V8 Identity Crises?

10 03 2009

If I’m not writing about the Whitecaps or the sport, you’ll most likely find me writing about marketing.  I can’t help it.  I notice it everywhere and I’m pretty critical when something doesn’t jive.  Like V8 for example…

I love V8.  I wouldn’t touch the stuff when I was a kid, but nowadays, I love the stuff.  I drink it when I’m nursing a hangover and when I feel I’ve been neglectful on the old vegetable intake.

Which makes this latest product so confusing to me.  V8 V-Fusion promises a full serving of vegetables plus a full serving of fruit.  Great!  But then they go on to say that, best of all, V-Fusion tastes only like a fruit drink.  So if you aren’t all that fond of veggies, you can get a serving without realizing it.

This seems odd to me.  In an effort to expand their market reach onto people that hate vegetables, are they not insulting their core product?  Doesn’t it seem a little odd that they would come out with a product that masks the flavour of what they have become known for? 

Two examples, one good-one bad, come to mind.  Saturn came onto the scene with a no-frills and no-haggle approach and immediately became a success in the auto industry.  Unfortunately, while sales were booming, the parent company GM was struggling.  And customers started to demand the same innovation and customer service from GM, something they were just not prepared to do. 

On the flip side, Buckley’s Cough Syrup has been a nemesis of children forever.  I hated the stuff – in fact I was forced to take it as a kid and protested vehemently every time.  My mom had never had it, so I asked her to try it.  Eager to prove me wrong, she took a spoonful, almost gagged, and immediately threw the bottle away and said I wouldn’t have to drink that stuff again.  I still have not had any of the stuff since.  But what Buckley’s did well was realize who they were.  They had an identity and they weren’t going to change.  They could have made a milder, fruity version and what would have happened?  They would have slipped in amongst all the other generic cough syrups that struggle for distinction.  Instead, they embraced their identity, and for over a decade have run the now-famous campaign ‘It tastes awful.  And it works’.  Brilliant stuff.

Coming back to V8, wouldn’t they be better served growing the ‘convenient vegetable-product’ market?  Shouldn’t they identify themselves as the preeminent convenient vegetable serving product and push to deepen that identity further?  What is interesting is that they have also done this.  V-Go is a smoother version of V8.  This is perfectly reasonable (remember its Buckley’s not V8 that differentiate themselves on harsh taste).  More recently, V8 unveiled a line of vegetable soups, another great product extension.  Ultimately, these products will enrich the experience of their current consumers and reach new consumers without getting away from the core identity of the brand.

Meanwhile, another division of the company is trying to reign in new customers by hiding the very essence of the V8 brand.  I just don’t see how that helps the brand in the long term.




One response

10 03 2009

well i suppose an arguement could be made that coke are diminishing their coca cola drink by prmoting diet coke? cherry coke?

V8, yeah, never been a big fan, now heinz tomato juice tho, yummmy, just had me a glass

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