Breaking through adversity is a central theme of performance beverage Nutrabolt’s new C4 energy drink plan. The “Ignite Your Fire” campaign leverages the personal conquest stories of athletic social influencers in order to expand C4’s brand reach globally and beyond the gym rat core.
The messaging is compelling and the spots are eye-catching. And like many post-pandemic branding we have seen, its conquering-adversity theme vaguely alludes to the the last 18 months of global COVID depression without underscoring it.
In fact, breaking through -- the pandemic, the performance wall, naysayers, and, dare we say, brand clutter itself -- strikes me as the dominant trope at all levels of this campaign.
We recently sat down with Nutrabolt CMO and Chief
Digital Officer Rajaa Grar to discuss the roots of the campaign and its heavy use of targeted video across everything from social video selective out-of-home. Grar brought to the retail CPG
a lot of B2C pure play experience at Snap Kitchen, Paula's Choice, as well as Starbucks and Amazon.
MediaPost: The C4 brand just launched a major ad campaign around the theme Ignite Your Fire. It uses C4’s family of endorsers and social influencers in various video iterations across every imaginable screen. Why is this the moment to launch a global campaign of this sort?
Rajaa Grar: When the company started over 18 years ago, we were sports active nutrition, household family brands. But now with C4, about two and a half years ago, we're playing within the CPG space in the big leagues. Also globally, the C4 brand is available in over 150 countries. So this was just the perfect time to be telling our story.
MP: C4 is better known within say the athlete community and you're trying to branch out from there?
Grar: Exactly. We created the pre-workout category. Now in the performance energy drink we're disrupting that category in a big way, and we want to be able to showcase that we've got product for different people of all walks of life: the athletes, the professional and amateur, but also the everyday person that is needing a burst of energy to go through their day.
People need a little break to be able to really reinvigorate themselves and reignite that fire inside them to get them to be productive in their day and achieve all their ambitions.
MP: The themes that I noticed in the messaging here is not only Ignite Your Fire, but also overcoming adversity, overcoming naysayers, in particular. A lot of the sports figures talk about the people who didn't believe in them. I'm really curious about what customer insights drove that theme?
Grar: Our mission as a brand is really to innovate, inspire and make products that maximize human potential to be accessible for all. When we started building our mainstream brand awareness, we went from one or two influencers to now 712 tier-one influencers in a year. It was really important that to get this message to the widest audience possible, we used people for whom performance really matters.
When people need results, they come to C4. Our internal data told us that, both from the powder perspective and the beverage standpoint. So with those data insights, as well as looking at how we built our portfolio of influencers, [the] recurring theme has been sometimes to be able to break through to their greatness, to maximizing their potential. They're very close to quitting because there's obstacles, there is life. And that is so important, not to give up. So that's really where the story arc originated.
We tested this creative, and it's inspiring. It gives [consumers] hope. It gives them that positivity to be able to go after their wildest ambitions and dreams. And that emotional connection is so key to breakthrough in such a crowded space where budgets could be limited.
MP: It’s a motivation of a little bit of anger and frustration.
Grar: We know that in marketing, negative sentiment is as important as positive. And when you’re a challenger brand, this is exactly the strategy. How do we disrupt and do things a little bit differently?
MP: Your media plan has a lot of global digital screens: out-of-home, social, etc. Walk me through this customer journey and how these pieces propel it.
Grar: We adopt a funnel approach. Being the chief digital officer, one of my prime missions here is really to drive a digital transformation and get our direct-to-consumer to accelerated growth.
We use a funnel approach for brand building as well. It's a targeted approach that prioritizes top media markets where we can move the needle, where we are able to win in terms of market share.
This media plan, when it comes to digital and paid and social, is targeted to top 10-12 markets dependent on the medium. Then we're layering a piece on the out-of-home. Like Chicago, for example, we’re going to be having some out-of-home that is going to be showcasing Justin Fields, a new star we signed as a rookie before he was drafted as a quarterback of the Chicago Bears.
So we’re really pulsing in those moments where we've got great events coming, and audiences are culminating in those regions. Then we also are layering it with paid media, out of home, as well as an experiential piece around sampling.
When people try our product, they are hooked. We hear it, we see it in all our consumer research. People are very surprised that this is an energy drink because the taste is unmatched. The flavors tap into that piece of nostalgia of either your childhood or flavors that you love. Also it's a clean, better-for-you energy drink that has clinically studied and science-backed proof to drive results. Alertness, mental and muscular endurance, and all those benefits, are so key for consumers that are drawn to the C4 brand.
MP: You mentioned that it's a very cluttered market of energy and performance drinks, so where do you see the opportunity here to grab market share?
Grar: The performance lens of the performance energy drink category is absolutely key. So we're doing it in our unique way. No [one’s] better than athletes when it comes to delivering on performance, and everyone is inspired by athletes.
Also, I wanted to say why we chose these athletes. We were very curated and intentional about building this roster. They're not all cookie-cutter or have had a walk of roses in their careers. They've had setbacks, they've had things in their lives that made them very relevant to everyone in every audience.
Everyone goes through those obstacles and trajectories, so our audiences can connect and identify with that talent. And it's not something [athletes] just started drinking when we approached them, which we've been very consistent about as we built our influencer roster.
MP: What would you say to marketers who have been pulling back from the influencer market, complaining about the cost structures escalating out of out of hand?
Grar: They’re valid, and I understand why they can come about. I would say really, [have] a very strong strategy going in. Everything started with what is our brand vision, what is our marketing strategy? Driving brand awareness at mass and building that emotional connection has always been at the core of what we do here, and not deviating from that is very important. So when I came to Nutrabolt, we built a brand strategy roadmap, I call it the Brand Equity Pyramid for C4, which was a new brand and we didn't have it. And having those brand pillars that we know are synonymous with the brand that we need to include in all types of communication or the way we are messaging about the brand was really key to finding those same values [in] our influencers. It's not easy, and when it's outsourced you do start seeing the cost climb because people may not know the brand as much as your in-house folks.
And also, this is something that I've learned in my Amazon days, scaling is so key. So having a strategy built with a playbook and a framework that then you're able to disseminate to all your team and make trainings available. And make sure that we're always going through those, because the social media landscape is ever evolving. We need to always revisit those and sometimes be comfortable to change the playbook because sometimes that's needed in order to reach the next milestone of social media metrics or objectives or brand awareness. That is so important to continuously adapt, which is very key for marketers.
MP: What have been key KPIs?
Grar: Very important, of course, our impressions are key. We are looking at measuring certain market shares per region, C4 share growth versus the competitive landscape, as well as brand awareness metric, social following, and engagement. This is something that, of course, [is] for the whole campaign, but they all are relevant to the different channels, whether it's paid social, paid display or out-of-home or preroll.
MP: Nutrabolt has a vast retail distribution. What role does D2C play for an evolved CPG like yours?
Grar: I'm a traditionally, classically trained brand marketer, and I would say D2C is extremely important. The way we launched Ignite Your Fire was through digital because we wanted to make sure to measure and track performance. We're such a data-driven company across all functional areas, and this is no exception. So when I started here in the company, we started full effort with my performance marketing team around scaling our direct-to-consumer business. Very lucky that now it's having impressive triple-digit growth, unprecedented growth and still growing. When you are in [a] D2C business you have that data, you're able to understand intimately what moves the purchase intents, the preferences, and personalize the experience for your consumer.
We are also unlocking it on the beverage side with our subscription. We're seeing some amazing results with Ignite Your Fire being able to build an audience and a funnel that we're then bringing into the subscription model. And we're actually seeing 2X conversion there since we started this top of funnel effort versus just staying mid, bottom funnel. And since we're very nascent in our D2C journey…the brand still needs to be at the center. The creative, the brand building fundamentals need to start there before we start driving digital revenue growth, and we're seeing it now with this media plan that we've just launched for Ignite Your Fire.