Public relations, generally the best technique for tackling misconceptions about a brand, has been limited because journalists on consumer magazines have been sceptical about Lipovitan's health benefits. Taisho has found that sampling - on the street, in supermarkets and at shows - is a much more effective way of telling consumers about the product and getting them to try it.
For its 2004 campaign, the timing and location of sampling were altered.
A volume-focused strategy was replaced with one reflecting the target market of busy 25- to 44-year-olds. Commuters, who may already have spotted Lipovitan ads on the London Underground, were given free cans at stations in the mornings. The sampling teams then targeted areas where people sit outside to eat lunch, before returning to the stations to hand out cans in the evening rush hour. This was complemented with a fleet of branded rickshaws.
To add a new twist, consumers were invited to enter a competition to have two cases of Lipovitan delivered to their office by actors dressed like the superheroes in the ads. 'It repeated the message of the ads, but added a bit of theatre to build the appeal of the sampling' says Armstrong.
In the first burst of sampling activity, the brand encouraged consumers to sign up online for a competition to win a mountain bike; the second supported a giveaway of day passes to Holmes Place. These proved popular, with 3000 consumers filling in their details each time.
The company has also tried different packages of poster ads, partly to take advantage of available deals, but also to compare the value of Underground ads with roadside sites. Media agency MediaVest Manchester will research the results in October, using customer data collected on the website to see whether it tallies with the target demographic.
As Tesco remains Lipovitan's key account, Armstrong is keen to put together a specific package of support next year. This will include sampling and posters in stores and car parks, and may involve Tesco's new in-store TV channel.
Advertising: J Walter Thompson Media MediaVest Manchester
PR/sampling: Joe Public@August.One Online Moopa
A year after its launch in spring 2003 energy drink Lipovitan was still having trouble convincing consumers that it was different from the highly sugared and caffeinated beverages typified by market leader Red Bull.
More work was needed to make the key demographic - 25- to 44-year-olds, especially women - realise that Lipovitan is a genuinely healthy functional drink. One of owner Taisho's extra challenges was that by the end of last summer the trade was trying to rationalise and discount its energy drink listings. The company had to prove to retailers that Lipovitan should be on their shelves.
The campaign message continued to be that Lipovitan provides moments of 'everyday greatness', typified by ads featuring people dressed as superheroes.
The marketing plan from 2003 - London-focused advertising, public relations and field marketing - was broadly rolled into 2004, but several changes were made to the execution to refine the targeting of the audience and find more cost-effective ways of spending the budget. The team also looked for ways to make the sampling a more interactive experience that would give a greater flavour of the brand and deliver more consumer contact details to the database.
The TV campaign repeated the previous year's work but added two executions.
A heavyweight poster campaign was split into two bursts. The first included roadside and London Underground sites, while the second was only on the Underground. Sampling sites, formerly just at high-traffic areas, were switched to those most likely to deliver the target market: Underground stations in the morning and open-air areas at lunch. At weekends sampling took place in London parks and at shows. Leaflets handed out with cans invited consumers to visit a website to enter a competition to win a mountain bike.
In each of the two bursts of activity, 25,000 cans of Lipovitan were given away and 3000 people entered their details on the website - a very respectable response rate of 12%. Sampling and discount vouchers in Tesco also proved hugely successful - sales in the supermarket chain shot up 10-fold when the vouchers were being handed out. About 750,000 cans of Lipovitan were sold in 2003, and Taisho executives are confident this total will be doubled for 2004. Retailers are now more interested too: discussions about stocking Lipovitan are ongoing with Waitrose and Sainsbury's.