AQUAhydrate Grows Through Distribution and Celebrity Partnerships

The AQUAhdyrate Family, courtesy of B | W | R Public Relations.

Has anyone noticed the amount of press that AQUAhydrate has gotten recently?  After their rebranding effort in 2012, they have reached some significant milestones.  Most recently, they gained more national availability in the grocery channel with new distribution agreements at Safeway and Kroger’s.  They secured even more publicity after Mark Wahlberg and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs announced they were partnering with AQUAhydrate to help develop and execute the beverage brand’s business strategy.  What does all this mean for the brand and for Canadian consumers?  Will their continued success lead to stronger availability in Canada?  And how will celebrity partnerships help the beverage refreshment perform better?

Let’s answer the latter question first: will celebrity partnerships with Mark Wahlberg and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs help deliver stronger business performance?  It all starts with making the right choices; there must be mutual benefits beyond previous arrangements like the celebrity endorsement compensated financially.  When you are endorsing a beverage or any other product, you are mainly communicating the product or service benefits to the public.  There is no guarantee that you believe in its success or benefits – you are simply saying what you’ve been paid to say in order to make money.  However, what more and more companies realize that without any vested interest from the celebrity, it’s mainly a one-way transaction.  There is no passion for the refreshment beyond the financials.

Mark Wahlberg and Sean Comb speak to the media at the AQUAhydrate press conference.  Courtesy of AQUAhydrate's facebook page.
Mark Wahlberg and Sean Comb speak to the media at the AQUAhydrate press conference. Courtesy of AQUAhydrate’s facebook page.

Through this realization, more companies are finding celebrities that truly believe in the product’s success.  Diet Coke found Jean-Paul Gaultier, Taylor Swift, and Marc Jacobs.  Pepsi found Beyonce.  Evian has been doing this for years, and has found a plethora of fashion designers willing to put their mark on collectible glass bottles each year.  All these celebrities are not just being paid to talk up their favorite beverage, rather they are involved with the business in some shape or form.  Beyonce is involved with Pepsi’s creative process and how the soda brand is represented to music fans worldwide.  In a similar sense, Wahlberg and Combs are expected to be involved with the business strategy component for AQUAhydrate.  They are expected to actively participate in helping get AQUAhydate into more grocery stores and more consumer shopping carts.  The fact that both celebrities chose to partner with AQUAhydrate, they must believe in the beverage’s business prospects and how they can add value.  Therefore, this business partnership should stand a very high chance of success.

To answer the former question on what this means to Canadian retailers and consumers, the new distribution arrangements should help.  Safeway is a grocery chain with an American presence as well as a Canadian presence, so the incremental distribution for AQUAhydrate could likely be the result of having the refreshment merchandised in Canadian Safeway grocery stores.  Some research and a quick question to the AQUAhydrate team revealed that the water beverage is indeed found in Safeway stores, as well as most Canadian GNC and Quebec Couche-Tard outlets.  Some readers have said that the beverage brand was also found in high-end grocery stores, so it can be expected that AQUAhydrate will continue to expand its Canadian presence.

Since its September rebranding effort, AQUAhydrate has rebounded and made some great strides forward.  With its expanded distribution and strong celebrity partnerships, there’s no doubt that the beverage brand is primed for even more success in the future.  With Walhberg and Combs on board to help with the business strategy, who knows what celebrity wants to sign on next with the brand to help propel it to new heights?

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Coke Zero Targets Men For 2013 March Madness

Have you seen the latest Coke Zero commercial?  If not, click on the link below, also found from Advertising Age’s article detailing Coke Zero’s new advertising agency, Droga5.

Unlike last year’s Powerade commercial, this year’s March Madness commercial by Coca-Cola features Coke Zero.  The question is why focus on a soda rather than the sports drink?

Inherently, the message and audience is geared toward a completely different type of beverage consumer.  The Powerade commercial was a signal to Gatorade that Powerade realizes that they are the underdogs in the sports drink segment, and they must work harder in order to compete with the sports drink giant.  It was targeted toward the athlete.  This year’s March Madness commercial broadens the reach by focusing on men, not just athletes in particular.

An office drinks a Coke Zero to confirm it's not his fault he's working on the March Madness brackets during work time.  From creativity-online.com.
An office worker drinks a Coke Zero to confirm it’s not his fault he’s working on the March Madness brackets during work time. From creativity-online.com.

Coke Zero wants to identify with the spectators, not just the athletes.  The message is that even the casual sports fan can enjoy everything and participate in March Madness by drinking Coke Zero and picking the winners.  The change in Coke Zero’s focus is understandable, given that CSDs (carbonated soft drinks) are a larger segment than sports drinks and offers greater sales potential.  Also, why would you fight from the position of an underdog (Powerade) when you can  fight from a position of strength, and build on your leadership (Coke Zero leads zero-calorie CSD market)?

Keeping in line with Coca-Cola’s theme on focusing on the intangibles, there is no mention of calories.  Notice how Coca-Cola’s tagline is “Open Happiness” and Diet Coke’s tagline is “Stay Extraordinary”?  There is no focus on tangible attributes, and tries to position the beverage as a lifestyle choice.  For Coke Zero, men do not want to be reminded that they can “Enjoy Everything” by consuming a beverage without any calories.  The less the messaging focuses on calories (and more on sports or happiness), the better it should perform.

All in all, the winning potential is great, and offers them the ability to leverage themselves from a position of strength.  Smart move to switch the focal point from athlete to casual fan and spectator.

Mountain Dew Canada – Dewmocracy Coming March 18

From Mountain Dew Canada facebook page. What will happen on March 18?

Have you been to Mountain Dew Canada’s facebook page lately?  If not, the above image is their cover photo stipulating that something big happens later this month.  After reading through some comments and updates, it appears that DEWmocracy will be coming to Canada.  In short, DEWmocracy is Mountain Dew’s social media campaign that leverages their fan base to help choose a new flavor to complement their current assortment.  These fans and other engaged consumers can vote and decide the fate of the four pre-determined flavors.  These four alternatives are: Code Red, Voltage, White Out, and Super Nova.  The winning flavor becomes a limited time or a regular offering depending on feedback and sales.

While product launch campaigns of this type have usually ended miserably, Mountain Dew product launches have traditionally performed well.  The DEWmocracy campaigns have been done before – twice – and both have ended successfully with a new popular flavor hitting store shelves.  Whether it has become a mainstay flavor or a limited time offering, it has succeeded in creating excitement for the beverage brand among consumers.  But that was the U.S., and this is Canada.  Will it meet the American success levels, or will it fall short of expectations?

A consumer uploaded image. Found from the Mountain Dew Canada facebook page.

The Canadian DEWmocracy campaign is different from the American version, and therefore will translate very different results.  However, the fact that it has history to leverage and examples of best-in-class marketing execution should definitely bolster its chances of success.  Mountain Dew wins here because some of these flavors were part of the American DEWmocracy (ie Super Nova and Voltage) that were previously voted on, and even a past winner (Voltage won the first DEWmocracy).  That said, there is a certain level of expected success for these flavors when the Canadian DEWmocracy begins.  What helps is that there already exists strong social engagement  on facebook and twitter backing some of these existing flavors, so there promises to be even stronger engagement once the campaign fully launches.  The end result is a lower percentage of product launch failure.  This would likely represent one of the safest product launches in recent history, since whatever flavor wins DEWmocracy will experience its steady flow of sales from its voters, while also capturing some of the other voters’ dollars in the process.

Retailers that stock these flavors should also see a measurable level of success as well.  Given the media support that Mountain Dew puts behind this product introduction and the existing interest among Dew drinkers, the retailer can also expect to see stronger sales than other product introductions.

Consumers definitely win here because they put their money where their votes are.  The winning product will be the most preferred Mountain Dew line extension among the Canadian Dew consumers.  Some cult followers may even breathe a sigh of relief since they no longer have to drive across the border to purchase this extension (if it’s also the winning flavor that won the American Dewmocracies).

Using social engagement efforts to drive a product launch can be a hit or miss, more often misses.  This misses have been chronicled and Mountain Dew was one of these misses as well from their “Dub the Dew” campaign.  However, Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy has been successful the last two times so there is no reason to believe that it won’t be seeing some level of success when it launches a line extension in Canada.

Kraft’s Dual Brand Strategy – Crystal Light Liquid

Courtesy of harpersbazaar.com

Most people by now have heard of Kraft launching Crystal Light Liquid to grow (or compete) in the liquid flavor enhancers marketplace.  Similar to some MiO offerings, Crystal Light Liquid is calorie free and sugar free.  It currently available the United States in 6 flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Blueberry Raspberry, Iced Tea, Mango Passionfruit, Peach Bellini and Pomtini.  Their facebook page mentions that it may arrive in Canada sometime in March, but there is no guarantee all 6 flavors will make its way north.  It comes in a squeeze bottle that should satisfy 24 servings (of 250ml liquid), similar to the Kraft MiO squeeze bottles.  Although the product is predominantly targeted toward women – the packaging, colors, and communication portray as much – will this not end up cannibalizing their MiO product?  Or will this launch not cannibalize Crystal Light’s powder-based products?  Why introduce such a product when all signs point toward it being harmful to Crystal Light, and possibly Kraft overall?

Contrary to the traditional thinking of market cannibalization, launching Crystal Light Liquid  is beneficial for everyone – especially Kraft.  Back in September, BevWire wrote about Dasani Drops’ entry into this segment and how its presence helps in growing liquid flavor enhancers.  The Crystal Light Liquid will further bolster this growth and solidify the promise that exists for these products.  And since not all consumers are aware that MiO and Crystal Light are under the same parent company, this will help increase both product’s market penetration.  What appears to be three separate branded players in this space, is actually two manufacturers.  And as the market potential grows from $100 million, Kraft’s size of this market potential will grow as well behind the support of these two branded players.  This dual brand strategy of Kraft may be their response toward Dasani’s entry and a signal to others interested in saturating the segment.  It shows that Kraft is committed to defending their product and shelf space, and maintaining healthy margins for the retailer and themselves.  Crystal Light Liquid’s entry will also make it easier to get the retailer’s attention and gain shelf space, since it signals the manufacturer’s seriousness in supporting this segment and legitimizes it as an important focus.

This gain in shelf space may appear to be detrimental for Crystal Light since it could come at the expense of their powder-based offerings.  After all, both powder and liquid form products fall under the same category of “flavor enhancers” and are shelved in the aisle of grocery or mass supermarkets.  However, one must also consider that the Crystal Light Liquid offerings are potentially more profitable for both the retailer and Kraft.  While they may be trading shelf space away from powder-based products, the trade-off could potentially increase both parties’ “profit-per-square-feet”.  That is, consumers may ultimately be paying more for Kraft MiO and Crystal Light Liquid than Crystal Light powder.  Think of how the MiO Energy is priced identical to the MiO flavors but comes in a “down-counted” 18 servings instead of the 24 serving sizes.  The cost-per-serving indicates that the MiO Energy is actually a more expensive product than the regular MiO.  So while the drinking occasions have not increased with Crystal Light Liquid, the limited serving sizes increases the need to re-purchase the flavor enhancers.  This ultimately translates into wins for Crystal Light, Kraft, and the grocery store.

On the issue of cannibalization, Crystal Light Liquid is ultimately targeting a different consumer.  The company’s views may be that the two products are not cannibalistic but complimentary instead.   Crystal Light Liquid messaging and imagery concentrates on women’s lifestyle and social circles, while Kraft MiO’s messaging highlights individuality and customization.  MiO’s messaging is “Your Drink. Your Way” while Crystal Light Liquid centers around “For Every Shade of You”.  The female shopper that buys MiO may also buy Crystal Light Liquid, but for someone else (ie her friend, mom, etc).

From the Crystal Light facebook pageL: Crystal Light Liquid Peach Bellini highlighting a lifestyle.R:
From the Crystal Light facebook page
L: Crystal Light Liquid Peach Bellini highlighting a lifestyle.
R: The subtle hint toward customization with the different colored glasses, but the more apparent communication at the bottle “For Every Share of You” to again emphasize lifestyle and sociality.

The Crystal Light Liquid launch is certainly a positive news as it shows everyone’s commitment to supporting liquid flavor enhancers.  While Kraft wins with two brands and Dasani competes with Dasani Drops, both the retailer and consumer will benefit from aggressive promotions.  A win-win-win situation.