For every new beverage brand success story, there’s at least one untold tale of failure. How do startup beverage brands ensure they are setting out on the path to success? Understanding and articulating the competitive heart of a new beverage brand is an essential early step. Developing a Beverage Battleground is one way to organize the insights and work through the details that lead to clarity in defining and articulating your core brand strategy.
Clarity is key
If you confuse, you lose! Potential investors and customers are attracted to a vision that clearly outlines an under-served need or explains how a new brand is unique from all the others in its category. Every brand needs a commercially relevant insight behind it. You can call it an elevator pitch, the 5Ws, the big insight, or key benefit. It boils down to identifying a viable space capable of sustaining a new product or brand idea. No clever name or fancy ingredient can replace the need for a well-designed brand strategy.
Getting your idea ready for battle
It’s a shame when a brand’s first test of relevance is during an investor presentation, or even worse, at the product launch. The stakes are high and missing the mark can cost a lot of valuable time and money. The beverage business is highly competitive. There is a lot of room for innovation, but there are also many ideas that won’t make it in the market. While there are a few “unicorns” who defy the principles of successful branding, most brands must go through several iterations and a lot of analysis to hone in on what will give them the edge in the fight for shelf space.
Some entrepreneurs will have beverage or related industry experience and rely on their own ways of uncovering and stress-testing market opportunities. At Root & Branch our starting point is often to build a Battleground.
What is a Battleground?
The idea behind the Battleground is to build a working model of a competitive space and populate it with the incumbent products or brands. By clustering and spatially organizing examples with similar attributes, you can identify the current drivers of success, and derive the key axis dimensions. These dimensions summarize the nature of competition in the space.
In practice, what we are talking about is buying a lot of products and grouping them spatially on a two-by-two grid, according to how they compete for consumers’ attention or cater to different audience needs. Looking at the Battleground helps you to start hypothesising about how a new entrant into a competitive space can target an under-served need or occupy a specific, uncluttered position.
Fever Tree’s Battleground
Fever Tree’s brand is an example of the type of insight derived from Battleground planning. Fever Tree is a successful tonic water brand launched in 2005. At the time Fever Tree’s founders had experience in Gin. They had seen the explosion of craft and the premiumization of the Gin category in the UK and Europe. They were talking about launching their own brand. As they looked at the Gin market, they realized that tonic water was lagging Gin, still being an ‘industrial’ commodity product made with artificial ingredients. They saw a space for a range of naturally crafted, premium tonics to pair with premium gins. And they articulated the need perfectly: If ¾ of your drink is the mixer, mix with the best. The brand they developed was attractive to customers (increased margin over commodity tonic) and attractive to consumers (a better G&T). Fever Tree found a commercially viable, under-served need and created the perfect brand to fill the space.
Don’t wait to build your battleground
It’s never too early or too late to tune into your brand positioning by building a battleground. At an early stage, the battleground can help you synthesize and crystallize the critical early thinking and direction of your brand. It’s an excellent exercise to make sure that brand and product development is underpinned and guided by relevant consumer and commercial insight. As the market shifts and changes, you should reassess your battleground and prepare for future competition.
The beverage battleground is one tool in an arsenal of methods available to ensure your brand is relevant and ready for success.