5-hour Energy Improves Shot’s Taste

The 5-hour Energy line-up.  As stated in a press release, all their energy shots will undergo taste improvements this year. Image couresty of 5-hour Energy's twitter page.
The 5-hour Energy line-up. As stated in a press release, all their energy shots will undergo taste improvements this year. Image couresty of 5-hour Energy’s twitter page.

Taste exists as the primary and most crucial hurdle for consumables to overcome.  Even with marketing support, no product could sustain success if they produced really bad-testing drinks.  5-hour Energy kicks off 2015 by announcing that they’ve improved on the taste profiles for their entire line of energy shots (link here).

If 5-hour Energy has been able to find sustained success the past 10 years, their products could not have tasted that bad.  This is merely a product tweak, though an important change since it affects their total energy shot portfolio.  After improving flavor profiles, 5-hour Energy will be a better position to leverage their insights around demographics (targeting women & seniors) and frequencies (usage occasions and mixing opportunities).  That said, no one can equally focus on three different priorities.  So what should the energy shot provider do first: grow their customer base by targeting women & seniors, or increase consumption among their current customers?

Related post: 5-hour Energy’s Quest for New Growth

It seems like the answer was part of the statement by their director of communications, Melissa Skabich.  Here’s a partial statement from her:

“The message is clear. Our customers want an energy shot that tastes great, and we’ve given them what they’ve asked for,” said Melissa Skabich, director of communications for 5-hour Energy. “The new and improved taste of 5-hour Energy shots is a testament to our ongoing commitment to always improving our product, and we’re extremely proud of what we’ve created.  Fans of 5-hour Energy shots won’t be disappointed because we still offer the same 10 great flavors, as well as decaf,” Skabich added. “We’re optimistic that the better-tasting product will result in increased demand through the existing and new user base.”

Even as Skabich mentions existing user base, it would be clear that this is more about growing the new user base.  After all, there is only so many energy shots a single consumer can drink.  There is stronger growth potential for 5-hour Energy by targeting new demographics.  In fact, changing the taste is positioning them to reach new consumers more than satisfy brand loyalists.  Current customers will be rewarded with better tasting shots, but the priority is to attract new users.

Marketing to new users could prove more difficult than increasing consumption from their loyal customers, though the payoff will undoubtedly be more rewarding.  Following their Yummification campaign, 5-hour Energy already understands when people use their shots and what tastes delicious when mixed with it.  Leveraging these insights, they can target women & seniors through advertising or in-store coupons or bundled products.

5-hour Energy says they will be launching a new national advertising campaign in February to market the energy shots’ new and improved taste.  Be on the lookout for what would appeal to women and seniors, as it’s likely that the campaign may cater to them just as much as it caters to their current customer base.

5-hour Energy's Yummification contest from 2014.  Through this contest, the energy shot manufacturer was able to uncover new usage occasions and great refreshments to mix with the energy shot.
5-hour Energy’s Yummification contest from 2014. Through this contest, the energy shot manufacturer was able to uncover new usage occasions and great refreshments to mix with the energy shot.
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Help Jones Soda Make A Commercial

Jones Soda looks to crowdsource a commercial for the Super Bowl.  Image courtesy of jonessoda.com
Jones Soda looks to crowdsource a commercial for the Super Bowl. Image courtesy of jonessoda.com

Each year more companies try to jump on the bandwagon with Super Bowl advertisements.  The challenge is that not all companies can afford to purchase a time slot for the Super Bowl, which projected to cost $4 million for 30 seconds of air time in 2014.  Coupled with production costs for these commercials, it’s clear that only the biggest names in the industry can afford these price tags.  To get around these extravagant prices, companies create an event that helps them enter the Super Bowl conversation without actually being part of the event’s roster of TV commercials.  This year, Jones Soda aims to do just that with their commercial contest.  Given that Jones Soda only plans to release their commercial on their website during Super Bowl halftime, how can they generate enough attention to make this truly worth it for them?  Beyond the problem of creating enough awareness for this ad, the heart of the issue is whether this is even a good idea for the premium craft soda brewery.

Discussing the problem first, Jones Soda must explore more methods to raise awareness than a website commercial during Super Bowl halftime.  Viewers are used to looking at multiple screens during the game but the most expensive Super Bowl TV commercials are during halftime.  Most eyeballs focus on the TV screen during halftime and not on phones, tablets, or laptops.  Migrating people to a second screen for their commercial will be a challenge unless they have a TV presence to funnel viewers online.  Since the original challenge is the cost of getting on television, Jones Soda must ramp up their social media engagement to circumvent this problem.  At the time of writing their current Twitter handle (@jonessodaco) didn’t show that many tweets about making a commercial.

To create more attention for the crowdsourced commercial, Jones Soda should release a subset of their preferred commercials before the game.  They should ask their Facebook fans or Twitter followers to vote for the best among the five and publish the tally to create more awareness and competition.  Leveraging the commercial’s creators to ask for votes will help Jones Soda get the word out to a broader audience.  This increases everyone’s attention for Jones Soda, and earns them more free publicity.  For a company that asks the public to send in photos for their soda bottles, this tactic would be right in line with generating strong levels of engagement.

Regardless of how much attention Jones Soda could generate for their Super Bowl commercial, is this even a good idea?  It would be – but only if Jones Soda is in a position to react quickly based on Super Bowl events.  Companies that benefit are those that react the fastest based on Super Bowl events.  Coca-Cola had created two versions of their polar bear ads and would air only version depending on the winner of the Super Bowl.  SodaStream benefited from releasing a banned version of their ad online while also releasing a toned version for the Super Bowl.  Oreo, Tide, Audi, and a host of companies capitalized on the Super Bowl blackout that occurred back in 2013.

Simply releasing a commercial on their website without seeding strong engagement beforehand is a miss.  Jones Soda differentiates itself as a consumer-oriented company with people submitting pictures for their soda labels.  Releasing a Super Bowl commercial should be the same thing.  Asking consumers to submit videos is good, and having them create awareness of these videos for you is even better.  With Super Bowl days away, Jones Soda can still make some changes to make this event work harder for them.  To win big, Jones Soda needs to be proactive right now, and quick to react on February 1st just like Oreo did back in 2013.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Oreo/status/298246571718483968 ]

Red Bull Expands Editions Line-Up

The expanded Red Bull Editions Line-up.  From left to right, Orange, Cherry, Red, Blue, and Yellow.  Image courtesy of cspnet.com.
The expanded Red Bull Editions Line-up. From left to right, Orange, Cherry, Red, Blue, and Yellow. Image courtesy of cspnet.com.

It seems that Red Bull has found more success introducing energy drinks than energy shots or cola, as their recent launches like the Red Bull Total Zero and the three Editions flavors have fared much better.  So it should come as no surprise that the energy drink behemoth continues building sales momentum behind their energy drink assortment.  At the 2014 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show, Red Bull announced three new members to the Editions family.  Joining the Red (Cranberry) and Blue (Blueberry) Editions are the Yellow (Tropical Citrus), Orange (Orange), and Cherry (Cherry) energy drink flavors.  The Orange & Cherry options contain zero calories and zero sugars, while the Yellow option returns with nationwide availability after a two month test exclusively with 7-Eleven.  These new flavors will be available starting mid-February in 355ml (12oz) cans, while the 250ml (8oz) cans will transition to a multi-pack sku.

Among the three new flavors, Cherry may be the only true new addition to Red Bull’s portfolio.  The Yellow flavor was brought to market during the 2014 summer months, exclusively with 7-Eleven.  It was known as the Summer Edition to temporarily complement their Red, Blue, and Silver drink line-up from July to September.  Meanwhile, the Orange flavor may have previously existed in limited U.S. markets under the name of BULL Energy.  BULL Energy had different packaging, with limited references to Red Bull, and was available exclusively across soccer venues (as an exclusive product for the New York Red Bulls, the city’s soccer team).

Related Post: Red Bull Celebrates Summer with New Flavor

Regardless of the flavors being truly new innovations or otherwise, this marks an accelerated pace of product introductions for Red Bull than previously recorded.  Before 2012 (year of Red Bull Total Zero launch), it was back in 2009 when Red Bull added to their product line-up, with an unsuccessful expansion into energy shots.  Since the 2012 launch of Total Zero, three new items were added in 2013 (Red Bull Editions) and now three more in early 2015.  Although their pace doesn’t match that of Monster Energy or Rockstar Energy (which launches multiple new products annually), Red Bull’s more recent product expansion activities indicates their commitment to giving brand loyalists more choices.  And this ultimately lets consumers reward Red Bull with more dollars.

Courtesy of BevNet.com – the new Red Bull “Bull” Energy Drink.
Courtesy of BevNet.com – the new Red Bull “Bull” Energy Drink.

With these new introductions, it appears that Red Bull may not be done with their product expansion.  The Orange and Cherry flavors are decidedly different from the Red, Blue, and Yellow items, containing zero calories and zero sugar.  In essence, these two skus align closer with Red Bull Total Zero.  In which case, Red Bull may explore opportunities to build out their “Zero” product line-up.  Would the energy drink manufacturer launch both the Red and Blue flavors under the Zero portfolio?  Also mentioned in the press release was the Editions will be available in single servings (355ml/12oz sizes) and multipack servings (4-packs of 250mls/8oz).  Would Red Bull consider up-sizing some items even more, to join the original Red Bull Energy Drink in a 473ml (16oz) size?  Even yet another option would be exploring additional flavors to bring to market.  Beyond the current flavors, would Red Bull add to the Editions line-up with a Pink (lemonade), Peach (peach), or Purple (grape)?

Related Post: Red Bull Launches New Product: BULL Energy Drink

Incremental offerings for the Editions line-up certainly presents Red Bull with opportunities and risk.  It’s worth noting that Red Bull has quietly swept the Silver (Lime) edition under the rug.  It’s not clear whether Silver is being discontinued, but keeping the current Red Bull flavor portfolio at five flavors is a sound decision.  As long as energy drink consumers enjoy Red Bull’s new products, the energy drink company will continue to deliver popular innovations.  Today, the Red Bull company looks very different from the one back in 2009.  After a period of failed experimentation, a string of successful innovations has helped Red Bull take back control of the energy drink market.

Pepsi Next Changes Its Packaging

Pepsi Next undergoes a facelift, changing the packaging from blue to green.  Courtesy of facebook.com.
Pepsi Next undergoes a facelift, changing the packaging from blue to green. Courtesy of facebook.com.

Pepsi Canada ushered in 2015 with a packaging change to Pepsi Next.  Previously packaged in light blue, the product packaging transitions to green and harmonizes with the Pepsi True product packaging in the U.S.  This change is logical since Pepsi True (in the U.S.) and Pepsi Next (everywhere except the U.S.) are formulated the same way: both versions are sweetened with stevia and contain fewer sugar and calories.  While this packaging change harmonizes Pepsi’s cola representation in many markets, two questions remain.  The first being what should Pepsi do to simplify their cola portfolio in the U.S., should they discontinue Pepsi Next so consumers are not confused with the many versions of Pepsi available?  The second question is whether more harmonization is on the horizon, where Pepsi keeps only one brand name (Next or True) across all marketing areas?

Related Post: U.S. Cola War Continues with Pepsi True Launch

Pepsi Next was launched to much fanfare in the U.S. and kickstarted with a Super Bowl commercial featuring Beyonce.  Despite the amount of marketing support and retail space Pepsi dedicated to this launch, sales of Pepsi Next has not set the world on fire.  Many consumers still find the aftertaste hard to stomach as a result of the artificial sweeteners.  It would make sense to discontinue Pepsi Next since its performance fell short of expectations.  While discontinuing Pepsi Next helps Pepsi True secure retail shelf space, this will be a tough decision for Pepsi.  The mid-calorie soda launched in 2012 – roughly on the market for two years – and rationalizing the drink so quickly after its launch could damage Pepsi’s reputation for flawless product launches and create trust issues within their customer relationship.  Since Pepsi True was introduced in 2014, discontinuing this product would undoubtedly create trust issues and severely damage Pepsi’s reputation in the marketplace.  Regardless of difficulty, it’s important that Pepsi simplifies the U.S. cola portfolio.  Rationalizing Pepsi Next would be easier than Pepsi True.

Related Post: Pepsi Next May Find More Success in Canada (Than The U.S.)

Pepsi Next's new packaging, in green. Image courtesy of facebook.com
Pepsi Next’s new packaging, in green. Image courtesy of facebook.com

Pepsi would also have to address the product name of Next or True if it wants to achieve the greatest marketing scale and build the strongest brand equity.  If cost was the sole consideration, keeping the Pepsi Next brand name is least costly since Pepsi True is only available in the U.S., whereas Pepsi Next is sold and recognized across the Americas, Europe, and Australia.  However, the marketing perspective suggests that it would be make more strategic sense to keep the stronger brand name, and the name that translates best across multiple geographies. It’s possible that Pepsi keeps both names, as some products are branded with a different name in international markets.  For example, North American brands Bounty (paper towel) and Becel (margarine) are recognized internationally as Plenty and Flora, respectively.  It would just cost more to Pepsi as they market the product across closely tied geographies, like Canada and the U.S.

Changing the Pepsi Next packaging in Canada to match the U.S. Pepsi True packaging is a good first step toward reducing confusion, but the work isn’t done for Pepsi.  Consumers should be on the lookout for some more changes to Pepsi Next (or Pepsi True if you’re in the U.S.) in the coming months.