LivingSocial in the San Francisco area to promote their product.  In my opinion, another great use of social tools to gain brand exposure.

As my focus is primarily on Canadian beverages, I also asked whether Lush Recovery would be selling their beverage here any time soon.  Their response indicates that there are plans of Canadian expansion as soon as they U.S. coverage is large enough.  I guess I’ll have to wait until they’re available here or when I make my next trip down to the U.S. to find their product.  For those that live in the area and are interested in this product, please let me know what your thoughts are on this drink!

Coke Zero New Tagline – Enjoy Everything

Coke Zero has launched a new ad showcasing the tagline – Enjoy Everything.  The advertising spot is 60 seconds long online, depicting a young adult that constantly asks “And?” and is never satisfied with what he is given.  At the very end, it’s a can of Coke Zero that satisfies him – providing him with full taste and zero calories.  Tim Nudd from AdWeek has more here.

Is there any real effect by changing the soda’s tagline – from “It’s Possible” to “Enjoy Everything”?  And while this ad was released in the United States first, it’s likely that this tagline will be consistent with Canada and any other place.  Coke Zero is simply modifying their communication to remain relevant and adjust their positioning.  Does this have anything to do with Pepsi Max’s recent success?  Or is it the fact that Coke Zero is now a recognizable product on shelves everywhere, that the “full taste but zero calorie” message is not as unique?   I believe both issues played a role.

Since 2005, Coke Zero has been communicating the message of full cola taste with no calories. At the same time, the “It’s Possible’ tagline may only be for the new drinkers, aisle shoppers that are in disbelief that there really could be a zero calorie beverage that products the same taste as a full calorie soda.  The tagline of “It’s Possible” would appear to be outdated since zero calorie colas have been “Possible” for the last six years, and Coke Zero is not the only zero calorie offering anymore.    By communicating a new message of “Enjoy Everything”, Coke Zero is alerting consumers that there is no need to sacrifice taste for calories, that they can really have it all.  Coke Zero’s latest twitter updates indicate as much:

With real Coke taste AND zero calories, Coke Zero is liquid proof you can live without compromise.   #EnjoyEverything  – Sept/10

peanut butter #AND jelly #AND yogurt #AND granola #AND milk #AND cookies #AND cream #AND Real Coke taste #AND zero calories #EnjoyEverything – Sept/7

Enjoying real Coke taste AND zero calories is kinda like getting the cool job AND a corner office. #cokezero. – Aug/30

We love the word “AND.” It always leads to having more. Like real Coke taste AND zero calories. – Aug/27

Relating to their competition, Pepsi Max has seen success by advertising the cola wars again, bringing  consumer’s attention to the zero calorie soda space by using comparison ads.  Their slogan “Zero Calories.   Maximum Pepsi Taste.” also sounds similar to Coke Zero’s slogan of “Real Coca-Cola Taste and Zero Calories”.  It appears that Pepsi Max is mimicking Coke Zero’s positioning, making it harder for people to tell the difference between Coke Zero and Pepsi Max.  After all, it was Coke Zero that started with white packaging and then Pepsi Max came out in white packaging.  And when Coke Zero changed to black packaging, Pepsi Max’s packaging soon changed to black.   In that sense, Pepsi Max changing their slogan last year necessitated Coke Zero’s need to differentiate themselves from Pepsi Max to some degree.

The question now becomes, what will Pepsi Max do?  Having enjoyed success by comparing themselves to Coke Zero and bringing attention to this soda space, will they add anything to their “Zero Calories.   Maximum Pepsi Taste.” slogan?  Coke Zero’s new tagline may or may not put their product in more thirsty people’s hands, but at the very least they’ve earned themselves some separate space from their competitor, and allow the consumer to more easily separate the two zero calorie giants.

V8 Launches Energy Shots

V8 Energy ShotIn the increasingly popular energy shots category, V8 has launched their own energy shots.  Using green tea extract as their natural caffeine ingredient, this 2.5oz (74ml) energy shot also includes nine fruits and vegetables such as blackberries, raspberries, apples, and tomatoes.  While the green tea extract serves as the energy component, the nine fruits and vegetables provide the user with antioxidants and vitamins.  The V8 energy shot are currently in a pilot rollout, as its only available in certain American markets, including Minneapolis, Jacksonville, and Colorado Springs.  The retail price for the energy shot is $2.99, and will be found in convenience stores, drug stores and grocery supermarkets.

My main questions for V8’s energy shot would be: in light of Red Bull recently discontinuing their energy shots, does V8 stand a chance in this category?  What makes them different from other energy shot products on the market?

Both questions can be answered by V8’s positioning.  The very thing that differentiates V8 different from their competitors is also what might give them a fighting chance in this category.  Not only is V8 a brand that the public trusts and recognizes, the ingredients themselves also source from healthy and easily recognizable ingredients.  Other energy shots still use healthy ingredients (such as taurine, tyrosine, and guarana), but their naming may easily confuse the shopper.  If you had a choice to pick up a product that contained green tea extract compared to tyrosine, which one would you pick?  Or one that contains strawberries and raspberries compared to guarana and phenylalanine?  The easily recognizable names are common natural ingredients that a shopper sees on store shelves anyway.  As such, it makes it less curious as to what the product is made of.  And from the V8 energy shot nutritional information (link here), they do a good job of providing a common name for the vitamins aside from the chemical name – again helping the shopper make the connection of what’s actually inside the bottle.  All in all, this will help differentiate themselves for other manufacturers.  A trusted name with easily recognizable ingredients certainly helps in this aspect.

In terms of their execution strategy,  V8 may have paid some attention to Red Bull’s energy shot and made the conscious decision to launch regionally.  Red Bull’s energy shot was a national launch in Canada after their introduction in the United States, and their product just wasn’t moving leading to their decision to re-focus solely on their core offering.  By introducing the product in specific regions and channels first, this may help the energy shot in gaining traction (and increase demand) from other regions if it is successful.  And if it is not gaining momentum, the regional rollout will minimize market impact on their losses.  The implication for Canadian consumers is that if this product is only in pilot rollout down south, it is likely to take some more time before it will appear in Canada.

It appears that V8’s marketing strategy to introduce their energy shot is well thought out.  On the sales side, a $2.99 market price point and available in the convenience, drug and grocery supermarkets also help.  All that remains is to see (and taste) the product.  Will it have competitive shelf space at the cash register?  Will the taste itself be too strong or too sweet?  For curious readers in the Minneapolis, Jacksonville, and Colorado Springs area, please try this product and leave me a comment on your thoughts!