The Fall of Cheetah Power Surge

Has anyone heard of the Canadian energy drink Cheetah Power Surge?  This energy drink uses all natural ingredients and no caffeine.  It had success getting product availability into grocery & drug stores like No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Sobeys.  It also secured a TV spot during CBC Hockey Night in Canada.  TV commercials during this time reach penetrate many Canadian households but certainly don’t come cheap.  See their TV spot below:

However, on recent trips to the grocery store I noticed that the product was being heavily discounted.  Feature pricing have dropped as low as $0.25 a can (tweet and image here), and the discount  level indicates that the regular retail was $1.49.  With most energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar being at $2.99, this would appear to be a great deal and tons of product should be sold.  Still, as evidenced by the unopened trays and the amount of cases seen in the picture, the $0.25 rock bottom pricing didn’t really help move product either.  What went wrong with Cheetah Power Surge, and where are they now?

The second question is easier to answer than the first.  Cheetah Power Surge energy drinks are still available at their listed locations (I went into a Shoppers Drug Mart earlier in the week to check), but my guess is those cans are from the original shipment.  And once it is gone it will not return to store shelves.

Cheetah Power Surge in No Frills for $0.50
Cheetah Power Surge in No Frills for $0.50

In terms of what went wrong, a google search reveals some level of insight.  This review site mentions that the energy drink contains high sodium content and leaves a bad aftertaste.  This  review site states that they do not feel any extra energy after consumption.  It appears that consumers were willing to try the product but it never met their expectations.  Based on these unpopular product reviews, Cheetah Power Surge had to rely more on it’s marketing and advertising to sell product.  When lowering the standard pricing from $2.99 to $1.99 didn’t work, it kept on cutting the price to stimulate sales.  Retailers also noticed its slow velocity and took the initiative to cut the pricing themselves, which is why you see the $0.25/can pricing.  Pricing anything at such marginal levels lends to the belief that there is something wrong with the product.  Even if these is nothing wrong with it, it conditions purchasers to expect low pricing and will only purchase your product again in the future if it’s priced just as low.

Cheetah Power Surge seems to have done it all wrong.  When consumer reviews and users sentenced the energy drink as subpar, the company launched additional flavors rather than re-formulate the product.  Aside from the regular (High Octane), Blueberry and Diet flavors, they expanded to include Green Apple and Mango flavors.  They continued advertising on a premium cost through Hockey Night in Canada to generate trial users.  They continued signing distribution agreements to gain availability in Canadian grocers.  All this has accelerated their demise because consumers do not like to feel tricked.  Increased availability meant more consumers bought it once to try the product, but they never returned because of the reasons listed above and from the review sites.

Cheetah Power Surge tried to outrun the problem of their product formulation by turning its attention to external factors.  In the end, this has led to $0.25 pricing and cases of product that has not left the grocery sales floor.  Unlike Full Throttle, consumers will not miss this energy drink when it disappears.

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Week of Rest: Family Day (Canada), President’s Day (U.S.)

No posts this week after the Monday and Wednesday posts for the Super Bowl Series over the last two weeks.  It’s a holiday for the two main reading countries so posting will resume the following week!  In the meantime, you can still follow along with my updates on Twitter (@BevWire).

Super Bowl Series: Kraft MiO Fit Needed More Than 30 Seconds

The fourth and final installment of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on Kraft MiO Fit’s ad with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.

Click through to read the rest of the Super Bowl Series:

Part 1: Super Bowl Series: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

Part 2: Super Bowl Series: SodaStream Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

Part 3: Super Bowl Series: Coke’s Social Engagement Effort Delivers Mixed Reviews

Kraft MiO Fit

While SodaStream made a lot of noise for it’s banned Super Bowl commercial, Kraft MiO also generated some buzz with its participation in the Super Bowl this year.  Having revealed that they will be featuring the Fit during the Super Bowl, they came up with this teaser campaign.  See the two videos below:

It appears that through the teasers, Kraft is aligning their liquid flavor enhancer with American patriotism.  With the colors of the American flag and the “America the Beautiful” being whistled in the background, would you agree?  The actual game day spot titled “Anthem” showcases Tracy Morgan asking you to welcome change to make America better.  After seeing the commercial, do you agree that MiO Fit is changing America for the better?  Did the commercial “work”? See the actual Super Bowl spot below:

Although MiO Fit could really be changing America for the better, it is highlighting a problem that no one really considered a problem in the first.  Was there anything wrong with Gatorade or Powerade that warranted improvement?  Most people do not think there was anything wrong with these sports drinks.  MiO Fit faces an uphill battle no matter what it does because it’s not just creating a product in an existing segment (flavor enhancers).  It is creating a new segment (liquid flavor enhancers) and must bring attention to a problem that no one was previously aware of.  In that perspective, it is changing America for everyone’s betterment since MiO Fit offers hydration and electrolytes to anyone with a bottle of water.  That is their end goal: raising awareness that there is a better delivery system out there for electrolytes.

In spite of this message, the feeling was that it lacked in overall effectiveness – the commercial did not work.  If you did not know already know about the MiO Fit, or if you were not a beverage fanatic, you would probably have dismissed this bland commercial.  Most successful Super Bowl commercials are funny or attention-grabbing, but it seems that the Fit’s commercial didn’t have enough of either component.  Super Bowl commercials tend to provide an easily followed storyline that can be communicated in 30 seconds or 60 seconds, using more imagery than words to convey this message.  Consider the GoDaddy Bar Rafaeli Smart-Sexy commercial.  Or the Doritos Goat For Sale commercial.  Both were memorable because it was funny, or it got your attention.  The Mio Fit commercial involved a lot of talking in 30 seconds, forcing the viewer to pay close attention in order to clearly articulate the message.  It lost the audience’s attention.  If it had kept their attention, then listening to the references about changing chicken nuggets and boy bands was actually funny.  Maybe if the spot was 60 seconds instead of 30, it would have had a stronger effect.  But cramming so much speech into 30 seconds without the showmanship of other Super Bowl spots is a recipe for disaster.  In the end, it seems this would be more suited for a YouTube release than a Super Bowl TV spot.

While the Kraft MiO Fit’s success cannot be judged by commercials alone, let alone one commercial, this one fell short of expectations.  It will depend on what else the liquid flavor enhancer comes up with in the future to promote this extension.  All great products fulfill a need, it’s just tough to get the right message across with only 30 seconds.

Super Bowl Series: Coke’s Social Engagement Effort Delivers Mixed Reviews

The third of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on Coca-Cola’s use of “second screen engagement” with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.

Click through the below links to read the other two parts of the BevWire Super Bowl Series.

Part 1: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

Part 2: SodaStream’s Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

Badlanders, Cowboys, and Showgirls all race toward the finish line for a bottle of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola wanted viewers to vote at CokeChase.com to determine which group will win.  The winning group will be shown in the Coke ad after the Super Bowl game.

The general prognosis is that this year’s Coke Chase campaign was more successful than last year’s talking bears for the Polar Bowl.  Coca-Cola had released the original Coke Chase spot online before the Super Bowl, and also provided strong media support to hype it up.  There was even a spoof by Pepsi Next of the Coke Chase characters fighting to get a Pepsi Next rather than settle for a Coke.  All this led to a high level of buzz for the campaign, so much that it crashed the website as it experienced an unprecedented surge of site traffic.  AdAge’s Natalie Zmuda has a piece outlining how Coca-Cola decided what to do in real time during the Super Bowl to reconcile this problem here.  The ultimate goal was to have viewers vote for one of the three groups (badlanders, cowboys or showgirls) to win the race and the beverage at the end.  Coca-Cola would tabulate these results during the game and show the winning group getting the Coke following the game.

It was another effort by Coca-Cola to engage with viewers and communicate via the “second screen”, where users watching the television also simultaneously interact with  the advertising company or TV program through their mobile and computer screens.  Interact they did, to the tune of 1.3 million page views and over 900,000 votes for the different competing groups.  Despite these strong numbers, could this be deemed strong engagement by Coca-Cola with the audience this year?  Did most people stay to watch the Coca-Cola spot after the Super Bowl to see who won?  Were the results what Coca-Cola wanted?  See the original video:

My opinion is that the engagement exceeded expectations, and would have been even better had the server crash not occurred.  The amount of votes (900,000) certainly seems low considering the amount of sabotages (7.8 million), video views (3.8 million) and site visitors (1.3 million).  Everything was in the millions and the total votes were only 900,000?  I would expect voting to equal the amount of site visitors, or why else would you go to the website anyway?  If you were intrigued enough to visit the site, surely you would be engaged enough to vote.  However, this represents an enviable problem for Coca-Cola.  Interested viewers will keep on trying to log onto the site to vote, and this can be translated to a longer engagement period than simply logging on and voting in the first place.  The winning video generated about 50,000 views online, but there’s no definite way to quantify how many people saw it live even with the close game.  Here’s the winning video:

Since most people tune out after the game is decided, running a commercial following the game seems less likely to maintain their engagement.  However, voting and page views mattered more than the group wining the Coke at the end.  The end goal was to drive social engagement and  not to have one specific group win over another group.  The page view metric would be equivalent to that of over one million people viewing the original site, and clicking through another 6 commercials to sabotage the two other competing groups.  The winning video did not matter and the Twitter image below proves it: only 77 retweets and 57 favorites.

Note the minimal amount of retweets and favorites? Seems low for a Coke tweet considering the high profile nature of the Coke Chase campaign.
Note the minimal amount of retweets and favorites? Seems low for a Coke tweet considering the high profile nature of the Coke Chase campaign.

All in all, not too shabby for a company that was not the official sponsor of the event.  Think of how Pepsi always tries to insert itself into a Coca-Cola sponsored event (ie the Olympics) and there never being too much heard about them, at least not to the same extent.  Now think of how this was a Pepsi sponsored event and we often heard of Coca-Cola.  And parallel this with how the neon green Nike running shoes stole the spotlight during the 2012 London Olympics despite it being an Adidas sponsored event.

There will be many experts saying that Coca-Cola would have won this year’s cola war battle had it executed better.  This is likely true and will serve as a lesson for another broad scale event.  But being able to drive continuous engagement during a game, and getting over one million of these viewers to visit, vote, and click over six times to sabotage other competing groups is no small feat.  That itself already represents a win for Coca-Cola.

Super Bowl Series: SodaStream’s Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

The second of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on a portion of SodaStream’s involvement with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.  Click on each of the links below to read each of the 4-part series.

Part 1: Super Bowl Series: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

The above YouTube commercial represents the banned commercial from this year’s Super Bowl.  CBS rejected this version because it shows the Coca-Cola and Pepsi brands, as well as their bottles exploding.  These beverage giants are your annual participants that spend millions of dollars on your network, so it’s understandable that you do not want to upset them by having another advertiser humiliate the companies or their products.  For a relatively new player to the beverage market like SodaStream, this banned commercial marks a strong success – specifically because it was banned.  The new player must make some noise in the market to gain attention, and what better way to accomplish this feat than getting their commercial banned?  Traditional big-name companies want their ads to be seen during the Super Bowl since it has the largest viewing audience and helps them rename top of mind.  But for SodaStream and other emerging companies, this not necessarily be cost effective despite the desire to showcase their product or service.  These TV spots represent a significant investment ($4 million) and they may not want to get involved in a bidding war for only 30 seconds of publicity. They still want their ad to be seen, but their return on investment is much more critical to their bottom line.  By having their original ad banned and then creating a tamer version approved by CBS, SodaStream is maximizing their pre-game publicity.  Here is the approved version of that was shown on during the Super Bowl:

And like the banned version, the message still rings true.  You could have saved 500 million bottles if you had used their home carbonation product.

Since the day SodaStream publicized the prohibition of their original creative, they published the banned version online.  The commercial had already had amassed over 2 million hits after five days.  It’s no gangnam style or cute kitten video, but people are generally curious to see why certain things are kept from them.  Words like “banned” make it more intriguing to find out what was so alarming in the first place for it to be banned.   Consumers would go online to seek out the banned commercial after learning that CBS has prohibited them from seeing it.  SodaStream even advertises it now on their website, with the tagline of “Watch the SodaStream commercial they wouldn’t let you see during the big game”.

Despite all this heightened interest over the prohibited commercial, does this translate to anything material for SodaStream?  Will it generate sales or profits for the home carbonation beverage company?  The initial observation is that it will boost their Super Bowl return on investment, shortening the payback timeframe.  The total investment was $5 million given reports indicate that this ad cost $1 million to produce, along with the $4 million price tag of the 30 second spot.  To recuperate this $5 million, it would have taken Coca-Cola or Pepsi a few months since they have such a broad product portfolio and they are so well distributed in the marketplace.  SodaStream on the other hand is not as widely available and can be assumed to take longer to capture this $5 million.  They are also still trying to gain distribution in many locations, and lack the same level of brand recognition the other beverage advertisers has.

After this Super Bowl event, I do not expect brand recognition will be that big of a problem any longer.  Whether it was the company itself pushing to increase the public’s knowledge of their product or the media driving this exposure, SodaStream will become a household name.  And the stronger brand recognition will help them get into more retailers and sales locations.  For their existing outlets, this may represent increased sales.

What may have been 9 months or a full year to realize the gains could potentially be achieved in 6 months.  The total investment – $5 million – was certainly significant.  But the increased attention that resulted from the banned version along with displaying a Super Bowl commercial (during the fourth quarter of a close game) made this a worthwhile investment.

Super Bowl Series: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

The first of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on a portion of Pepsi’s involvement with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl has always been an important time for Pepsi, much like how Christmas has been an important time for Coca-Cola.  Relative to previous years, Pepsi has significantly stepped up their investment culminating to this year’s sponsored halftime show.  Pepsi’s newly signed artist – Beyonce – performed at the event as winners of a crowd-sourced engagement contest  (Pepsi Halftime) welcomed her to the stage.  As companies invite the public to submit ideas, they are releasing more control of the branded content to their customers.  Is this really a good idea, given many examples of where this has gone wrong?  In addition, did the contest generate the desired results, and lead to a longer lasting impact that extends beyond the halftime show and Super Bowl event?

Pepsi as a company is not new to crowd-sourcing content, having tried this tactic in the past with Mountain Dew as well as Doritos.  These two efforts for crowd-sourcing branded content has provided lessons that Pepsi has hopefully learned and applied.  Doritos Chips asked regular consumers to submit creative and funny commercials that will be voted on and aired for the Super Bowl.  In the marketing realm, this initiative was viewed as a major success and led to other companies asking the general public for ideas.  Varying degrees of success and failures ensued.  Chevrolet tried it with a “Make Your Own Tahoe” effort in 2007 and failed miserably as “content providers” essentially roasted the automaker for producing a gas guzzler.  Pitbull crowd-sourced for a concert and appearance at an American Walmart location which backfired into having the artist go to Alaska.  Even Pepsi’s effort as “Dub the Dew” backfired when people gamed the system into submitted names detrimental to what Mountain Dew would have envisioned.  The lesson to be learnt here is that while the rewards are plentiful if done right, the risks of poor execution and having the tactic backfire may be greater.

Save for Beyonce’s recent lip-syncing incident, there has not been much negative media related to Pepsi, Beyonce or their collaborative Super Bowl element.  While there are certainly negative things that can be said about Pepsi (ie sugary content, calorie content, etc) none of this is exclusive to Pepsi.  That is, if Coca-Cola ran a similar campaign, it would have achieved a similar result.  Pepsi and Beyonce are not polarizing entities, so neither would invite much negativity.  At the end of it all, it looks like this initiative has been well-executed and has not faced the complications that others encountered through these types of marketing campaigns.  It also helps that Beyonce put on a great show that had many people raving about it afterwards as one of the best halftime performances they have seen in a while.

Whether this initiative will lead to a longer lasting impact than the Super Bowl is still to be determined.  For example, have you spent more money on Doritos since those commercials aired?  Would you have bought that bag of chips even if there was no commercial before?  Did Pepsi spend advertising dollars to essentially subsidize your purchase?  The investment for this halftime show is significant, as the cost to air the crowd-sourced introduction is estimated to be $4 million (and cost of producing has not even been considered yet).  Therefore, despite the subsidy, Pepsi ensures that you choose them when you are considering your next beverage purchase in the shopping aisle.  Running the ad during Super Bowl only guarantees that there are more eyeballs seeing their commercial, but may not translate to an immediate impact, let alone a longer term impact.  However, running the contest to engage and getting consumers involved with the process will undoubtedly make them feel more a part of the beverage brand. Having Beycone on the can as a collectible can also helps jog the viewer’s memory when they are considering their next purchase as well.  And this certainly gives Pepsi a better chance to your choosing them when you are thinking of your next soft drink purchase.