Solixir, an energy-drink brand positioned as an “all-natural, healthy” functional beverage/dietary supplement, has launched a full-out marketing push in the heart of Chicago, with a campaign dubbed “The Working Dead.”
The zombie-spoof campaign (“Fighting the Working Dead One Can at a Time”) spans “advertising dominations” in Chicago’s rapid transit system or “L,” deployment of Working Dead zombies, street teams working the Loop business district, and social media activations.
The campaign seeks to familiarize urbanites with Solixir’s four situation-specific formulas: Restore (for immune support); Think (for mental acuity); Relax
and Awaken (for a “gentle” energy boost).
The campaign uses images personifying common types of the Working Dead that Solixir’s formulas are designed to bring back to life, such as “the coughing cubicle zombie,” “the brain cramp zombie,” “the final exams zombie” and “the food coma zombie.”
* Staged “outbreaks”: Working Dead zombies are making appearances in high-traffic areas, including major L stops such as Washington/Wabash, State/Lake, Dearborn/Washington and Dearborn/Monroe.
* “Decontamination zones” and office sweeps: Street teams will engage consumers inside and outside of offices with “office sweeps,” and on-the-street sampling will be conducted in designated “decontamination zones.”
*Twitter engagement: The brand’s Twitter followers can stay updated on where the latest Working Dead zombies can be spotted.
*Facebook contest: The brand’s Facebook users can submit photos of their zombie-like states and tag Solixir. Each week Solixir will post a photo winner, who will win a year’s supply of Solixir. After six weeks, one finalist will be chosen and featured as a Working Dead zombie on Solixir’s bus shelter advertising across Chicago in June 2013.
*Site promotions: The splash page of the brand’s site has been positioned as a hub of “The Solixir Dept. of Optimal Performance,” an “organization dedicated to a single purpose: The eradication of the Working Dead.” Visitors are urged to check back to the site periodically, as “vigilance and repeated Solixir treatments are the only known defense against the Working Dead.” The site shows the common types of Working Dead, and offers a form for entering for a chance to win a month’s supply of the beverages for one’s office (as well as links to the brand’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn presences).
“Our activation strategy for Solixir, a small start-up, is for them to look and play like a big established brand,” using the urban-saturation strategy and the theatrical zombie metaphor to engage consumers and convey Solixir varieties as the antidotes to the zombie-like states experienced throughout the day, said Lawrence Neisler, partner in Wilburn Thomas, Solixir’s agency of record.
Evanston, Ill.-based Solixir was founded in 2008 by Scott Lerner, a veteran of marketing and branding positions at companies including PepsiCo and ConAgra.
Lerner, who says he was inspired by his own search for a “natural,” no-sugar-added energy drink, recently told Upstart Business Journal that his retailer network helped him get national distribution at chains including Whole Foods and Vitamin Shoppes, but that Solixir may have grown too quickly initially, as it lacked sufficient staff to support national promotion in markets across the country.
The company, which has reached $1 million in sales, did a “reset” in late 2012, simplifying “everything,” including the language on the cans, to achieve broader appeal and foster growth in various markets, and is now backed by a Chicago family that invests in businesses, he told UBJ. Now, while still nationally distributed, it’s focusing its marketing first on Chicago and Boston, before tackling even bigger markets like New York.
According to the company, Awaken is the only one of the four formulas that contains caffeine. Awaken has 30 mgs of caffeine (about the same as a cup of decaf coffee) versus a typical 100 mgs in many energy drinks, Solixir reports. The beverages, made from botanicals and other natural ingredients, are each under 60 calories per serving.
The no- or low-caffeine nature of Solixir products may well be an advantage at a time when leading energy-drink brands are coming under scrutiny due to concerns about potential health risks for teenagers, in particular, in over-consuming caffeine – although Lerner told UBJ that he believes in giving consumers a choice, and does not criticize other energy-drink brands (in fact, Solixir benefits from being marketed near them).
In a recent report on the category, Packaged Facts estimated that U.S. sales of energy drinks and shots reached nearly $12.6 billion in 2012 (about 78% of that from drinks) -- up 60% since 2008, despite a recession-driven growth slowdown in 2009. (Growth was 9.8% in 2009, followed by 14%, 12% and 14% growth in 2010, 2011 and 2012). Further, Packaged Facts projects that U.S. sales of energy drinks and shots will reach $21.5 billion by 2017.