Gatorade Lightning Bolt: Part of Every Athlete’s Success

I’m hoping by now that almost all consumers have seen this ad by Gatorade titled “Lightning Bolt”.  The ad starts off by depicting tired athletes during a football game and the school’s science professors oncocting a beverage that will refresh and energize the players.  The rest of the commercial showcases athletes training, performing, and celebrating key moments with quick clips of Gatorade logos and cups.  The ending is what we are all accustomed to with the “With From Within” tagline.  Does this advertisement’s message come through clearly?  Does it inspire action from the viewers, leading to incremental sales for Gatorade?

The former about message communication is simple and clear.  Gatorade is training and celebrating with you, as you reach for the height of your sport.   The hydration beverage shows successful athletes during different cycles of their sports life to communicate the fact that winning doesn’t just happen over night.  This requires regimented training and preparation first.  Even as an athlete competes and finally reaches the pinnacle of their respective sports, Gatorade is a partner with them at these different touchpoints.  So the message remains pretty clear that if you want to win, you need Gatorade to help you train.  And when you reach the end goal, Gatorade is there to celebrate with you.

The Gatorade beverage in its original state, glass bottle with “Gatorade” written on tape. Image sourced from fastocreate.com

The latter question is a little more challenging to answer.  Whether sales are truly incremental (or wholly generated) as a result of the commercial are very difficult to track.  However, consider the timing of when this commercial was introduced: during NCAA March Madness when Powerade released their own ad (read my analysis on that commercial here).  The point of Gatorade’s advertisement may not actually have been to stimulate sales, rather it was to protect their sales.  Since Powerade always plays up its underdog status, and there were many people watching March Madness, Gatorade needed to react and maintain their presence.  So the key measure of whether the “Lightning Bolt” media spot actually reached measured success may actually been seeing that sales levels held constant to prior year or prior months, rather that a decline in sales due to Powerade’s activity.

Large corporations – or business units in this case – typically conduct a high level of tracking to monitor competitive activity.  That’s just good business sense in order to preserve your own level of success.  Gatorade’s message is clear and a continuation of what they have advertised in the past few years.  Gatorade will help you prepare and later celebrate the victory.  It certainly will be interesting to answer the question of whether sales activity shifted in any direction as a result of this ad, but only those within the two beverage units will truly know the answer to that.

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Pepsi “Mirrors” Ad Shows Beyonce’s Creative Influence

Beyonce drinks a can of Pepsi in her new
Beyonce drinks a can of Pepsi in her new “Mirrors” commercial, courtesy of adweek.com

Has anyone seen Beyonce’s new Pepsi commercial? Or a better question, has anyone seen the full one minute version rather than the thirty second version on TV? The full version has more footage prior to the mirrors breaking, revealing more of Beyonce’s personalities from her previous hits.  AdWeek has a nice summary of the spot so I won’t dwell on that for this post.  What I want to focus on is the message and the creative process, and Beyonce’s influence over this commercial.  See the full spot below.

Pepsi’s message to “Live For Now” comes through pretty loud and clear.  The advertisement chronicles Beyonce’s history of how she gained attention through her Destiny’s Child days and later found success as an individual artist.  All this shows is that Beyonce wouldn’t have attained her current success if not for her previous successes.  This has helped her secure a $50 million dollar deal “brand ambassador” with Pepsi, which goes beyond the typical spokesperson support by having Pepsi cede some creative control to Beyonce.  This commercial shows how Beyonce has influenced the creative process.

With their “Live for Now” tagline, Pepsi’s message has been about living for the moment.  The ad above ends with that same tagline so it appears that not much has changed.  However, what may be less obvious is Beyonce’s parting words, “Embrace your Past but Live For Now”.  It’s not just about the living in the moment, but also remembering where you came from.  To me, that is the influence that Beyonce had on the commercial.  Though the “Live For Now” message stays intact, the positioning is very different.

Pepsi' Live For Now campaign, this one with Nicki Minaj from May 2012.
Pepsi’ Live For Now campaign, this one with Nicki Minaj from May 2012.

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

Pepsi’s previous commercials had solely focused on the “Live for Now” aspect.  Their Nicki Minaj commercials further glorified this component through the “Moment for Life” song, reaffirming the viewer to live in the moment.  That may have been Pepsi’s prior messaging, and it may very well with Nicki Minaj representing the beverage brand.  If it has changed, then it’s a sign of the changing times.  Nicki Minaj’s commercial was produced in May 2012, while Beyonce signed on with Pepsi in December 2012.  With Beyonce however, the Live For Now is still about the current moment, but only after embracing your past.  Could this be Pepsi’s new direction on leveraging on their successful history?

While Pepsi modifies the communication depending on the audience and medium, this enhancement with Beyonce is certainly unique.  It also makes a positive statement.  Could we expect Pepsi passing more creative control to Beyonce in future commercials, or have Beyonce involved with more of their social engagement campaigns?  Despite their contract saying that Beyonce will own some of the creative content, it would be wise for Pepsi to allow the songstress to have more involvement.   A truly collaborative partnership is one in which both partners care for the success and own  responsibilities, and having Beyonce feel a strong sense of ownership could only lead to further success for the cola brand.  Only time will tell, but I believe this is definitely the start of a very good collaborative partnership.

Honest Tea for Kids “Splash” into Target Exclusively Until June

Courtesy of honesttea.com
Courtesy of honesttea.com

Honest Tea has extended their beverage assortment by launching youth-specific drinks titled Honest Splash in mid-March.  These 70-calorie juice offerings are offered exclusively in Target U.S. until June, when it will be open to other retailers to order and stock.  BevNet has more information on the launch here, while the official press release from Honest Tea is available here.  Since both sources have focused on the benefits of the product itself, I won’t dwell anymore on what has already been discussed.  What is interesting is how Honest Tea has decided to push this product out to the marketplace.  They exclusively partnered with Target for this launch, while their other previously launched product – Honest Fizz – was released through an exclusive partnership with Whole Foods.  Available in Berry Good Lemonade, Goodness Grapeness and Super Fruit Punch, Honest Tea makes these offerings available exclusively to Target’s 1,250 locations.  Why is Honest Tea launching exclusively in one retailer over another retailer?  Does this help them, or is this a decision that Target wanted?

For today’s retailer landscape in Canada and the United States, it’s important to drive consumers to your banner because it implies that they will be spending their total grocery dollars in your store rather than at the competitors.  As such, exclusive offers or “first-to-market” offerings are typically used to give one retailer a leg up over the competition.  It’s important to note that this type of exclusivity doesn’t work with all types of products and services.  For Honest Tea to receive this kind of attention from a national retailer is impressive.  Target certainly views that the Honest Splash is strong enough to sway consumer purchases, similar to how a hot new video game may drive purchasers to buy it from one electronics stores over another.  I would characteristic this as a joint decision to launch this exclusively in Target.

What about why they chose Target, versus any other mass retailer or grocery store?  Why not Whole Foods? Or Walmart? Or Walgreen?  What is it about Target that makes it the best choice for Honest Splash to launch there?  All these other retailers are national and well-known, so what makes Target so special?  To answer this, let’s start by eliminating those retailers that I detailed above.

Although Whole Foods seems like a great choice to consider another exclusive arrangement, Honest Tea has already done one with the premium grocery retailer (the aforementioned Honest Fizz from January to mid-March).  Offering two successive exclusive items may damage your relationship with other retailers.  It may give the impression that you “prefer” Whole Foods more than other retailers and could potentially lead to shelf space reductions or delistings.

Walgreen could be a great choice given their core focus on healthy offerings, but they are in fact a pharmaceutical retailer and thus beverages do not comprise a large portion of their overall store focus.  The focus is more health and wellness shelf stable items.

Walmart is a price-conscious retailer and would not be the most suitable place to launch an exclusive, premium offering.  Even their U.S. slogan “Save Money. Live Better” hints at lower prices than other retailers and launching a new product that effectively competes on price from day one would be inappropriate.

Target US LogoWhile Target’s slogan of “Expect More. Pay Less.” is similar to Walmart’s, the emphasis is the “Expect More” portion and thus positions less on price.  As a mass merchandiser retailer that also offers grocery and pharmaceutical items, Target is more suitable than Whole Foods and Walgreens.  Consider also the Target shopper profile, which skew heavily to moms that want what’s best for their kids and thus making Honest Splash a perfect offering.  Their shoppers are also tend to define value through strong offerings at reasonable prices, which means that they will not have to compete solely on price.

This is a good choice for an exclusive offering between Honest Tea and Target.  Ultimately it looks like something that both companies wanted to make happen.  It’ll be interesting to see the results of whether the Honest Splash beverages actually drives shoppers to forsake their grocery retailers for Target.

Starbucks Fixes Segment Blurring Problem

The three flavors of Starbucks Refreshers: Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade, and Orange Melon. From blogs.starbucks.com.

Last July, Starbucks had a big media push when they launched their handcrafted Refreshers in their coffee locations with two flavors – Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime.  These two flavors were also made available through their VIA line of at-home self-serve packages.  Most recently, they have followed up the handcrafted beverage offering launch by introducing three packaged sparkling beverages launch.  Joining the handcrafted and VIA Refreshers are: Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade, and Orange Melon.  From their U.S. website, here is the product page for the Refreshers.  The launch of these packaged offerings created a problem for Starbucks and retailers alike: segment blurring.  Segment Blurring occurs when products within one segment encroaches on products from another segment.  Since the Refreshers are made with green coffee bean extract, should they belong in the coffee section?  Or does it belong in the energy drink section?

According to Kevin Reid – Director of Beverages – in an interview with Canadian Grocer these new beverages belong in its own section.  It appears that Starbucks anticipated the problem as a result of this beverage innovation.  By extracting the caffeinated energy content from coffee beans to make energy drinks, they understood that retailers would have difficulty fitting it into one section.  As such, the interview suggests that retailers create a specific area to group all the Starbucks products together in order to make it easier for the shopper to locate any Starbucks products.

A Starbucks branded supermarket endcap with the dark wood trim and faux-tile backsplash. From online.wsj.com.

Why should a retailer agree to a dedicated Starbucks section?  It turns out this makes sense in more ways than one.  Starbucks products are “destination” drivers in their own right given the coffee giant’s standalone retail locations.  Customers consciously choose to go to Starbucks coffee locations to purchase their Starbucks coffee.  Lending support to re-create this destination experience in grocery retailers is that customers expect to find all Starbucks products when they visit a Starbucks outlet.  Over the years, Starbucks has complimented their handcrafted beverages by stocking packaged coffee beans, beverage holders, and CDs in their branded stores.  Finally, Starbucks’ willingness to invest in décor for the grocer’s coffee aisle demonstrates their dedication to replicate the signature experience everywhere.  Starbucks understands that developing the Starbucks cafe experience requires a collaborative effort and has indicated they are willing to give the retailer Starbucks-type shelving.

Would the retailer be open to more Starbucks innovations in the future?  The Canadian Grocer interview reveals that retailers have been pleased with Starbucks sales.  And as long as Starbucks maintains its demonstrated collaborative efforts, retailers would certainly welcome more Starbucks products to help build grocery trips and baskets.

Powerade Continues March Madness Underdog Commercials

Powerade continues its underdog status with another March Madness #PowerThrough campaign

Have you seen the latest Powerade commercial?  It doesn’t explicitly say it’s for March Madness (which they did with their Coke Zero March Madness Campaign), but it’s still the same underlying message, and they are releasing this right when March Madness started.  It seems that I was wrong after only seeing a Coke Zero commercial for March Madness this year.  Coca-Cola is not only leveraging from a position of strength with their zero-calorie soft drink, but also continuing to capitalize on their underdog status with their sports drinks.  Why is there a need to also release a commercial and reminder for Powerade during March Madness, especially since they have already done an ad spot for Coke Zero?  Won’t this be conflicting, and hurt their overall business?

In the spirit of continuing their March Madness underdog theme, releasing a commercial that celebrates and glorifies the little guy is the right thing to do.  Consider also the tweets the Powerade account sent out to support the Harvard Crimson basketball team which won its first NCAA game over New Mexico.  Consider also the Sweet 16 round still involved three double-digit-ranking basketball schools in this year’s do-or-die tournament: Florida Gulf Coast University, Oregon, and La Salle.  Even the Final Four include Wichita State, which is the ninth-ranked seed for the West region.

Here’s the Powerade commercial below:

While the Coke Zero commercial focuses on the spectator, Powerade caters to the athlete.  A different target market, a different user.  That alone should imply minimal cannibalization since these are two different groups of people.  By implementing a dual brand strategy this year – instead of switching the focus to a broader audience base as I had previously believed – Coca-Cola is increasing their investment and support behind this event.  Although this should not hurt their business, there is minimal cross-benefit since these are two different beverage segment  and two different buyers.  In actuality, Coke Zero may simply be a blocking tactic to keep competitive soda messaging from dominating the tv screens during the tournament, and Powerade may be a investmentt tactic for their college messaging to show their collegiate athlete support.

At the very root of this commercial is Powerade’s message that they are still the underdog and they dare you to doubt them.  Which ultimately implies that Powerade may have some plans this year to trim Gatorade’s share leadership beyond March Madness.  Keep on the lookout for more Powerade activity.