Is Mountain Dew Kickstart Taking on Gatorade?

Mountain Dew Kickstart's line-up: Fruit Punch, Orange Citrus, Pineapple Orange Mango, Strawberry Kiwi, Black Cherry, and Limade.  Image courtesy of stupiddope.com.
Mountain Dew Kickstart’s line-up: Fruit Punch, Orange Citrus, Pineapple Orange Mango, Strawberry Kiwi, Black Cherry, and Limade. Image courtesy of stupiddope.com.

Following on one of their most successful drink launches in recent memory, Mountain Dew has added two additional offerings under their Kickstart drink portfolio.  The Kickstart offshoot started to segment drinks by dayparts in 2013 and brought out two beverages targeting morning consumption.  In 2014 they followed on the morning drinks with two more flavors catered toward evening occasions.  Their most recent offerings – Pineapple Orange Mango and Strawberry Kiwi – are infused with coconut water (full press release found here), but does not overtly fit an actual drinking occasion.  This makes the latest launch appear off strategy because it’s not geared specifically toward the morning, afternoon, or evening.  How do these two drinks fit into the Kickstart portfolio?  What is the purpose of this launch?

The “fit” debate may very well go back to the purpose of coconut water.  Coconut water was targeted as a healthier alternative to sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade.  On an equivalized volume comparison, coconut water contains similar amounts of electrolytes but fewer calories and sodium, making it a strong substitute for the sports drinks marketed toward fitness-oriented consumers.  In essence standalone coconut water is meant for hydration and recovery purposes.  When mixed with Mountain Dew’s caffeinated citrus sodas, these drinks could be positioned as competition to sports drinks.  A lightly carbonated energy drinks – with juice flavors and coconut water – can be termed as a hydration drink to compete with the Gatorades and Powerades out there.  These latest release of Mountain Dew Kickstart would not need to fit under a daypart segmentation.  It could be a morning drink for people that exercise in the morning, or it could also serve an evening recovery drink after workout or recreational sports.

Mountain Dew's Kickstart newly launched flavors: Pineapple Orange Mango and Strawberry Kiwi.  Both variants are infused with coconut water.  Image courtesy of PRNewswire.com.
Mountain Dew’s Kickstart newly launched flavors: Pineapple Orange Mango and Strawberry Kiwi. Both variants are infused with coconut water. Image courtesy of PRNewswire.com.

If this is Mountain Dew Kickstart’s positioning around the new offerings, the only challenge would be where caffeine fits into the equation.  Sports drinks are supposed to replenish what the body loses during sport events (electrolytes, sugars, salts, liquids) and caffeine would not fall under this criteria.  While the body may craves some energy following an intense workout, it could be debated that the workout itself provides energy as a result of the activities.  Caffeinated sports drinks may not be detrimental like alcoholic energy drinks but it’s relevance is questionable due to the caffeine.  This may ultimately be an attempt to expand the Mountain Dew masterbrand beyond soda and energy drinks by reaching toward athletic consumers.

Or is it?

This brings us to the purpose of launching these two flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart.  Bevnet’s Neil Martinez-Belkin suggested this launch had more to do with creating success for O.N.E coconut water brand than extending Mountain Dew’s reach (article link here).  Martinez-Belkin reminds us that months ago PepsiCo expressed intentions to include coconut water as an ingredient across multiple lines of business.  Driving Kickstart infused with coconut water is simply a method of increasing coconut water;s public exposure.  It may be because after buying O.N.E. coconut water that the beverage brand is still lacking robust market exposure.  This make senses given both Coca-Cola and Pepsi – owners of ZICO and O.N.E – have re-deployed efforts to focus on their core business: carbonated soda.  Marrying a powerhouse brand like Mountain Dew with coconut water increases coconut water’s consumer relevance without having to fully invest behind coconut water as a beverage brand.  This is not to say that Pepsi may not be supporting O.N.E. coconut water in the future, it just means they are looking for creative options to build up the coconut water segment.

The Mountain Dew Kickstart launch raises a few eyebrows though it helps coconut water more than it appears in the public eye.  For a global beverage manufacturer where many products fighting to keep their budgets, this is a creative way to grow a business that may be losing the fight to maintain funding against other beverages in Pepsi’s portfolio.  O.N.E. coconut water would justify increased budgets if these two new Kickstart flavors sold well.  And if this experiment is a hit between Mountain Dew and coconut water, we could see Tropicana infused with coconut water or even Pepsi cola infused with coconut water in a few years.  If that does happen, you can point to the success of Mountain Dew, which has been one of Pepsi’s increasingly consumed soda brands despite the overall declines in soda.

 

The O.N.E. coconut water line-up for Canada. Is the U.S. looking to grow this brand by marrying up coconut water with more lines of product?
The O.N.E. coconut water line-up for Canada. Is the U.S. looking to grow this brand by marrying up coconut water with more lines of product?
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Mountain Dew Dewito: An Example of Perfectly Targeted Messaging

A college student samples Mountain Dew Dewito - a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew soda.  Image courtesy of reddit.com.
A college student samples Mountain Dew Dewito – a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew soda. Image courtesy of reddit.com.

By now most people have heard of Mountain Dew testing a Doritos-flavored variant of their popular citrus soda.  Among a variety of flavors the soda brand was also testing out, this flavor garnered the most attention for its shocking combination of tortilla chips, cheese, and citrus soda.  Many people (including myself) believed that Mountain Dew would eventually launch this flavor nationwide.  It seems we were all tricked by the soda brand – thankfully.  Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Venessa Wong, the “Dewito” flavor was merely part of a flavor test on college campuses but there were no definite plans for broader release (article link here).  Depending on its success, the Dewito flavor would have moved onto the next phase of product introduction though that now seems unlikely based on the chatter it created on social media.

The fact that the flavor stood out among other similarly surprising flavors (ie habanero mango, rainbow sherbet, and lemon ginger) is a sign that individuals talk and share what is most surprising to them.  And more importantly, it’s a sign that Mountain Dew recognizes how to reach their target consumers and leverage them to help create media attention.  As much as the BusinessWeek article states that this is not a PR stunt, it certainly seems like it was a PR stunt.  And ultimately a PR stunt that was successful at helping it garner significant press for a shocking soda flavor.

Understanding that Mountain Dew’s core demographic are millenials, the soda brand found a way to connect with this demographic break.  Mountain Dew could have announced flavor testing through a traditional press release, but instead had their Dew fans break the news via the news channels they are most likely to pay attention to.   It’s no surprise that millenials are heavy users of Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram, where news of the Dewito flavor first broke.   Mountain Dew could have chosen to sample less shocking flavors, and at more generally high traffic areas.  Instead, sampling took place on college campuses where strong concentrations of young adults exist.  All in all, this seems Mountain Dew providing its fans a chance to help generate some buzz.

As an edgy brand that puts its customers in a position to choose future soda flavors and create branded content for them, Mountain Dew has to take the good with the bad.  This Dewito example helped Mountain Dew generate a lot of positive publicity as a soda brand that listens to millenial consumers and anticipates their preferences.  Back in 2013, a partnership with Tyler the Creator to help the brand create commercials didn’t go over so well.  The commercials generated similar levels of media attention for racial stereotypes and downplaying violence against women (article link here).  Mountain Dew has been successful through leveraging fans to create content and carry out its brand communication, so there will be hiccups along the way.  For the most part, these are all examples of the soda company pinpointing content and communication channels that resonates with its audience.

The most surprising thing is that all this buzz was generated for a test product, not even one that was planned for limited release.  Mountain Dew never needed Dewito to be a successful soda – it just needed it to help it tap into their target demographic.

Amazon Wins Big with Coke & Pepsi Exclusive Launches

amazonlogo

Looks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are both experimenting with new frontiers to the Cola War.  This time, they are taking the battle to the online retail channel by enlisting Amazon.  Earlier in September, Coca-Cola announced that they were bringing Surge for a limited release and selling it exclusively through Amazon.  For those that aren’t aware of Surge, it competes against Pepsi’s Mountain Dew as a caffeinated citrus soft drink.  Within hours of it appearing on  the Amazon website, the resurrected soft drink sold out.  It sold out a second time quickly after its reinforcement shipments were made available.  Fortunately for Surge fanatics, the drink is still available on Amazon with replenished inventory (link here for US readers).  After the Surge news release, Pepsi announced that they were introducing Pepsi True – a stevia-sweetened lower calorie Pepsi soft drink – also exclusively on Amazon.  It seems that both soft drink makers want to test and see which beverage would sell better online, enabling them to claim the lead position for online sales.  At the end of the day, the test  may not represent anything more than a traffic driver for Amazon and a creative approach to launching new products for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

For Amazon to have secured exclusive launches with Coca-Cola and Pepsi is fantastic for the online retailer, but the test may not been as rewarding for both beverage companies.  The launch results so far (see below image).  Surge has claimed leadership not only against Pepsi True, but also against all other soft drinks, ranking as the #1 Best Seller for Soda Soft Drinks category.  Indicated by the customer reviews and ratings, the re-introduction can be counted as a huge success.  Pepsi True also ranks #1, among newly released items in Soda Soft Drinks.  It’s worth noting that Pepsi True’s 1-star rating is the result of a smear campaign by environmental activists, inundating the product page with over 3000 negative reviews and 1-star ratings (link here).  From a sales and popularity point of view, Coca-Cola Surge has benefited from launching exclusively through Amazon.  Pepsi True, not so much.  So what was the difference between the two drink launches?

Coca-Cola Surge & Pepsi True's ratings on Amazon thus far.
Coca-Cola Surge & Pepsi True’s ratings on Amazon thus far.
Coca-Cola Surge, available exclusively through Amazon.com.  Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Coca-Cola Surge, available exclusively through Amazon.com.  Image courtesy of Amazon.com

The chances that Surge would fail were extremely low.  After the drink was discontinued in 2002, the Surge Movement facebook page popped up and has been slowly gaining popularity.  While Coca-Cola credits the fan page for resurrecting the drink, launching exclusively through Amazon shows that Coca-Cola understands the customer and the market conditions. Consumers that remember Surge are at least in their late 20s, meaning they are comfortable with technology (ie social media, online shopping, etc).  More importantly, these fans are scattered across the U.S., meaning a product push into retailers may have resulted in less than stellar sales.  Coca-Cola’s bottler network may also be less interested in carrying this product over other drinks with a proven sales history.  Retailers themselves may also have been less inclined to give up shelf space and fridge space for a decade-old discontinued soft drink.  The Amazon launch solves all these problems.  Fans can order Surge online with free shipping that delivers a case of the drink to their doorstep.  Bottlers are not inconvenienced to sacrifice truck space and would still get a percentage of sales profits for Surge sold in their districts.  Retailers did not have to give up any shelf space, though I’m sure many are now interested in listing the soda in their stores.  In fact, the Surge Movement facebook page encourages fans to request their local retailers to stock the drink.  Surge had a lower chance of failing simply because of its history and cult status, which is still paying dividends post-launch.

Pepsi True, sold exclusively online. Initially only through Amazon.com but now also available through Walmart.com. Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Pepsi True, sold exclusively online. Initially only through Amazon.com but now also available through Walmart.com. Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Pepsi True is a different story.  Launching online was a calculated approach since retailer resistance and bottlers’ willingness to carry Pepsi True were likely problems just as they were for Coca-Cola Surge.  Without historical significance or a cult following, Pepsi True was left to target health-conscious soda consumers.   However, this consumer segment is also niche, possibly with little loyalty among any particular soda drink.   Pepsi would have to invest heavily into consumer marketing to educate the public on Pepsi True’s unique benefits, while also competing with Coca-Cola Life which launched into the same stevia-sweetened soda segment.  Have you seen any Pepsi True commercials or any Coca-Cola Life commercials?  Launching online was clearly the most cost-efficient for Pepsi True.  But their circumstance is very different from Surge, and they also have to deal with more competitive products.  As a silver lining, Pepsi True is now also available on Walmart’s website.  This could be a sign that retailers are slowly stocking the stevia-soda.

I would still term Amazon as the ultimate winner in this scenario, gaining exclusivity for two product launches.  After this test, Coca-Cola may be more inclined to try out introducing new beverages or reviving discontinued sodas with Amazon.  Pepsi may be just as willing, but hopefully they will fair much better.

Code Red Joins Mountain Dew’s Canadian Flavors

Mountain Dew Canada adds Code Red as a permanent sku to join Voltage as a fan-voted flavor.  Image courtesy of Mountain Dew Canada's facebook page.
Mountain Dew Canada adds Code Red as a permanent sku to join Voltage as a fan-voted flavor. Image courtesy of Mountain Dew Canada’s facebook page.

It looks like Mountain Dew Canada’s crowdsourcing contest has brought another drink flavor to grocery shelves for permanent distribution.  Following their win in Canada’s first Backed By Popular DEWmand, Code Red (Cherry) will return to shelves alongside Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, and Voltage (Raspberry Citrus).  Code Red had been available in the U.S. since 2002 and is considered one of the brand’s most successful extensions, so it should not be a surprise that it won the contest.  That said, after bringing in another flavor extension – and essentially doubling their assortment from two items to four items – what will Mountain Dew do next year in Canada?  Should they (or will they) repeat this consumer activity, or give a rest to avoid fatigue?

More info: Voltage Wins Canada’s first DEWmocracy

We can look toward the American crowdsourcing contests for some insights.  The first DEWmocracy ran in 2007, and again in 2009.  Backed by Popular DEWmand ran in 2011 to resurrect a flavor for a limited duration.  Beyond those three consumer activities that helped launch (or re-introduce) new soda variants, it appears Mountain Dew had abandoned the promotion in favor of other marketing activities.  A BrandWeek interview in 2010 with Brett O’Brien (Pepsi’s Marketing Director) described that the key objective was to openly and honestly communicate with Dew fans and consumers (link here).  It could be that Mountain Dew learned to focus on developing an entire social platform (ie Green Label) to engage with their fans on a sustained basis, rather than support crowdsourcing contests that generated a short term surge in conversations and awareness.

On the Canadian front, running this contest again in 2015 may induce fatigue.  Having ran the social media contests so close together (back-to-back years of 2013 and 2014), repeating this campaign for 2015 may lead beverage enthusiasts tuning out.  Worse yet, so much repetition may lead consumers to consider the brand as boring and unimaginative.  Despite the gap in available flavors, the Canadian team could decide to execute some other initiatives to launch new drink flavors or drive consumer engagement.  At the very least, their campaign findings could be compared with the American counterparts to determine next steps.

Ultimately, Mountain Dew’s crowdsourcing campaigns have delivered them two years of success and made many people happy along the way – consumers and retailers alike.  And the main message that they may have learned?  Is that Canadians and Americans alike are passionate about Mountain Dew.

Backed By Popular Dewmand Reaches Canada

Mountain Dew Canada brings back Code Red, White Out, and Supernova for Backed by Popular Dewmand Canada.  Courtesy of facebook.com.
Mountain Dew Canada brings back Code Red, White Out, and Supernova for Backed by Popular Dewmand Canada. Courtesy of facebook.com.

It looks like Pepsi likes to recycle American promotions for the Canadian market.  Mountain Dew had used the “Backed by Popular DEWmand” promotion to resurrect popular discontinued flavors, and are now running this campaign in Canada.  Following in the success of Voltage winning the first Canadian DEWmocracy, Code Red, Supernova, and White Out are now returning to store shelves until early August.  Like the original DEWmocracy campaign, consumers vote and choose which flavor they’d like to remain available after August 2014.  No mention on whether the winning citrus soda will become a permanent beverage in Canada.  However, if the 2013 promotion was any indication, there is a strong chance another flavor will join their current beverage line-up come September.

Intelligent move by Pepsi Canada’s Mountain Dew to follow the American playbook to introduce a new product.  The DEWmocracy campaign from 2013 may have generated a surge in sales that would have made it difficult to match in 2014 without any promotional activity.  Repeating DEWmocracy in the following year risks tiring out the Mountain Dew consumer with identical consumer promotions.  Enter the 2014 “Backed by Popular DEWmand” promotion.  The DEWmocracy campaign equity is extended to the current year through the “Backed by Popular DEWmand” campaign without risking promotion fatigue.  Loyalists that previously chose Code Red, Supernova, or White Out can now re-engage with these flavors and vote for their preferred flavor.

The beverage brand also reaps another benefit by indirectly repeating this campaign.  Beyond the voting process, Mountain Dew can further understand the Canadian consumer’s taste preferences.  The four flavors from last year – Voltage, Code Red, Supernova, and White Out – were carefully selected to see which ones would appeal most to Canadians.  While Voltage (raspberry-citrus) was the most popular, Code Red (cherry) placed a close second.  Code Red has been produced by Mountain Dew USA since 2002 and was considered one of the brand’s most successful flavor extensions (via the Mountain Dew wikipedia page).  Based on this information, it is certainly worth giving Code Red another chance in the Canadian market.

Mountain Dew Canada brings back Code Red, White Out, and Supernova for Backed by Popular Dewmand Canada.
Mountain Dew Canada brings back Code Red, White Out, and Supernova for Backed by Popular Dewmand Canada.  Courtesy of facebook.com

With all the focus and support behind the Mountain Dew brand in the U.S., it certainly makes sense for the Canadian team to receive some additional.  Even if Code Red does not win this year, the citrus soda company may return again next year with four new flavors – possibly the Taco Bell Baja Blast flavor.  Once again, great marketing campaign that engages with the brand’s fans that also provides valuable benefits to the beverage.

Voltage Wins DEWmocracy Canada

Courtesy of Mountain Dew Canada facebook page.
Courtesy of Mountain Dew Canada facebook page.

After nearly three months of consumers voting for their best Mountain Dew line extension, DEWmocracy pulled their four flavor offerings on June 9th.  This allowed them to tabulate the votes, and also tease  Mountain Dew enthusiasts a little longer.  On June 28th, the beverage brand uploaded a picture to their facebook page indicating that Super Nova has been eliminated with the least votes.  White Out was subsequently eliminated on July 2nd with the second least votes and/or consumer purchases.  On Thursday July 4th 2013, Mountain Dew announced that Voltage had beat out Code Red, winning the first DEWmocracy Canada.  Starting July 15th (today), Voltage will return to stores in both 355ml (12oz) and 591ml (20oz) formats.  Given its success, will this lead to Voltage staying as a permanent extension?  Or will Mountain Dew position Voltage as a limited time product, and stop-ship after a few months.  If they opt for the latter, they will have the opportunity to re-energize the Dew portfolio next year with DEWmocracy Canada 2014.  There are benefits and inhibitors toward both options, and here’s a quick perspective on each option.  Why would you prefer?

Should Voltage become a permanently shelved product, consumers will undoubtedly be satisfied.  After all, Voltage was determined to be the most appropriate flavor not just by social media votes, but also through product sales.  Consumers essentially opened their wallets to vote for Voltage and therefore expect to be rewarded with its extended availability.  From a retailer perspective, staying power for Voltage could translate to better grocery sales.  Given that customers purchased Mountain Dew at their establishment – and likely as part of a larger grocery shopping trip – they will be more inclined to return for other grocery trips.  And if shopping at that retailer is already part of the routine shopping trip, product availability becomes even more crucial since this means larger grocery receipts and profitability.  In the end, this builds better customer satisfaction and loyalty.  However, the downside becomes that if Voltage was simply a fad and consumers become uninterested with the product, sales will decline and may ultimately lead to it being discontinued.

Courtesy of Mountain Dew wiki page.
Courtesy of Mountain Dew wiki page.  Voltage announced as the first DEWmocracy Canada winner.

Should Voltage only exist as a limited-time offering, consumers will derive short term satisfaction.  In the longer term, this may create a cult following for Voltage should it return for DEWmocracy 2014.  Similar to other limited-time offerings like Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, beverage enthusiasts will continually be on the lookout for when Voltage’s return to Canadian shelves.  And in the meantime they will travel south of the border to purchase this product in unfathomable quantities.  Grocery retailers will recognize the short term gains of this flavor and be more than likely to support such a marketing campaign from Pepsi in the future.  During the life expectancy of Voltage this year, they will be open to increasing its shelf space and in-store visibility.  However, constantly adjusting regular shelf sets to incorporate new products may be time-consuming and ultimately lead to the product being stocked randomly wherever space permits.  This may in turn lead to significantly lower sales even after it returns to store shelves.

From an end user and grocery retailer perspective, both options translates positive results.  What about for Pepsi?

Whether it is temporary or permanent, Voltage provides Pepsi with another beverage option to satisfy thirsty consumers.  However, only Pepsi truly knows how much of these thirst quenchers’ dollars are truly incremental – meaning that they did not come at the expense of other Pepsi products the end consumer would have bought anyway.  The financial and time investments behind DEWmocracy Canada has been substantial from a marketing standpoint, and there is likely a positive carry-over affect onto other Pepsi products.  If Voltage is a limited-time offering, the investment and message for the summer may focus more on “get it while you can” to ensure a strong return on investment.  If Voltage becomes a standard offering, the message may be “your vote, your new favorite beverage” to drive equity, product positioning, and long term sales.

Whatever the case, Voltage has won Canada’s first DEWmocracy and will be around for the summertime.  For votes rooting for Code Red, Super Nova or White Out, facebook comments indicate  that these flavors are still available – but who knows for how long?  Now that Canadians have a taste of DEWmocracy, how often and how much will they reward Mountain Dew with their future purchases?

Increase Customization to Satisfy Soda Shopper Needs

It’s no surprise that carbonated soft drinks have been on a sales decline for the past few years.  Subjects such as stronger health-focus, lower calorie sodas, and government-proposed taxes are just a few examples of contributing factors toward the category’s decline.  So what has beverage conglomerates done to respond to this challenge?  Increase their product assortment – especially in the low calorie segment – and expand their package ranges among existing flagship brands.  One such example of proliferating the package range is delivering even more customization at a grocery retailer.

Over the last few months, we have seen examples of this customization from both Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  Beverage Digest tweeted about Coca-Cola’s partnership with Kroger’s to deliver a retailer-specific merchandizing strategy, where individual 12oz (355ml) cans of soda were lined up in racks for shoppers to choose their desired composition for an 8- or 10-pack.

Shortly after that, BevReview.com’s readers tip off a customized offering from Pepsi, offering a mix of both Pepsi and Mountain Dew in one 28- and 30-pack offering.

Both types of offering are examples of increased customization and are intended to satisfy more of the shopper’s needs.  Both are trying to ensure that the grocery retailer fulfills most (if not all) of their buyers’ soft drink requirements on that one shopping trip.  Coca-Cola’s offerings are also eliminating the fear of expired cans simultaneously.  After all, as a grocery shopper that previously had to buy a 12-pk of Tab but really only wanted 4 cans of Tab can now get these 4 cans, along with a couple cans of Fanta Orange and Fanta Grape.  Pepsi’s combo pack meets shoppers’ needs a little differently, but still offers customization since you can purchase both top-selling beverage brands in one case pack.

Coca-Cola Freestyle - courtesy of timeoutchicago.com

These custom offering are likely the end result of valuable shopper insights on consumption behavior.  What’s also interesting about Coca-Cola’s create-your-own-pack initiative is that it mimics their Coke Freestyle machine.  To remind some readers, the Coke Freestyle is the beverage manufacturer’s fountain unit that offers over 100 flavors of soda.  The important part to note for this machine is that in addition to allowing the thirsty consumer to create their own beverage mix, it also provides the Coca-Cola with information on what flavors are dispensed the most and possibly satisfy a previously unmet beverage need.  Creating your own multipack allows them to do the same thing, by monitoring shipment levels of individual cans and tracking the point-of-sale scanned data.

For Coca-Cola and Pepsi, this is an example of passing influence to the purchasers while maintaining their own product control.  By giving customers more choices and customization, they have effectively satisfied more of the shoppers’ needs and benefited themselves in the process with rich information.  Everyone wins in this scenario.

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.

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.

Backed by Popular Dewmand – 3 Mtn Dew Flavors

Mountain Dew Pitch BlackMtn Dew is bringing back three flavors as limited-time offerings, as Pitch Black, Supernova, and Typhoon will re-appear on store shelves to compliment the regular line of Mtn Dew options.  Advertising Age’s article mentions that Mtn Dew have listened to their fans from Facebook and Twitter about which flavors to bring back (article link here) and will be introducing them.  Mtn Dew will thank fans for their support of the beverage, and name some of these famous fans (“All-Stars”) in upcoming advertisements.  You can check out their Facebook splash page here.

This is an interesting marketing strategy by Mtn Dew, where they can also gain a lot of credibility.  By going back to flavors the worked in the past and re-introducing them, Mtn Dew shows their loyalists they the company is listening to them.  Not to mention it also saves them time and effort in having to gain traction for these beverages because all these flavors already have some level of familiarity with beverage drinkers.  And by publicizing fans in the campaign, in addition to launching strong digital efforts on Facebook and Twitter, Mtn Dew shows fans that they “get it”.

Unfortunately, while Mtn Dew as a whole “gets it” in the United States, the same can’t be said for Canada.  There are minimal Mtn Dew offerings available here in Canada, and the packaging itself is still old-fashioned.  So with all the support south of the border, why has there been less engaging efforts here?  Is the beverage market here in Canada more fragmented than that of the United States, meaning that their chances of hitting a home run with limited-time offerings are unlikely?  Or is the beverage market too consolidated, making it unlikely where these special offers will gain any traction at all?  Or both?  My guess is the latter, where the carbonated soft drinks market is too consolidated, along with the fact that Canadians (on the most part) are not as adventurous with our beverages.

Take a look at what you can find in the convenience store or grocery store aisle, and you’ll see that most retailers stick to the main top-selling flavors.  For more proof, pick up one or two of the more obscure drinks and look at its best before date, and see how close it is to passing this date.  This would prove that Canadians like their soft drinks, but only the popular ones.  And while consumers may be adventurous and receptive to trying new beverages, there are multiple factors that prevent the products from ever hitting store shelves.  First, the  manufacturer/distributor sales team must convince a retailer to carry the product with sales potential, supportive marketing efforts, and maybe even listing/slotting fees.  At the same time, both the retailer and the sales team are mindful of their budgeting and sales targets, where if the product is not successful then both parties lose money.  Secondary, if a product is introduced and the retailer chooses to carry it, some other slow-selling product must be taken away in other to gain shelf space.  Even if you are successful at showing your product’s potential, you must convince the retailer to make space for your product at the expense of another product, maybe one of your own products.  So even if the consumer is willing to try the beverage, the retailer may not want to carry it despite its potential because it does not beat out any existing product on shelf.

Not to say that Canadians don’t ever get a chance to embrace new beverages, but compared to the amount of new product introductions in the United States, we are very far behind.  The next time you want to try a new product, head over to your convenience store or gas station…across the border.