Beyond Beyonce: Lemon Perfect Water Pours Into the Full Funnel

We don't just drink water, anymore. We “hydrate.” And with that distinction comes a host of science (pseudo and real) marketing, branding, health claims, flavors, and a clutter of choices. How does a brand break out in such a morass? Lemon Perfect is one of the hydration brands contending for attention. It has the benefit of being backed by Beyoncé as well as alignments with some athlete partners. To discuss the strategy behind breaking through and selling water we have Dana Barba, who's the SVP of Marketing at Lemon Perfect. Dana joined the company in May after a lengthy career at Coca-Cola Company.

MediaPost: Tell us about the state of the brand. How sales have grown, but also the footprint, and how that's expanded just in the past year or two.



Dana Barba: In 2023, we continue to be the fastest growing brand in the enhanced water category. We've greatly expanded our national footprint and really have grown new users and overall revenue growth across our full lineup. It's exciting. We're now available in all 50 states. We have between 50 and 60% coverage. And we're poised to really grow and expand that in 2024.

MP: What exactly is the white space in the water market, and what is different about Lemon Perfect?

Barba: I think the white space is really the work that goes into staying hydrated. Hydration is hard work for people. You have to drink a hundred ounces, you can get that from anything you drink but majority of that still really tap water, which is not fulfilling. It doesn't create an emotional connection, you don't get excited, there's not a lot of joy that comes from that. And so, we're trying to bring the joy into staying hydrated, make it fun and make it bold and full of flavor. The white space from a product perspective is that everyone that's looking to fulfill that need takes a different approach. And I think that where the brand that can meet on a couple of different levels. First, that we're zero sugar. But we're zero sugar with an organic line up [of] only five clean ingredients. We're doing it in a very simple and clean way. We are doing that with full of flavor. You have a bold flavor even with that zero sugar. But most importantly, we built it under this platform of what people have been doing for generations, starting your day off with a half squeezed organic lemon, starting your day off with lemon water. We're taking that basic ritual that meets a consumer need and the health benefits that come from lemons and then applying that into a bold and delicious and refreshing drink that you can drink all day. So, you transition from day to night. There's no caffeine, it's organic, and every bottle has that half squeeze organic lemon in it. It really gives you that power of the super fruit, but also in a delicious and refreshing format.

MP: Let's talk about celebrity because that's one of the things that comes with this brand. In the press it often seems as if your real brand name is the “Beyoncé backed Lemon Perfect.” Let's talk about the role of celebrity, about if and how and why you use Beyoncé, and what role it has, and then going forward, how it also relates to maybe some of the alliances you've made formal and informal with athletes.

Barba: I think that we're at this intersection of what does celebrity mean and what does it mean when it's paid for, or when it's discovered? Beyoncé really was lightning in a bottle for us. For her, as a performer staying hydrated is incredibly hard and important. She's doing it as part of a lifestyle. And so, she and her team [are] always looking for better for you brands. She and her team discovered Lemon Perfect, she started drinking it, and then she became an investor and organization. It's an interesting way that she came to us. And it's been just amazing to have someone of that caliber, and with such an audience to say, this is a brand that I believe in, and I'm investing in. 

The power of celebrity has been really organic. We are something that she normally consumes, and that she believes in. And I think that's where our journey is, is finding people, athletes, celebrities, influencers, everyday people, your family, your friends, that discover the brand. They become believers and advocates for others. And that organic advocacy has been what's really propelled our growth.

MP: So then, let's translate that into actual creative, and how you use them in the branding. What role does she have in particular, in terms of your advertising? How is she used? 

Barba: For Beyoncé specifically, she is an investor in the brand, and she is not above line; she's not used in advertising. What we are looking for on an ongoing basis is people that have Lemon Perfect as part of their lifestyle. A lot of the user generated content is organic. And then we're sharing after. So many or most cases not paid. It's really [an] organic discovery. And then sharing and advocacy that's built off of that. We're building a broader network on who those super fans are. We have a roster of rising star and elite athletes, we have moms that are working and finding ways to hydrate the family or pre-post workout, or transition into evening. We have this network of people that are finding, falling in love with the brand and advocating for us. We're using a different model than a paid model. And in many cases, it's user generated content and organic, and then we're really amplifying that to get more people to see it and experience the brand.

MP: Is that mainly through social channels? And which social channels are important to you?

Barba: I think in 2024 you're going to see more acceleration and amplification with paid behind it, making sure those things are seen by more people. Some of it is social, some of it will be additional programmatic, digital, and mobile. And when we get to a certain point in growth, I think you will see us above the line in more traditional out of home, linear, TV, streaming. 

But right now, we have a lot of news this year that is product focus that really helps people understand what Lemon Perfect is. And so that part of the journey is best delivered in like a very one-to-one conversation in a mobile and digital environment.

MP: Let’s go to the other end and talk about the big brand building piece outside using general media. What is the the larger media brand building strategy?

Barba: Well, in 2024, we are launching our first ever full funnel campaign. For the first time, we'll actually have a core creative campaign that we're introducing really Lemon Perfect to many consumers for the first time. We just started to launch it on social, and now we'll be moving into a paid model. And so, from a paid media perspective we are going to be running the full funnel but in a way that is really targeted first on our product. So really introducing Lemon Perfect to most consumers, let everyone know that it is water. We are big on water and big on flavor. So, we really anchor hard on that. And you'll see some of the creative out in the marketplace hopefully that shows how big and bold that is, and letting the bottle be the hero. And then secondarily, will be really talking about our both flavors, and you'll see that come through in the content as well as our new bottle, and as well as new flavors. We have a lot of new news around the product and the category. And so that'll be really the epicenter of the campaign. 

The way that the media is designed for this year is to really go after this cohort that we identified that is living a healthy lifestyle, looking for hydration all day long not just in one day part, and want something that really is both joyful and refreshing to drink, but also helps them stay hydrated when they're in the search of those 100 ounces that they're going to drink a day. Our campaign will be targeted to them with a series of messages, but also user generated content and unique ways that will be telling that story in a way that's always shoppable. Everything we will do will be shoppable.

MP: Who are those people, and what media do they consume, and where are you finding them? Which are the channels that you're going to use, and is there a profile for that person?

Barba: It’s an interesting way to do a profile. It's an evolution from where before you would have been like Gen Z, which is like a specific age and maybe a mix of demographic. We take those two things. It's a mix of like a millennial or emerging family millennial and a young adult Gen Z. But what, more importantly, is not just those pieces, the layer of how we build that audience is the people that are most likely to participate in the category. There's lifestyle, psychographics, how they think about mental health and gut health and living their everyday life, the activities that they do. Those are all blended in to create this addressable audience, that we talk to it in a personal way. And the way that comes to life is really how you behave. Each person individually will see the message in a different way. Some will see it, say younger audience just on TikTok through user generated content. Someone else may see it when they're reading a blog around how to stay healthy. Others may see it on Instagram, or even in Instacart or Amazon, when they're just searching even for other partner categories. We're really building a total plan that finds these people that are the most interested in participating in the category and then showing what our differentiated proposition is.

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