Great Product Development – But Where’s the Marketing?

2009 is drawing to a close: time for the end of year office party, industry events, awards and other schmoozefests. It’s this time of year that hangovers are present and a lot of people turn to Berocca for relief.

Produced by Bayer Healthcare, Berocca is described as “a high dose combination of B-vitamins, vitamin C and other important essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc, which work in synergy and are clinically proven to help you optimize your physical and mental performance”. To you and me, it’s a tablet that fizzes up in water to make a refreshing drink.

Shiny new product

In an example of a great brand extension, Berocca recently released Berocca Performance Twist n Go. The press release describes it as a way to “help time-poor Australians get an instant boost of healthy energy while on-the-run”.

Berocca TwistBerocca Twist n Go

The product in essence is a 250 ml bottle of water with a special cap that, when twisted, drops a tablet of Berocca into the water. All you need to do is let it fizz up and you can then have a glass of Berocca wherever you are. This cap apparently took ten years to develop!

The cap represents a great example of product innovation, where technology is used to deliver a product in a different way. No longer will you need to carry your Berocca tablets with you – now you can have it anywhere, anytime in a nice easy-to-hold bottle.

Berocca can now reach existing customers in new places and entirely new customers. Berocca Performance Twist n Go appeals to impulse buyers and can be available through additional retail channels, increasing its availability. At an RRP of $3.49 per bottle it’s got to be higher margin compared to the original canisters which have 30 tablets for between $15 – $20.

We love the product but we spotted some serious issues with the product strategy.

The mystery product

So how did we find out about this product? One of the Brainmates team recalled earlier this week seeing a TV commercial about it. Being Berocca fans we went online to check out YouTube to see if we could find the ad… there were plenty of ads there, many from other countries but we didn’t see this one.

No matter, we thought, lets just check the Berocca website. www.berocca.com.au simply redirected us to the global Berocca website but we quickly discovered that there was no Australian website. Had we wanted to know more about Berocca in the UK, the Philippines or Finland for example we could have checked their local sites – but there is no information available for Australia.

That led us to some intense web searching and after about ten minutes we came across the aforementioned press release buried a few links down the list.

Typing the product name into Google also reveals no information from the makers of Berocca. In fact, there’s very little about Berocca at all – mostly just some vitamin retailers selling the original tablets online.

Finally, we decided to just go out and buy a bottle. I ducked out of the office in Sydney’s CBD on a stinking hot day and wandered through the local food-courts. I found plenty of Gatorade’s, Powerade’s, Smart Water and other products but no Berocca. I decided to check newsagents but they too lacked the product. I asked one if he knew about it but alas, he hadn’t even heard of it! A final check of chemists was also concerning – I went to four in total and only one of them had the product. It was positioned next to the cash registers with no point-of-sale material and it was on special for $2 instead of the $3.49 RRP.

Berocca Image 2
“No POS outside – Berocca Twist n Go stacked on a shelf”

Another problem was this – at the front of the Chemist was a huge POS stand containing old fashioned Berocca tablets, but there was no reference to the brand new product just inside.

One last gripe – the product was kept on the shelf, rather than in a fridge. The packaging explains that the tablets take longer to dissolve in warm water but I always drink Berocca with cold water and on a hot day when people are weighing up ice cold Powerades vs lukewarm Berocca’s, I’m not sure it would be that tough of a choice.

Don’t forget the marketing

Here’s a perfect example of good product development that extends a product to reach a wider audience. Existing drinkers may be inclined to drink more, and Berocca could appeal to new customers.

The problem is that Berocca’s product marketing has failed to support the product launch. There’s no website and no information online other than a hard-to-find press release (which few people other than PR firms and people like us would read). Sure there’s some TV ads – which only one of us has seen – but broadcast media messages have no shelf life. Miss the ad and you can’t find out anything about the product.

The point-of-sale strategy also needs to be investigated. It seems that distribution isn’t as wide as they might have hoped, nor is the product being promoted sufficiently in store. And there’s the whole deal with drinking it warm…

Berocca competes with a range of products – we think Sports Drinks are a big competitor, either for hydration or for curing hangovers. Likewise, it also faces competition from vitamins and other health supplements. There’s already been a surge in companies offering vitamin infused water such as Glacaeu’s Vitamin Water and Goulburn Valley’s Smart Water – yes, both are sold refrigerated and both have websites!

Gatorade, Smart Water, Ribena... no Twist N Go
“Gatorade, Smart Water, Ribena… no Twist N Go”

Ultimately, we spent a few hours actively searching for information about the product and looking for the product itself. We found it hard, so how is the average consumer expected to become aware of this product and be tempted to try it?

Recommendations

Product management involves the full cycle, from ideation to development and then into management and marketing. A great product with poor marketing will fail to live up to its potential.

We’d recommend a few quick courses of action to Bayer to get back their b-b-bounce and improve their Berocca efforts:

  • Validate some assumptions: We’re not sure that selling the product lukewarm off the shelf is correct. But it would be best to test out the product with real customers. Maybe they’re happy to drink it warm, but if not, it would be worth testing to see if it can be sold refrigerated.
  • Build a website: It seems the international Berocca operations have distinct websites which may mean inconsistent messaging but at least it suggests that control lies with the local operation. It doesn’t have to be some incredible flashy site – just something that provides information about what the product is, what it provides to the consumer and importantly, where it’s available.
  • Web 2.0 activation: Why not create a Berocca Performance Twist n Go group on facebook? Whether it’s simple product info, or more of a community group with competitions, feedback requests and more, facebook is a great way to tap into a broad spectrum of consumers.
  • POS marketing initiatives: Some investment in point-of-sale material would help increase awareness and trials of the product in the stores where it is available.
  • Engaging retail chains: Perhaps it’s still early days but it would seem that more effort needs to be made to get retailers to understand and promote the product

Berocca put ten years into developing a nifty new product extension. They should now ensure that they place sufficient investment in product marketing to ensure they get a return on their investment.

What are your thoughts? Has our analysis revealed a failure in product marketing? What should Berocca have done leading up to the launch and what should they do now?