LIVE 2017: Honesty, diversity and reinventing brands with Frucor Suntory

Frucor Suntory MD Mark Wiedermann explains how the company took a failing energy drink brand and, with the help of a little honesty learnt from millennials, flipped the market on its head.

A key learning when marketing to millennials is acknowledging their diversity and demand for honesty, says Frucor Suntory Marketing Director Mark Wiedermann.

Frucor Suntory Marketing Director Mark Wiedermann in conversation with Publisher Lindy Hughson at Future Unpacked LIVE.
Frucor Suntory Marketing Director Mark Wiedermann in conversation with Publisher Lindy Hughson at Future Unpacked LIVE.

Speaking at Future Unpacked, the Food & Drink Business and PKN L!VE event in Sydney this week, Wiedermann said gone are the days of relying on research to pigeon-hole a demographic, where brands used a paintbrush approach for campaigns.

Now, in the case of Frucor Suntory and specifically its energy drink V, the focus shifted from presenting it as a life-changing beverage, to one that simply 'Improves you a bit'.

“As a category we market ourselves as having transformative qualities, but really, consumers just want motivation, a little boost to get them through,” Wiedermann says.

This revelation, which reshaped the brand's entire strategy, came from the Frucor Suntory team engaging with millennials at universities around the country and asking them what role an energy drink could play in their daily lifestyle.

“We had a moment where we realised there was a unanimous feeling that basically all millennials have a great home-life, great access to education, so just to get ahead of the pack is a daily battle,” Weidermann says.

“That’s what got us to pivot our brand positioning and express in honesty to our consumers what our product does; it's the 'massive hit that improves you a bit',” he added.

Redefining energy drink brand  V from being 'transformative' to simply giving 'extra functionality' was a marketing win for the brand, which had its worst year in 2013 prior to the makeover, and its best in 2016 just after.

Similarly Frucor Suntory's sports drink Maximus was launched with a focus on the individual drinkers, as opposed to marketing to an entire demographic of consumers in one fell swoop.

Frucor Suntory began trialling the product in areas known for high consumption of sports drinks, and through a partnership with Coles Express, had the drink tested at the country's top 100 small stores as though it was a national launch at its larger stores.

As well as this, Wiedermann says Frucor Suntory had no more than six people working on the strategy and launch of Maximus at any given time.

The idea was to “not bet the farm”, says Wiedermann.

“We wanted to do small things but tell big stories. We sold it in 100 small stores and monitored the results as though we had sold it in every retailer.”

The results were staggering. Within six weeks, Maximus held 15% of the sports drink category. Prior to this only two brands made up 94% of the vertical. Clearly, Frucor Suntory has begun to overturn the paint-brush marketing strategy, and it's working.

Going forward, Wiedermann says Frucor is definitely looking at the anti-sugar and wellness category, however accepts it's no easy feat.

“We're all trying to have a better day tomorrow than we had today and the onus is on us is to make those choices easier,” he says.

The difficulty with entering the anti-sugar space, however, lies in the lack of diversity. Unlike food, which has a good balance of healthy and indulgent options, beverages fail to work with both ends of the spectrum.

“With food, you can have Messina and indulge on that knowing you're going to eat healthy the next day. With beverages, there just isn't that level of diversity yet,” Wiedermann says.

However, the marketing director did hint at the possibility of a new product, saying “it is on us to provide those options”.

Watch this space.


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