When you hear “Gatorade,” what do you think? While the name may conjure up seemingly simple ideas such as “sports drink” or “flavored water,” the science behind the Gatorade brand is actually very complex, and is focused on something much bigger, bolder, and specific.
Sarah Robb O’Hogan, North American President of Gatorade and Global Chief Marketing officer of Sports Nutrition for PepsiCo, shared how Gatorade’s brand weakened during the bloated economy, and how the recession brought the brand back to its core consumer.
Costly Sales; Brand Dilution
Prior to the recession, “we took the franchise broader than we should have, instead of staying focused on athletic performance. We went broader because we could. Before the recession, we could get away with sales that maybe we shouldn’t have had in the first place.”
Then hard economic times hit, and the “rented consumers” returned back to what was easier and more affordable: tap water.
Broadening their appeal to a massive audience not only diluted their brand; it led to a sharp decline in sales and profits when their market base self-corrected.
Rather than focusing on winning back those that they lost, O’Hogan explained that Gatorade realized that they had “an opportunity to reinvent business and grow in a healthy way if we went back to our core consumers:” highly athletic consumers, with the “bulls-eye” being the 13-17 year old athletes intently pursuing athletic achievement.
To truly zero in on their target market, they turned completely away from all other markets and engaged in intensive market research. As a result they developed new product lines that went way beyond just the needs of hydration.
Laser-Focus Market Research Drives Brand Transformation
“Our transformation was totally shaped by our target consumers, said O’Hogan.” The highly targeted market research educated the company on just how broad their market was. They started questioning, “Who is active, and who is not? How do you define athlete?” This led to the discovery of new consumers, including skateboarders and dancers, who surprisingly were just as fit as the most elite football players.
Gatorade’s global mission is “to be the world leader in innovative sports nutrition.” Says O’Hagan: “No one else has the ability or the right to do what we do in our market.”
That is a bold statement that borders on arrogance, but they’ve earned the right to say it.
What’s Your Market and Bulls-eye?
How are you defining your target market, and your bulls-eye? Who are you talking to for market research? How close are you to becoming the Gatorade of your market?
And, are you currently getting away with sales that maybe you shouldn’t have in the first place – sales that could dilute your brand and steal your market positioning? There is much more to a sale than just counting the money. Sometimes that sale comes at the expense of your brand integrity.
The next time you reach for a Gatorade to recharge, stop to think how much pain and sweat the company endured to declare victory on its market. Then ask yourself if you’re doing the same.
To hear more from Sarah Robb O’Hogan about the lessons learned from Gatorade’s brand rebuilding, view this interview: