Magazine article Marketing

NPD's Quick Tipples

Magazine article Marketing

NPD's Quick Tipples

Article excerpt

A quick drink has taken on a new meaning as firms rush to get products to market.

Alcopops as we knew them may have had their day, but there's no stopping the soaring market in premium packaged spirits (PPS).

According to ACNielsen, the sector has doubled in the past 18 months, with a proliferation of brands and flavours, ranging from watermelon vodka to alcoholic energy drinks.

It means manufacturers have to be quick to market. They must be smart enough not only to gain the loyalty of the 18-to-24-year-old target market, but to retain it through regular brand extension and media support.

This hectic fashion-led market presents a tough new product development challenge to produce a credible drink with a few years' staying power. New products have to appeal to a style-bar audience looking for a more sophisticated taste.

"The dotcom generation has a very short attention span, is more demanding than ever and is constantly searching for new experiences," says Sarah Bovim, planning director of design agency Pearlfisher, which is currently developing three PPS projects.

Market speed

"They're looking for something new all the time, which puts constant pressure on NPD," says Bovim. The winners will be those clients that adapt to the season-led mindset. But an established NPD process is hard to change."

Virgin Drinks acted with precisely this swiftness to bring its new Virgin dt:nt energy drinks to market in June, just five months from its inception.

This was possible, says Virgin Drinks managing director Swag Mukerji, by using a new internal structure geared toward innovation, with multi-disciplinary NPD teams working with external agencies.

Virgin Drinks now plans two NPD launches each year. "You can be slow to the market and the results aren't always better. The strategic window is very small," says Mukerji.

Research at each stage allowed Virgin to 'de-risk' the new product -- developed to meet a perceived need for a tastier alcoholic energy drink to challenge Haleworth's Red Square.

Virgin Drinks hopes to have a 45% share of the PPS energy market by the end of the year and is planning new flavours -- identified by colour rather than fruit.

But Mukerji is pragmatic about the brand's lifespan: "It's probably got another two to three years behind it." He adds that the category itself will continue longer if the market is refreshed with new flavours.

Like Virgin dt:nt, Interbrew's Vodka Source was launched in five months -- half the lead time for a new beer--and has 10% market share.

With so many drinks vying for fridge space, it seems that speed alone simply won't do unless its accompanied by heritage.

It is surely no coincidence that major PPS success stories like market leader Bacardi Breezer, Metz, V2, Rigo and Smirnoff Mule and Ice each have the backing of a major mother brand.

"An umbrella brand gives a hook for people to buy into," says Mukerji.

"It's certainly helped to have the Bacardi big-brand recognition, particularly during the alcopop stage. It gives credibility," agrees Charlotte Emery, Bacardi-Martini's marketing controller for NPD.

"At Bacardi-Martini, we're about contemporary style brands as opposed to faddy fashion brands," says Emery. "Metz and Bacardi Breezer will be the Budweisers of tomorrow -- big and established. We're not in the market for brands that come and go in 12 months."

Without the pedigree of a mother-brand like Barcardi-Martini, it's harder to make a long-term impact, although longevity is not always the goal of many PPS products. …

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