On a very hot day last summer while tracking Tiger Woods at Firestone Country Club, I thought for a moment about buying a bottle of water.
Shade was sparse and I grew sweaty and thirsty as I tried to keep pace with the tournament gallery on Firestone's rolling grounds. I paused at a concession tent, but stopped short of pulling out a $5 bill for flavored water. No doubt, I was not the target consumer for that particular beverage.
But millions do buy bottled flavored waters. They pay a premium for essentially the same stuff they can get from their faucet for mere pennies. Beverage companies add a drop of this, a drip of that and a splash of flavor. They do a pretty good job of tempting consumers.
Credit marketers. The sports drink category that sprang up with Gatorade morphed into the enhanced water category with players like Propel, and the playing fields have become crowded.
Beverages are bitter battlegrounds for marketers. Whether they are selling beer, cola or bottled water, they face tough competition with lots of ammo. And few marketers have more firepower than PepsiCo.
But a loaded arsenal doesn't mean diddly if the strategy is flawed. As Ad Age reports in a March 12 article, Pepsi's Propel helped establish the enhanced water category in 2002 and thrived as a popular brand against strong competition. But its position as the beverage for athletic people evaporated when Pepsi tried to flood Propel into the larger (and cooler) lifestyle space.
That was a mistake. Propel had become rooted as a product for those whose days weren't complete without a workout. Then its handlers diluted Propel for the lifestyle space. The brand fizzled because it didn't follow positioning's Rule of Division, which prescribes a new name for a brand venturing into an emerging category. (Had Propel become, say CoolWater, it may have won the battle for the minds of the new audience.)
Now Gatorade is taking Propel back to its roots. Ads feature people exercising. With the line "Add Flavor to Your Workout" and the proclamation that it's from the makers of Gatorade, Propel is where it belongs positioned as the water for people who exercise regularly.
Gatorade and Propel VP Marketing Morgan Flatley says, "With the heritage of Gatorade and the sharp positioning, we feel there is tremendous opportunity."
Propel is on its way back in the category where it was born. By embracing a relevant position with a loyal audience, Propel is a good bet to emerge a winner after getting a second chance.
Innis Maggiore Case Study
Positioning in Action: You can call me "Al."
How many Al's does it take to sell a truck? The more Al's the better, according to truck body manufacturer JOMAC.
If you visited their booth at the recent CONEXPO in Las Vegas, you might have done a double- , triple- , or even a quadruple-take. All of the JOMAC people helpfully wore name tags, but each tag read: "HELLO My Name is Al."
Confusing? Crazy? Coincidence?
No. No. And no. Instead it was a clever and memorable way to capture and present JOMAC's position in the market, their defining difference and competitive advantage. "Al" stands for "Aluminum," and JOMAC stands for aluminum truck bodies when everyone else in the industry still makes heavier steel bodies.
Aluminum saves an average of 50% in weight, so customers need 1/3 fewer fuel fill-ups. JOMAC turned to the positioning pros at Innis Maggiore to drive this position-based message.
The key to making it work was that JOMAC didn't take themselves too seriously. They wore the name tags. They OK'd a pre-mailer with the headline, "Al has some real lightweight ideas for you." A booth sign referred to their own products as "real lightweights."
Tongue-in-cheek as the approach was, the methodology was textbook, from pre-show mailer and incentive overlay to signage and new business cards.
At CONEXPO, you actually get orders (at least you hope to), and it turns out that lightweight ideas can bring heavyweight results, as JOMAC's show sales increased by 66.7% over the prior year.
The show was in March. April has been their best month ever, so much so that keeping up with production has become the only challenge. Last heard, everyone at JOMAC is legally changing their name to Al.