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Lethargic Marketing – 5-hour ENERGY – Part 3

Welcome back to the third and final part on our analysis of 5-hour ENERGY. So far, we’ve dissected 5-hour ENERGY’s name and selected three taglines, discussing how they relate to the product’s positioning. Now, let’s analyze three of their commercials that have played quite frequently over the airwaves in the last year and discuss the overall effectiveness of this chosen medium – and by effective, we’re not talking about results in sales, but rather asking the question: Does watching the 5-hour ENERGY commercials make you want to be identified with the brand?

Part 3 – Advertising Campaign

Before we get into analyzing what makes a good TV commercial, let’s watch three commercials from 5-hour ENERGY, each which feature one of the taglines discussed in Part 2. Click on the links below for each spot to view over on YouTube.

Spot 1 – The Sports Celebrity

Spot 2 – The Office

Spot 3 – The Coffee Killer

Now that you’ve seen three of their multi-aired TV spots, let’s think about what makes a good commercial. You can ask a 100 ad agency creative directors what their top three factors are and you’re likely to get a 100 different combinations.

Quick, think of a couple commercials playing right now or in the recent past. The mere fact that several have popped into your head is likely because they are memorable. For people not in the advertising business, the one time of year that they pay attention to commercials is on Super Bowl Sunday. Regardless of what was a good or bad commercial and which one made you run out and buy the product, there is a science behind the execution. Humor goes a long way. A cute dog or brand mascot seems to always work. Despite what appears on the surface, the strategy behind commercials aims to accomplish set goals such as brand building, product positioning/differentiation and a strong call to action, which is basically the commercial telling you do to something, like go out and buy the product.

As it relates to 5-hour ENERGY, we’re going to focus on 3 elements:

  1. Is it visually appealing?
  2. Is it memorable?
  3. Does it compel the viewer to do anything?

Point #1 – Is it visually appealing?

When we ask, ‘is it visually appealing’, in the context of television advertising, we’re really asking whether the commercial has a good production value. Does it look like the advertiser spent the appropriate amount of money to make the commercial look good, and in turn, make the product look good?

The subliminal aspect here is that if advertisers are trying to sell a product that they deem important and are asking their target audience to spend their hard earned money to purchase it, shouldn’t the quality of the commercial match the perceived quality of their product? In these terms, the production value of a commercial directly plays into the product’s brand equity.

In the case of 5-hour ENERGY, the production value leaves much to be desired. The best way to compare these commercials is to think of TV spots in two broad categories: those that are nationally broadcast and those that are locally broadcast. A nationally broadcast commercial is one that purchases their advertising airtime across multiple channels which play in markets across the country because the product can be sold or purchased by anyone in any city. Think of the Apple advertisements for the iPod. Apple advertises across different channels in all markets because whether you live in New York City or Lawrence, Kansas, you can go out and buy an iPod.

Conversely, a local commercial is solely meant for those potential customers living within a single market. Think of your local Ford dealership that is advertising their great deals over on the west side. It makes sense for them to advertise to those people who live within that market, but it would be foolish to advertise to those people who live beyond comfortable driving distances to the dealership.

From a production value perspective, when you see the Apple commercial in comparison to the Ford dealership ad, one looks like it was professionally shot and produced, while the other looks like it was shot on a camcorder. It’s important for Apple’s commercials to look good because they are reaching a broad audience and want the commercials to properly represent the brand. The Ford commercial conversely does not have a great production value, because frankly, they likely don’t have the money to create a commercial on the level with Apple nor is it really worth it for them since the commercial has a short shelf-life anyway “Memorial Day weekend only – crazy savings…buy one Taurus, get the second free!”

So when you think of the differences in production value in these contexts and then revisit the 5-hour ENERGY commercials, does it “feel” like a nationally broadcast commercial, or a local spot?

I don’t think I need to convince you any further that it feels local and thus on the cheap side of product value. Anyone can argue in favor of spending wisely in a budget meeting, but 5-hour ENERGY seems to have missed how the production value of their commercials translates to the brand equity of their product.

Point #2 – Is it memorable?

By asking is it memorable, it’s not so much as to whether you remember seeing the 5-hour ENERGY commercials. I dare say you have, considering they’re constantly on the airwaves. So the question is more about whether it deserves to be memorable. Again, think of it in the contexts of the commercials you see during the Super Bowl. Good, bad or indifferent, they’re all meant to be memorable. In the pantheon of Super Bowl ads, you may be thinking of the many Budweiser commercials featuring the Clydesdales and Dalmatians, Coca-Cola’s iconic spot featuring Mean Joe Green, the recent Volkswagen commercial featuring a little Darth Vader or what is often considered the greatest of the lot, Apple’s “1984” ad for the Macintosh computer.

Beyond the Super Bowl ads, there is the current campaign from Old Spice. Every spot features an assault of visual and verbal comedic absurdity and thus is perceived as being smart and memorable. There’s even the “it’s so bad it’s good” category, with the host of Mentos commercials, which are either accidentally or purposefully cheesy to the point that they’re embedded in our minds.

As it relates to 5-hour ENERGY, are they memorable because they’re good, or simply memorable because they flood the airwaves with an assault of insertions? Likely the latter. When viewing the above posted commercials and potentially thinking of the others that you’ve seen, there’s nothing necessarily interesting visually, the messaging is inconsistent across different executions and they’re just not entertaining. Furthermore, the acting, or at least the words the actors deliver, is awkward and forced.

In today’s competitive advertising landscape, especially in television advertising where you’re competing for the attention of an audience sitting with the remote in their hand and likely having a DVR to scan ahead, advertisers need to be particularly careful in their approach to this medium.

Point #3 – Does it compel the viewer to engage with the brand?

By this we don’t necessarily mean is there a call to action like, “But if you act now, we’ll double your offer!” More so, in the context of this advertising analysis, does watching the commercials for 5-hour ENERGY make you identify with the product, the messaging, the benefits and ultimately become a purchaser?

While you can look at the benefits of the product, especially compared to the giant in the category, Red Bull, it does have some advantages. It boasts fewer calories, it’s quick to take as opposed to soda can sized, and it claims to not have the crash synonymous with overly caffeinated products. But this is not necessarily a review of the inherent product benefits.

In reality, there are many reasons at play as to why we choose to engage with any product. There’s word of mouth, otherwise known as referrals or buzz (see our blog discussing Buzzworthiness in relation to Arrogant Bastard). There’s no more powerful factor in one’s purchase decision than being told to do so by a trusted friend or family member. The Italian restaurant around the corner can list its cost-effective lunch buffet, but you’ll likely decide to try it out because your friend said it’s good.

Aside from the multitude of real-world scenarios that will be the tipping point for you to engage with a product, let’s singularly analyze 5-hour ENERGY’s television commercials and whether they convince you to engage with the product. As far as the medium is concerned, do you recall the television spots fondly and feel it speaks to you, connects with you and makes you want to be identified with the product?

In this respect, think of the commercials for the iPod. They are creative by showing dancing, elated silhouettes that could be me, you, or anyone else for that matter. They plays songs throughout the spots that you may listen to and enjoy and ultimately make you think the product is cool. And so, if the product is cool, and you determine this by watching the commercials, then you in turn want to own an iPod to be cool.

Now, turning back to 5-hour ENERGY, do you identify with the individuals and their scenarios in the commercials? Possibly, but the issue is not really what’s on paper as much as the execution. As we stated in Part 2, their message is inconsistent, trying to be too much of one thing and ultimately, the production value and delivery of the messaging is poor and likely makes you pause at the counter when contemplating your purchase for an energy-based product. In the end, you may still buy a 5-hour ENERGY over a Red Bull, but when you’re at the office the next day and having some water cooler talk over your favorite commercials on the airwaves, you’re likely more prone to talk about the comically presented cartoon of the energy drink over the awkward delivery of the energy shot.


One Response to Lethargic Marketing – 5-hour ENERGY – Part 3

  1. Joe S says:

    My wife and I are convinced that the company president’s son bought some video equipment and fancies himself an ad director.

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