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 ]

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At-Home Carbonation Reaching Critical Mass

It wasn’t that long ago that all we knew about at-home carbonation soda was Sodastream following their banned SuperBowl ad in 2013.  In the years since, Coca-Cola has joined up with Keurig and Pepsi has partnered with Bevyz to develop home brewing units and syrups.  We can now add another known competitor to the mix.  Sparking Drink Systems (SDS) International has a product called Viberation that produced carbonated soda all within one beverage pod.  It’s entirely possible that other companies are developing at-home carbonation units with its growing appeal.  Consuming carbonated beverages in an environmental-friendly way helps remove some guilt by reducing the plastic waste.  Sugar intake is another problem, but that’s a focus for another day.  As more competitors enter this expansive home-brewed beverage space, what will define their success?

The SDS Viberator, carbonating beverages within a single beverage pod.
The SDS Viberator, carbonating beverages within a single beverage pod.  Modified image via sparklingds.com.

One of the stronger products in the marketplace would be the SDS Viberation.  This Viberation has the capability to produce sparkling and enhanced waters, carbonate sodas, and even carbonate alcoholic beer without a CO2 cylinder.  The elimination of a CO2 cylinder increases the usability of the device, and possibly increase its adoption rate.  At this time, the Viberation is distributed across a variety of regional US-based distributors.  In order for this device to succeed, it must gain more exposure through securing distribution, marketing, and innovation.  Gaining distribution brings the Viberation to consumers that shop in bricks and mortar stores, or online.  Marketing efforts educate the consumer on the product benefits and its unique selling proposition (great-tasting carbonated beverages without a separate CO2 device).  Innovation makes meeting the consumer needs paramount with more flavors and assortment.  All three could end up being done through collaboration.  With a branded player (ie Starbucks? Dr Pepper Snapple Group) helps increase its reach, awareness, and appeal.

SodaStream’s main challenge appears to be part of its business model: carbonation cylinders.  With the competition’s ability to carbonate a beverage without any CO2 tanks, the Israeli-based company is facing an uphill battle to innovate.  Despite their recent marketing efforts at the SuperBowl to gain worldwide exposure, their growing stable of branded syrups, and their international distribution, the product still requires customers to invest in purchasing a CO2 device.  As the market shifts toward “all-in-one” devices, SodaStream’s may need to develop an at-home carbonation unit that can brew soda without a CO2 cylinder.  One of the core challenges SodaStream now faces is understanding whether their business model is still viable given the competitive landscape.  The C2 cylinders is a lucrative revenue stream, but it is also the barrier toward their adoption with more home-brewing appliances available.

The CO2 cylinder presents a great revenue source for SodaStream, but is also prevent fast product adoption. Sourced from coolest-gadgets.com.

Coca-Cola’s partnership with Keurig brought greater attention to this product segment.  Distribution and innovation likely are not challenges for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer.  In fact, these areas exist as its core strengths.  Keurig Cold will have the ability to not only brew Coca-Cola carbonated drinks, but also produce teas, sports drinks, juices, and a host of other Coca-Cola-manufactured beverages.  Marketing may actually be where Coca-Cola’s Keurig Cold device sees the biggest challenge.  The majority of their marketing dollars still reside with bottled beverages, and intensely promoting Keurig Cold will cannibalize their sales.  Another marketing challenge would be Coca-Cola’s ability to create the demand for beverage format when their bottled format is so successful and widely available.  Similar to Kraft MiO entering the liquid enhancers space first and Coca-Cola following, SodaStream pioneered the at-home carbonation space.  The challenge for Coca-Cola within liquid enhancers is not their product assortment, but their marketing efforts to create the demand for the liquid enhancer form of their beverages.  Coca-Cola beverage pods may endure the same fate as their liquid enhancers: broad assortment and distribution but limited marketing funds preventing the product line from reaching its full potential.

Pepsi’s Bevyz partnership will release an at-home carbonation unit to the market sooner than Coca-Cola.  The Pepsi Bevyz Fresh Machine was launched in the U.S. this past May.  Despite first-mover advantage, one of their core challenges appears to be marketing.  The market has not heard of Bevyz, and the majority still do not know Pepsi has developed an at-home carbonation unit.  While the product’s distribution and innovation are strengths, the marketing aspect seems to be the most significant barrier to overcome.  Despite the product’s versatility to carbonate beverages, produce teas, juices, and waters, and even serve as a water cooler, consumers are simply unaware of this machine.  Check out their 2011 Bevyz in Action video below.  Pepsi has been slow to react when Coca-Cola moved first in other spaces, such as in liquid enhancers and intelligent fountain units.  If Pepsi continues to think methodically before acting, they may stand to lose more ground to Coca-Cola and other competitors.

Each competitor faces their own challenge within this home-brewing beverage space.  Roadblocks toward growth include marketing, distribution, and innovation – it just depends on your business stage.  What is certain is more organizations are dedicating resources to small home appliances to help consumers make their own beverages.  This in turn helps the segment approach critical mass toward being available in every consumer’s kitchen counter space.

Beverage Pods Need Their Own Section

Courtesy of retailwire.com
Courtesy of retailwire.com

The growth of small home appliances like coffee makers, mixers, and juicers has led to new business opportunities between Coca-Cola and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR).  Through their 10-year agreement, GMCR and Coca-Cola will develop a Keurig Cold beverage machine that serves cold beverages and provide GMCR the exclusive licensing rights to single-cup beverage pods for Coca-Cola products.  While many analysts have detailed how this deal affects manufacturers like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and SodaStream (my article on manufacturer impact here), the retail impact is similarly significant.  With grocer’s help, this partnership will increase Coca-Cola’s consumer reach across more grocery aisles and in the consumer’s home.  For retailers where soft drinks is a trip driver, supporting this innovation stands to benefit them just as much.

Given the changing beverage market, the consolidated retail landscape, and the consumer’s taste preferences, the challenges are much greater toward winning in the competitive environment. For retailers, getting the grocery shopper to choose one retailer over another retailer has never been greater, which pressures the retailer to be more creative when communicating out.  For manufacturers, the rise of beverage categories like liquid flavor drops, energy drinks, and coconut water gives the grocery shopper more options than ever before.  The choice to try alternative and healthier beverages are positively reinforced as soft drinks come under scrutiny for containing unwanted sugars and calories.  With Coca-Cola bringing new news to a retailer’s trip-driving category, in-store support and product placement helps ensure full potential is realized.  Winning the grocery trip is the first step, but winning at the shelf requires proper retail support.

Grocery retailers have already started building single-cup pod sales by offering these single-cup pods next to tea bags and ground coffee.  However, a dedicated section for pods itself will soon be warranted.  As the selection variety expands beyond tea and coffee, these single-serve cups can no longer be confined to the tea and coffee aisle.  Rather, they deserve their own section where a consumer can find pods for teas, coffees, and soda.  

While the Keurig Cold isn’t expected to reach the market until 2015, grocery retailers should continue monitoring the selection and sales of their beverage pods.  Beverage pods may become a trip driver in and of itself for some retailers.

Coca-Cola’s Reply to SodaStream: Keurig Cold

Courtesy of nytimes.com

Most people by now may have heard of Coca-Cola purchasing an investment stake with the makers of the Keurig machines – Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR).  For those that haven’t, there’s some quick information from the New York Times here.  As a result of this deal, Coca-Cola appears to be making its first foray into small home appliances and endear itself more closely with consumers.  Experts have called this a great deal for both companies, providing each with mutual benefits.  But is this really the case where both companies benefit?  And what about other companies, should companies like Pepsi, SodaStream, or Starbucks be concerned?  Let’s take a quick look, first at the participating companies and then toward the others that are potentially affected.

For GMCR, this is partnership born out of necessity that will secure their footing in the single-serve beverage marketplace.  Following 2012, Green Mountain’ single-pod (K-Cup) cup patent expired and paved the way for other manufacturers (namely store brands) that could make these beverage pods cheaper.  To ensure survival of this increasingly rich revenue stream (more than two-thirds of the company’s revenues come from these pods), GMCR took to forming licensing agreements.  Coca-Cola was added to a licensing roster that already includes Starbucks, Lipton, Snapple, Timothy’s, Kahlua, and many more.  With a Keurig machine that produces single-serve hot beverages and now one that can product single-serve cold beverages, Green Mountain has certainly done well to ensure its survival.  With Coca- Cola’s reach across the consumer distribution channels, the Keurig machine will see dramatic business growth over the course of their 10-year pact.  Think of what Coca-Cola has done for beverage brands like evian, Monster, and vitaminwater.  An even better scenario would be signing Pepsi to a licensing agreement as well, which will further increase the Keurig’s machine placement among households and strengthen their dominance in making branded single-serve pods.

With Coca-Cola, this is a partnership that further segments the beverage landscape, and answers competitive pressure from new entrants to the ever-changing beverage market.  Coca-Cola is undoubtedly answering SodaStream’s “Sorry Coke and Pepsi” campaign about how the global beverage manufacturer is creating waste through its plastic bottles.  With single-serve pods and small home appliances, Coca-Cola is able to compete in a position similar to SodaStream – providing carbonated beverages at home without the need for plastic bottles.  And Coca-Cola now has an opportunity to exist on the counter shelf within the household, in addition to the refrigerator, pantry and garage.  Think about the ability to remind the consumer to consumer or purchase your product when your products are so pervasive within their household.  The next step to success for Coca-Cola may be investigating opportunities to leverage Coca-Cola Freestyle (create your own beverage mix) with the Keurig Cold, building on consumer insights to provide custom combinations and offer exclusive flavors “voted” by consumers.

Courtesy of belloblog.com. Scarlett Johansson stars for SodaStream’s 2014 SuperBowl spot – “Sorry Coke and Pepsi”.

For SodaStream, this marks their inclusion into the Soda Wars that has primarily existed between Coca-Cola and Pepsi over the past few decades.  If you keep on making eye-catching commercials targeted against the beverage conglomerates, they are certain to pay attention and respond.  This may be detrimental to SodaStream given the extra competition toward securing household counter space, but it also calls for innovation and a return to focus on the product benefits.  SodaStream’s foundation is still their ability to make soda at home, less expensive and without the use of plastic bottles.  Similar to GMCR, SodaStream must innovate and work to secure more licensing agreements.  Beyond Kraft and Ocean Spray, SodaStream may also work to sign on other brands such as Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and many more.

Now that Coca-Cola has invested into single-serve pods, it’s almost certain that Pepsi will respond in some way with their own pod offerings.  They responded in the past to Coke Zero with Pepsi Max and Dasani Drops with Aquafina FlavorSplash, amidst a host of other gap-filling products.  Pepsi surely won’t allow Coca-Cola to dominate the consumer’s counter space when their own offerings are just as robust, so it will only be a matter of time before Pepsi take the Soda War to the small home appliance.  The question is when and with whom.

The dark horse in all this may actually be Starbucks.  Starbucks had trademarked the name “Fizzio” with the intent to produce their own carbonated beverages.  To expand on their own burgeoning beverage empire, Starbucks may need to move up the deadline for when the Fizzio will be launched, or partner more closely with GMCR to serve both hot and cold single-serve beverage pods.

This news of Coca-Cola and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters signing a 10-year agreement has certainly created ripples across the industry.  The impact that has yet to be fully fleshed out with retailers as well, and that itself will be another article in the coming weeks.

Three More Canadian Beverage Trends For 2014

Many experts had created their own lists for food & beverage trends for 2014, how do you make sense of all of these?  Some are more macro-level and includes a generic view toward food & beverage (like this Innova report) while another taps into consumer needs that drive changing beverage preferences (like this CSP publication).  Euromonitor International’s white paper has also listed five beverage trends pertinent to the Canadian landscape (link here, must process credentials before report can be accessed).  These five trends are fairly on point, but may have missed out on some other additional activity that will change the beverage landscape this year.  Here’s some additional points BevWire has noticed and would like you to consider:

Improved Natural Sweeteners To Grow Zero/Low/Mid-Calorie Sodas

Pepsi Next - courtesy of rft3.wordpress.comDr Pepper & Pepsi had both launched mid-calorie sodas with combination sweeteners in the past two years, while Coca-Cola finally took the plunge last year with Coca-Cola Life.  Although Coca-Cola Life has yet to make its entry into the North America, this is a strong sign that everyone believes calorie segmentation for sodas is a step in the right direction.  Coca-Cola also has received FDA approval for Reb-X – their stevia sweetener developed in conjunction with Pure Circle.  In addition, Zevia & Steaz are also among a host of naturally-sweetened soda manufacturers that are gaining broader exposure and shelf space within grocery retailers.

These factors indicate that natural sweeteners are receiving just as much as attention as their regular calorie counterparts – if not more.  Optimizing a soda formula that removes the bitter aftertaste will go a long way toward restoring sales to this segment.

Aspartame Fears Continue to Depress Diet Sodas

The fear over safety of consuming aspartame came to a climax in mid-2013 as Coca-Cola ran an advertisement to dispel fears over this ingredient (link here).  With a greater focus toward ingredient consumption, consumers are leaving diet sodas for other beverage products.  The soda segment as a whole is facing scrutiny for contributing to obesity, but having extra attention on ingredients within diet soda has led to more consumers choosing alternative beverages such as juice, tea, and water.

With a continued rise in competition from adjacent segments and beverage categories, diet sodas will continue their rapid decline relative to the other soda segments.

Small Home Appliances Crowd the Consumer’s Kitchen Counter Space

Courtesy of sodastream.ca

SodaStream’s controversial in the 2013 Super Bowl ad really put them on the map, as well as put other carbonated soft drink manufacturers on notice.  Consumers also noticed this and SodaStream was rewarded with sales as well as increased availability across Canadian retailers.  SodaStream has also benefited with licensing agreements and partnerships to carry branded syrups like Kraft’s Kool-Aid and Country Time.  Starbucks is making inroads to get on your kitchen counter as well, trademarking “Fizzio” in 2013.  From trademark documents, Fizzio is their at-home carbonation unit that will carbonate water into soda flavors.

Outside of at-home carbonation units, coffee & espresso makers are also seeing a bump in sales.  Keurig, Nespresso, Tassimo and other coffee pod makers offering deep discounts on the coffee machine, attracting your initial purchase in order to have you buy exclusive coffee or tea pods from them in the future.

While BevWire doesn’t have an official list where these trends are being ranked, the rise of natural sweeteners certainly seems to be the most likely to take place in early 2014.  That said, we are only 13 days into 2014 and many things can still happen to change up the trends.  Let’s see how this plays out over the next 352 days.

What If Pepsi DID Acquire Sodastream?

Sourced from coolest-gadgets.com
Sourced from coolest-gadgets.com

It’s been a few weeks since news reports came out linking beverage conglomerates Pepsi and Coca-Cola’s interest in acquiring Sodastream.  While these reports have since been refuted, this does present an interesting scenario for the carbonated soft drink (CSD) industry should Sodastream become part of either company’s portfolio.  Since Pepsi has been the most commonly linked of the two, what would happen if Pepsi did in fact acquire Sodastream?  How would that change the CSD landscape, or would it change it at all?

Ignoring the growing trends of sustainability, DIY products, and small home appliances, Sodastream has still caught a lot of attention since the Superbowl banned their TV commercial.  The company’s positioning focuses on the environmentally-conscious aspect, touting that its at-home carbonation machine saves tons of plastic bottles from entering the landfill.  One of the qualitative acquisition benefits will include extending the sustainability factor for Pepsi that goes beyond plant bottles.  Is there any better way to deter perception of increasing plastic bottle waste but eliminating the bottle completely?

For the quantitative benefits of this theoretical acquisition, Pepsi will certainly integrate many aspects of Sodastream’s operations into their own.  The integration will create efficiency savings for distribution and production, but likely after a few years since there will be some figuring out to do.  Sodastream would be able to expertly utilize Pepsi’s distribution system to increase their market penetration without having to use up as much marketing dollars as they previously have; this lowers the cost of getting their machines and syrup bottles onto more store shelves.  In addition to heightened market penetration, Pepsi would also hasten adoption  of the sodamixes.  Offering Pepsi-branded syrup mixes will improve consumer confidence for the machines and halo over to the syrup mixes themselves.  Not to mention this blocks Coca-Cola from getting any potential licensing deals with Sodastream to have their syrup mixes packaged for the Sodastream carbonation units.  Not only will the soda enthusiast be able to purchase their favorite branded sodas in gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores but now they will be able to make their own at home.

Sourced from vidafine.com
Sourced from vidafine.com

While changing the carbonated soft drink landscape won’t happen as a result of this acquisition, it will fortify another revenue source for the category.  In a global market worth $183 million where the category is well developed coupled with negative connotations relating to health, any incremental revenue source is beneficial.  The benefit of Sodastream beyond their eco-friendly positioning is that it allows the end user to create their own soda.  This allows the end user to be more involved with their soda and own the production process.  While this interaction level is not a solution to the existing health issues, it does provide customization at a time when individuality is increasingly celebrated.

From the news reports, the current price tag for acquiring Sodastream is around $2 billion.  Should consumer trends persist (all signs indicate that it will, which is why its a trend), Sodastream may end up with a stronger valuation and become too expensive for anyone to acquire.  At that time, Pepsi and Coca-Cola may regret the day where they passed on the acquisition opportunity.  At that time, Sodastream may become such a strong disruptive force that the category landscape will be changed.

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.