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Jun 22, 2009 | Comments


In Marketing 101, I recall the professor inculcating us with one marketing principal that we should never forget: STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning).

Vitamin Water, with its recent marketing, cleared the first step (as illustrated with the above ads). Here are three segments for the energy market: athletes, health-nuts, and, some form of self-expressive urban identity.

The next step is targeting. Instead of selling to everyone, the profs suggest that a company pick the most profitable, desirable segment.

Vitamin Water ignores this. I can imagine the marketing manager proclaiming, “Let’s sell to every type of consumer that will pay for $10/gallon for flavored water.”

The drink is three things at once. If I showed this to a marketing prof, they would scoff at such ineptitude, proclaiming that three distinct marketing messages leads to mass-confusion. As the great sage Seth Godin teaches us, “If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.”

But I’m not so sure. Vitamin Water has hit $500M in sales, regardless of whether the marketing pitches the product three different ways. If it works, who cares?

What do you think, marketers of the world? Is Vitamin Water violating the sacred laws? Or are there new laws?

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  • They are not violating the laws. There
    are NOT new laws.

    The issue is UNDERSTANDING true segments by behaviour. Without seeing the research,
    if the sales are as you say, they have simply positioned themselves, albeit
    accidentally, to the lazy hoper- a segment that thins $10 a litre lolly water
    will give them some better advantage that other refreshments available for their

  • @Lee: It's the same media landscape as in 1985. The commercials aired on ESPN and the print ads magazines.

    Vitamin Water is making a big push online--as noted by their popular facebook success. But they are not doing any sort of optimization or testing. My point is not that they are running multiple campaigns, but that each campaign sells vitamin water differently. It's as if IMVU sold it's self as a chat room, social network, and video game at the same time. It's not like their optimizing or testing for the best strategy...they're just trying to be too many things at once.

    @Charlie: Agreed. Vitamin Water owns the "healthy water" market. This is where their equity was and defined their positioning for the past 18 years. But notice the Kobe/LeBron ads...sounds like they are now changing their positioning to compete with Gatorade and move to the "athletic drink" market.

    I don't discount the fact that Vitamin Water is an awesome, innovative product. Just like Google, it changed the game for bottled drinks. To your point, they have an awesome brand, which justifies their success in spite of shitty advertising. I suppose I'm focusing on their marketing decision--how they are beginning to shift away from what made them special and unique (healthy flavored water) to a product that its owner Coca-Cola can throw against Pepsi's Gatorade. It won't bring down the brand--but it's an interesting marketing decision nonetheless.

  • This might be reflective of how much the media and advertising landscape has changed in the last few years. In a world where there are infinite targeted channels, and we each consume what we want from where we want, it seems logical that a company approaching $1B in sales would want to reach multiple niches at once across different venues. In fact, given our ability to measure results today, it seems imprudent not to be running multiple campaigns in different channels right now, if for no other reason than to be constantly testing new ideas and new markets to improve your reach.

  • The ads are unremarkable, yes, but there are a few huge factors at play here that you're overlooking.

    The biggest one is their positioning. Their name is extremely strong, memorable, and communicates the benefits of the product instantly. They were also first to get into the mind of the consumer for "healthy water." They are the leader in a category they created, much like Red Bull did for "energy drink." When a company is first into a category and first into the mind of a consumer, it can more or less put their sales on auto-pilot.

    The second is that, for a certain group of people, it's a quality product that filled a need that wasn't being met. Before Vitamin Water, there weren't any drinks that didn't taste really sugary. There was almost nothing in between water and Gatorade (or at least nothing that was an obvious, healthy alternative).

    Companies can get away with bad advertising if the equity of the brand is really strong. Marketing is important, but I'll bet on the company with the best brand any day of the week.

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