There’s no shortage of tired people in America. According to Science Daily, the average person drinks about three cups of coffee on weekdays, with little difference between teenagers and seniors. Along with coffee, something else many Americans can't get enough of is convenience. So in 2004, Living Essentials seized this opportunity to deliver both caffeine and convenience and create an entirely new market segment, with 5-hour ENERGY.
The product itself is two ounces and comes in five flavors, with no sugar, four calories, B-Vitamins, and an energy blend that does include caffeine (ConsumerLabs.com found the amount to be 207 mg or about 2 cups of generic coffee). There are Extra Strength and Decaf versions too. This is actually Living Essentials second product as they released Chaser Plus, a homeopathic hangover remedy, in 2000.
Now many people, including myself, find the commercials are hokey and annoying, which 5-hour ENERGY even calls attention to on their website. However, straight- forward messaging that consumers can understand is the stated goal of the commercials, and must resonate with those seeking a convenient and purportedly "healthy" pick-me-up. According to the commercials, over seven million units are sold every week. And 5-hour ENERGY shined in 2009, as they controlled about 70% of the energy shot market, had more than $300 million in sales, and were listed as one of “America’s Hottest Brands” by Ad Age. I did make a trial purchase out of curiosity with unsatisfying results. Unfortunately, I don’t remember if I saw the commercial prior to the purchase or if I bought it solely because of the name.
Most of the commercials feature working adults in various settings, often featuring women, as the company believes they are under-served in the energy market. The approach is vastly different than other energy drink campaigns, which often feature action shots or hip lifestyles for their younger demographic.
While this type of advertising has been uber-successful for energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster, you can’t take away anything from Living Essentials’ success. The company understands their consumers and, even with low-production value commercials, they get the message across clearly and (if sales numbers are any indication) effectively. Their theory is that consumers shouldn’t watch a commercial and be totally lost as to what the underlying message of it is. The clearer, and in this case cheesier, the message, the better chance you have at reaching your audience.
If you have doubts about this type of advertising, just look at local personal injury attorney commercials. Their commercials may look cheap, but I've been watching some of these guys on TV for a decade or more. Need further proof? Then how about one of the most successful multinational corporations of the last 150 years: Proctor & Gamble. Secret Deodorant has been around since 1956. Carl Sperber, creative director of Living Essentials, formatted the commercials around P&G's old-fashioned advertising. Even as technology changes the advertising landscape at blazing speeds, apparently what worked 60 years ago can still be effective today.
Advertisers may look at 5-hour ENERGY commercials and be unimpressed by their lack of computer graphics or expensive talent, but the average consumer obviously isn't. Personally, I still want to see something that "looks good" on screen, but there's a valuable lesson to be learned here. Sometimes, simple, cheap and direct wins the race. It also probably helps to win races when you're loaded up on enough caffeine to explode a rhinoceros heart. So, there's that too.
--Stephen Telljohann, Relatively Chilled-Out Intern...Seriously
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