Think Before, During and after you Drink

There’s a good deal of talk around really focusing your marketing message these days. Some people call it “niche marketing,” while others still call it “narrowcasting.” While that battle plays out with things like advertising, promotions and other tactics, like putting lighted signs under bridges – yikes! – what about what’s happening with your own brand? How can you “narrowcast” to your consumer?

When you walk down the beverage aisle in your local supermarket or convenience store, have you noticed how beverages are organized? Here are the traditional methods – thanks to the forefathers of category management.

1. By brand name With dominant players taking up the prime real estate on shelves and endcaps.

2. By age or activity type For example, water might be in a barrel cooler near the door since it’s hot outside and those energy drinks are near the chips because the high school kids like the combo deal.

3. By dollar gure With “new!’ and “different!” beverages seeking their own identity, companies will pay a premium for better shelf exposure, or have stronger point-of-purchase displays to try and “pop” for consumers.

I don’t know if we should blame the ever-demanding consumers or thank them, but the beverage business is a center of innovation. So why do we continue cataloging these liquids through tired methods as dated as the Dewey Decimal System? Beverages have specific identity points that appeal to consumers: we shouldn’t let an archaic classification system supersede the opportunity to connect genuinely with a specific consumer base.

What if, instead, we were to categorize beverage shelves based on consumer lifestyles. Imagine if we focused on consumer’s age, activity level or personality? Would it create, in the immortal words of Bill Murray, “dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!”

Maybe not. I think this kind of change might very well create a longer shelf-life and lasting value for the beverages we sell and drink.

Milking Your Brand for Value

What we’re suggesting here is that you get hip to this thing called narrowcasting — a practice that helps a brand generate a series of ongoing excitement streams by appealing to specic need states. Narrowcasting, or the dissemination of information to a niche audience as opposed to the general public, enables brands to innovate by using consumers’ lifestyles as a catalyst. In the beverage community, narrowcasting can be an important fuel for innovation and can also help brands achieve stronger holds on blocks of reliable, dedicated consumers. So how does this work? Narrowcasting is initiated using several methodologies with the delivery of a message (media) or merchandising. Following are some of the more popular categories, brands and liquids that—in our experience—are most prevalent in narrowcasting initiativess.

Performance. Drinks like Red Bull and Gatorade cater to one’s physical and mental abilities.

Prevention. Coke’s new Enviga as well as Ocean Spray’s cranberry juice product are two examples of beverages that communicate disease ghting properties. So is orange juice. More broadly, ‘low-fat’ and ‘low calorie’ prevent double chins.

Life-Enhancement. An ever-growing category, SILK soy milk, POM, açai juice and coconut water speak to those who choose more holistic lifestyle choices.

Cosmetic. Ever hear how people wish that good looks can be captured in a bottle? Borba Water, Tynant and VOSS have heard it too. Their marketing communications are all based on pretty people drinking their beverages—and getting prettier doing it.

In the good old days, it was thought that companies had to hook kids while they were young in order to make them loyal customers. Simply setting up vending machines at schools would interest kids in that sugary stuff in cans at an “early” age. But now, narrowcasting requires everyone along the beverage supply chain to think differently about a product. The kids think differently about the products, too, and the smart ones aren’t as hung up on ‘sweet’ as we think they are. They’ve been hearing about what drinks can do as long as they could walk, and they’ll look for products that cater to their own kiddie need states as much as we old dudes will.

A Longer Term Approach to Beverage Marketing

We’re all about the instant buck, but we wouldn’t mind it over the long term. A narrowcasting marketer thinks about how a beverage affects its consumers throughout their lives. Instead of milk “building strong bones and teeth” as traditional messaging dictates, milk is viewed through its health, energy and snacking lenses. One could discuss how milk hydrates someone after a workout, or how because of its nutritional value, it offers more than other beverages and—above all else—how milk is just as much a “food” as it is a “drink.” Each time, the product reaches a different interested group.

Without a doubt, companies must take into consideration how the beverage benets the consumer. When you milk a brand (sorry, the pun was staring me in the face!) for all of its attributes, it gets people excited because the potential messaging and branding is so much more personal. The key, though, is to ensure that this excitement lasts. This is where the “narrow” in “narrowcasting” comes into play.

The same way you break up subcultures of groups who use a product, narrowcasting requires a user to think about how a product can evolve. A successful brand must constantly revisit and modify the product while keeping in mind how the product will affect the consumer.