vitaminwater Refreshes Canadian Product Portfolio

The @vitaminwater_caa twitter headshot, current as of July 2014. Courtesy of twitter.com
vitaminwater Canada product line-up from their twitter page head shot as of July 2014.  Courtesy of @vitaminwater_ca (twitter.com)

It seems vitaminwater has recognized the limit on how many drink flavors can be sustained in the Canadian marketplace.  That number stands at twelve.  The hydration brand has quietly launched two new flavors under their Zero sub-brand, introducing Rise (orange) and Squeezed (lemonade) to build their calorie-free portfolio.  Very subtly, two of the previous zero-calorie flavors – Resilient-C (grape raspberry) and Recoup (peach mandarin) – are being phased out to make space for the two new offerings.  Beyond the zero-calorie product transition, Spark (grape blueberry) also is being phased out.  Notice the different flavors in the image above and below (Recoup has never been pictured).  It’s certainly interesting to see that the marketplace – and retailers – can sustain twelve flavor extensions.  Definitely not an easy feat to create shelf or cooler space for twelve items.

What is more interesting though, is vitaminwater’s approach to continuously refresh their product line-up.  While there has always been steady sales coming from popular flavors such as XXX, Essential, and Multi-V, there are “test” flavors launched into Canada.  From the hydration brand’s introduction, Rescue (green tea) was the first to be discontinued.  Through the years, other flavors have made brief appearances and slowly gone away, including Formula 50 (grape) and Sync (Berry Cherry).  And beyond these flavors that were expected to mainstays were limited-time offerings, such as the recent Glory (peach mango) flavor for the 2014 Olympics.  Regardless of all these other changes, the magic number – or limit – appears to be twelve flavors.

Despite a mixed response leading to varied success and failure, their constant innovation is admirable.  The company keeps on bringing flavors into the market to see what sticks with consumers.  It would be safe to say that vitaminwater has introduced up to twenty flavors at one point or another to the Canadian market.  Beyond the original eight flavors that accompanied the Rescue offering at launch, the most successful introduction has been Energy (tropical citrus).  Most of the grape flavors – Spark, Formula 50, Resilient-C – have only made brief and unsuccessful appearances.

vitwaminwater Canadian product line-up as of July 2012.  Courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc (twitter.com)
vitwaminwater Canada product line-up as of July 2012. Courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc (twitter.com)

Regardless of success or failure, it is a welcome sign to see a company continuously improve their product line-up.  Before an item can be launched, a company invests significantly behind research and development to determine its viability, demand, and sales potential.  And to consistently bring new products to the market, this is a sign that vitaminwater believes in the product’s longevity.  Even with product proliferation being a key concern that prevents retailers from stocking all the flavors, substituting new products in place of slower selling products helps both parties.

After all the product substitution, let’s just hope that vitaminwater eventually finds a grape flavor product combination that will stick in the Canadian marketplace.

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Lost in Translation: vitaminwater Canadian Promotion Goes Awry

vitaminwater's promotion blunder. Image courtesy of Metro through adweek.com
vitaminwater’s promotion blunder. Image courtesy of Metro through adweek.com

Over the last few weeks, glaceau vitaminwater have come under scrutiny for its under-the-cap promotion that spelled out the words “YOU RETARD” (story link here).  As a bilingual Canada nation that calls English and French as its national languages, certain words may not translate so well.  vitaminwater’s promotional intent was to put one English and one French word under the cap, with the consumer collecting the caps to make funny sentences.  Apparently the problem was that the English list of words and the French list of words were separately approved and no one thought of what the consequences should both words were combined.  These consequences were amplified given that the family finding these words were a special needs family.  Doug Loates (the dad) sent Coca-Cola a letter immediately letting them know of his displeasure toward their campaign and how hurtful it was to his family.  As you see from the letter (below), he has signed it as “an ex-Coke drinker” which likely means that they have lost a customer for life.

As the glaceau business unit goes into public relations defense, what can be learnt in this situation?  The obvious lesson is to develop stronger approval systems when running a bilingual campaign in Canada (as in any other nation with more than one national language). Ensuring that the correct message is not lost in translation is critical and avoids the company any negative PR and embarrassment.  If there was a business team that handles the French marketing and another team that handles English marketing, then these two teams must collaborate more closely to ensure each party is dialed in to what the other team is doing.  Ultimately the national campaign is approved by someone that manages both teams, so that executive should also be aware of the consequences.

Aside from focusing on the directly results of this campaign, one has to wonder why vitaminwater ran this type of a campaign in the first place.  If the intent was to stimulate sales by having beverage enthusiasts collect the caps to create words, is there a prize for the funniest word?  Or was it simply a game for instant gratification by combining words together?  I have not noticed any type of media promotion to build awareness or excitement for this campaign in either case.  vitaminwater may have fared better had they simply piggybacked off of Coca-Cola’s iCoke.ca loyalty program.  After all, with an existing infrastructure where consumers are already knowledgeable of the reward system, this would make it easier to achieve the campaign’s objectives.

The next time vitaminwater runs a marketing campaign that spans the nation, we’ll see whether they have truly learned their lesson.  Will it be regional promotions with stricter guidelines for English- and French-speaking provinces?  Or will it be the same problem?

Coke Letter by Doug Loates
Doug Loates’ letter to Coca-Cola on finding the vitaminwater bottle cap

vitaminwater10 to be repositioned as vitaminwater zero

Over the past few days, Coca-Cola has been in the news alot with numerous announcements.  First with the global introduction of its PlantBottle, followed with its dispute with Costco, to their World of Coca-Cola speech of their 2020 plans.  One point that was not lost of most people was the repositioning of vitaminwater10 to vitaminwater zero.

Currently, vitaminwater10 has 10 calories or less, but Coca-Cola claims it will be able to reduce calories completely out of this drink.  In addition, the flavors will be transitioned to vitaminwater zero flavors.  However, there were originally 8 flavors of vitaminwater10, so one flavor is being discontinued as a result of this repositioning – energy.  Is this flavor not performing well compared to the others?  Why discontinue one of the original flavors and stick with 4 of the newer, funky-name flavors?

This repositioning comes on the heels of a very impressive and successful launch for the vitaminwater10.  Does this take away all the brand equity built into vitaminwater10, because alot of marketing dollars will be wasted as a result of this shift?  What will be the consumer impact of this?  Consumers may likely believe that zero calories is better than 10 calories, but the taste may be severely compromised.  A lot of consumers have said that the xxx and essential flavors of vitaminwater10 do not taste as good as the full calorie offerings, and also have shifted back to the the full calorie beverages.  We will have to wait to see what happens following the rollout next year.

In other news, vitaminwater will receive a package lift with metallic labels and nutritional value on the labels.  BevWire believes this repackaging has benefits as well as shortcomings.  First the positive – indicating the nutritional value shows consumers the healthy content they are taking in with each bottle.  Not that the previous bottles did not show the nutritional value, but it was not as obvious.  However, the repacking to shiny, metallic also kind of indicates that vitaminwater is selling out, or going celebrity.  The original packaging was bland, but it worked.  Not only that, but it showed that the important thing was the beverage itself, not the packaging.  Now that the drinks are selling, they will repackage it to make it more…chic and flashy?  BevWire just doesn’t agree with this…

However, BevWire did mention that vitaminwater is over-proliferated, so maybe this will indirectly help them shrink back down and pick out which flavors sell the best.  Only time will tell….