The newly reformulated Powerade contains "ION4," and the branding emphasizes the secret code for this new concoction at the expense of the name of the product. I'm not sure that’s such a smart thing to do.The brand refresh actually makes a lot of sense. Gatorade invented the sports drink category in the mid-60s, and recently went through its own update, though of logo and not recipe. Powerade has always seemed like an also-ran, introduced a few decades later and commanding less than a fifth of Gatorade's market. So its product development decided to play to this circumstance of history, and claim a better, more current understanding of the hydration needs of the human body.
ION4 is "The Advanced Electrolyte System" that makes it work better and faster that Gatorade's 50 year-old science, or so Powerade's marketing would have us believe. Its strategy to label these ingredients, and feature it prominently in its labeling and advertising.
I think it obfuscates a potentially useful functional benefit with some outdated thinking about branding.
You've never heard of ION4 before. It's a made-up term, probably confirmed by Coca-Cola's crack legal team to connote no meaning or sense of ownership anywhere on the planet. So I can't imagine that anyone is comforted by its mention, let alone inspired by it, or terribly interested in taking the time to decipher what it might mean. It's not like a community of sports enthusiasts created it, or some loose affiliation of sports doctors have heralded its invention.
It's secret code, which is another dumb vestige of schmarty-pants branding.
Marketers filled the latter-part of the 20th Century with lots of nonsense claims and terms for product benefits: more surfactants in dishwashing liquid; greater stain-removal power in laundry detergent; added somethingoranother in gas. It still happens a lot today, as evidenced by Comcast's claims of super-dooper Internet speeds, or the nonsense propagated about digital music file formats. They're all secret codes that marketers presume to claim, and then offer as unique benefits.
Only they're not. I'd argue that consumers either don't have time for this nonsense, or they're empowered and motivated to see through it. ION4 requires more explanation; it's more work, not less. A hurdle, not shorthand.
Wouldn't it have been lots easier and more obvious to stick a "new" or "improved" starburst violator on everything? That's another tried-and-true tactic, only its simpler, and it lets the brand keep visual space for, er, the brand name. All the creative talent that went to the elaborate web site to present ION4 could have been directed at making the our-formulation-is-current-and-theirs-isn’t positioning more immediate and motivating.
Instead, we get just another secret code.The Bulb Asks:
- Shouldn't branding make things easier to understand?
- Is a proprietary term worth the cost of making consumers decipher it?
- Why would you ever highlight an ingredient over your product name?