OPINION11 September 2012
OPINION11 September 2012
How PepsiCo transformed energy drink Gatorade into a sports nutrition brand with the help of a mobile research project in Brazil.
Going for growth was the main theme of this morning’s Esomar Annual Congress in Atlanta. For a topic that makes board directors sweat in testing times, it’s perhaps wise that these business-oriented presentations should follow a “feel good” start to the day with Gospel choirs singing hymns (and Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ for added gusto).
But once the music was over, followed by a short “world premiere” of research hailing Barack Obama as the world’s favourite to win the forthcoming US Presidential election – it was time to get serious again and identify the tools that could help fuel growth in challenging economic times.
Fred John, senior business leader at MasterCard International, kicked things off by remarking to the crowd that “growth is synonymous to progress, and research should be a key part of this”. But he cautioned: “Applying approaches that work in the West to developing countries doesn’t always work and you should approach these areas differently.”
An energy boost
So given that it is the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) that offer the most promise for growth right now, how should firms be researching these markets? PepsiCo was on hand to give their perspective, based on how its efforts to transform Gatorade from an energy drink into a sports nutrition umbrella brand spawning many different variants.
Ana Alvarez, consumer strategy and insight director at PepsiCo Beverages, said that despite a lack of research innovation in Latin America, Brazil’s mass takeup of social media and mobiles made it the perfect testing ground for reviewing the Gatorade brand strategy and applying the insights internationally to pursue market growth.
“Brazil is the second biggest market on Facebook and there are more mobiles used there than the actual population of the country – the opportunity for research is huge, even with people from low-income backgrounds. The problem is that market research lacks innovation in Brazil right now, there is a dearth of it, so the challenge becomes how can you relate to audiences in savvy ways that understand the local culture and can be credibly explored internationally afterwards.”
PepsiCo worked with the UK’s Mesh Planning to use these digital technologies as a way for reviewing and innovating Gatorade’s existing channel strategy, with a particular focus on experiential activities. A panel of 400 people with phones participated by pre-registering their views of the brand in an online survey, before using their devices to report when they had seen or heard of the brand while out and about (or on broadcast media). When they registered a sighting or an encounter, they would again be sent an online survey to explore their sentiments towards the brand at that moment. This included online diaries where participants could then add free text explaining the reasoning behind their expressed sentiments.
Fiona Blades, chief experience officer at Mesh Planning, said: “What emerged helped formulate the brand’s strategy in activating its transformation from being one drink to one master brand of many products. We were able to monitor touchpoints and review the spontaneous reactions. Surprisingly, experiential came out on top of broadcast and so we recommended that attention was paid most to this sort of activity.”
PepsiCo subsequently used these findings to formulate campaign priorities, placing social affirmation at the heart of the brand’s consumer approach. The approach worked. Alvarez says satisfaction metrics soared and sales also caught onto the halo effect as a result of the marketing switch. The “growth” opportunity was seized and is now being tested in Guatemala on another PepsiCo brand.