What it says on the tin
This is the rationale behind an idea I had for V energy drink recently
A quick scan of the competition shows that the energy drink category is highly homogenous; both in terms of target market and the messaging. This is particularly prevalent in sponsorships, which is an important part of the marketing mix in this category. Perhaps as a result of the sports drink origins, the main brands are all into various extreme and action sports as well as motor sports and team sports. They also sponsor music festivals, paintball tournaments and other similar events.
So the brands all focus on physical energy – to stay active, having fun, be crazy, partying and dancing all night. Action speaks louder than words in and a Mother ad says it best: “Mother: for men who act before they think”.
What I found when talking to people, however, and this was backed up by various articles and industry reports, was that the most common reasons for drinking energy drinks are all related to mental energy: to stay awake and to perform mental tasks at work and school/university, throughout the day and into late evening and night.
While young males are the biggest demographic of energy drinkers, and to whom the current strategies would most appeal, they are a more diverse group than they are being given credit for. Women, young professionals and older age groups are also catching up quickly in terms of category usage.
There is therefore a significant disconnect between what the category promotes and the actual behaviour of a large proportion of potential and existing customers. In addition there is the potential of non-users like myself, who drink coffee daily, but currently feel alienated by the energy drink category. I simply don’t want to be associated too closely with the current core demographic.
So the opportunity exists to engage with people on an intellectual level; to appeal to the girl who studies all night rather than party all night, and to the guy who reads the newspapers rather than Zoo magazine. Focusing on intellectual and mental energy allows the communication to be gender neutral (simply making a diet/sugar-free version will not automatically attract female drinkers), and it will differentiate V in a competitive and generic category.
In order to find the a genuine brand truth on which to credibly base a claim for the “mental energy” gap, I looked closer at the actual product to see whether V had any features that could be leveraged. There weren’t many, but sometimes all it takes is one, and in this case it was the guarana.
While guarana is an active ingredient in some of our competitors’ products (not Red Bull), V is the only brand that currently promotes it in any way, and we can therefore realistically ‘own’ this ingredient. Perhaps we already do. Guarana is a natural plant, native to the Amazon, and it contains a form of concentrated energy.
The energy in V comes from one of the purest places on earth; it is a renewable and sustainable source of energy extracted from the seeds of a plant native to the ‘lungs of the earth’. It is energy in its purest form. The essence of V, therefore, is purity: “Pure Energy”.
So having in mind the opportunity to connect on an intellectual level and the brand essence, what does pure energy connote?
· Pure as in concentrated and efficient energy
· Purity in a natural and environmental sense. A natural and renewable source of energy with no form of emissions or negative environmental consequences
And it was the last point that took me in the direction of a bigger idea connected to the current cultural and social discourse.
Global warming, and other issues related to energy, is one of the most prominent topics of our time. Every young person in the world is affected by it, directly or indirectly, and few things engage them more than the future of the planet they someday will inherit.
So here’s a territory which can potentially be used as a platform to engage and connect with our customers; a smoking hot social topic which is cultural agnostic and, crucially, relevant to our own core product
Or is it?
V is currently in the soft-drink business, more specifically tucked away in a sub-category called energy drinks. Well, if we’re serious about energy and about our claim to provide pure and efficient energy, perhaps it’s time we redefine our place in the world by taking Apple’s advice and Think Different. And Big.
What if instead of being in the soft-drink business delivering a bit of energy, we are in the energy industry; soft drinks just happening to be a mode of delivery. A bold statement perhaps, but one which perfectly suits a brand known for its quirky sense of humour.
So what would the implications of this be?
· Our competitors are now Shell and BP and various governments’ mining and coal industries, and we can confidently and cheekily ignore the Red Bulls and Mothers of this world
· Our new friends are the very same guys who to do their best to ruin the future for our customers. They destroy the environment by emptying it for recourses, the emissions from consumption leads to global warming. Countries even go to war over control over energy resources. They are corrupt, greedy and ruthless
· They also threaten our very own source of energy, the Amazon!
· Our competitors damage the reputation and integrity of our industry and our brand and our business suffers as a consequence. And V won’t have it
· In this company of rather seedy characters, we’re the good guys; the producers of clean, natural and renewable energy; the underdog who can take on the big guys, with a sense of humor and nothing to lose
So by cheekily introducing ourselves into this company, we now share a common enemy and cause with our customers. Nothing brings people (and brands) together like a common enemy, and few things engage more than the fight for a cleaner planet and a better future.
This allows us to promote our product and the quality of our energy (without taking ourselves too seriously), while fighting for a something which bigger than ourselves, a cause which appeals to our customers on an intellectual and ideological level.
Rich creative territory
The creative opportunities include, but are far from limited to, from the top of my mind: encouraging people to use their energy for good, perhaps donate it to work for charities; be a constant pain for our competitors by pointing out their less than pure intentions; organize and encourage activism (with our own unique spin on it) and tell the Amazon story. Our competitors’ predictable and inevitable immoral behavior will lead to a never-ending supply of opportunities for tactical and guerilla executions. There are also opportunities to expand the product range and review our sponsor partnerships etc etc
Going down this route, a brand personality also starts to emerge:
· Cheeky and bold – the brand will largely be defined by the humor and cheekiness with which we take on the rich and powerful.
· Intelligent – we use our energy for an ideology and in doing that credit our customers for using their brain
· Straight-talker – tell it like it is and stands up for what we believe in
· Optimistic and energetic – it’s up to us and you to change the future. We’re in it together and together we can do it!
· Honest and ethical
· Modern and socially aware – we have a social conscience just like our customers
· Confident – that our product and energy is so good
· Flexible and up to date – always engaged in current social issues and events