Five Questions with Zico's Head Marketer

Coconut-Water Brand Launches Its First National Campaign

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A year after Coca-Cola acquired a majority stake in Zico, the coconut-water brand is launching its first national advertising campaign.

The No. 2 coconut-water brand tapped Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners to handle the campaign, just before it became available nationally in February. Bill Lange, VP-marketing at Zico, said the brand will double its marketing budget this year to support the new distribution. In 2012, the brand spent $500,000 on measured media, according to Kantar.

The campaign breaks this week, carrying the tagline "Put some oomph in it." The ads are tongue in cheek --one features a baby who appears to be flexing with the caption, "Because not everyone is born with oomph." The push includes online partnerships with a variety of publications, as well as digital ads and outdoor ads.

"We're excited to introduce a little personality into this brand," said Mr. Lange. "We've got it as a company and a culture, so we're excited to see it come through in the advertising."

Here, Mr. Lange talks about what's changed and what hasn't changed since Coca-Cola acquired a majority stake in the brand, as well as the overall opportunity for coconut water.

Ad Age: What has changed since Coca-Cola acquired a majority stake last year?

Mr. Lange: The biggest thing that's changed since then is on Feb. 11 we went national on the red trucks. Before we were focused on early adopter markets. Now we're national; anywhere you see a bottle of Coke you should, or could, see a bottle of Zico. We're really tapped into the power of their distribution.

They have been an amazing partner and investor. We're part of the venturing and emerging-brands group. We're empowered to make decisions through Mark [Rampolla], our founder. But they're a big brother and a fantastic resource, so it's in our best interest to make sure they're excited about the decisions we're making. We go to them frequently.

Ad Age: How is your marketing evolving since going national?

Mr. Lange: We changed agencies over to Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in January. The new marketing will be completely different, not at all influenced by Coke's involvement -- just influenced by the idea that we could and should be different based on our national distribution.

We're more than doubling our total budget in 2013. The key for us is we're funneling much of it into awareness-driving tactics. We really relied on field marketing in the past, which has been really impactful. We still want to do high touch, but we want to balance that with more media.

Ad Age: How has Zico been performing?

Mr. Lange: We expect sales will nearly double again this year, which, obviously, gets harder and harder the bigger you get. A lot of that is coming from our expanded distribution, but also from our ability to be more relevant to more people. Even in markets where we've been for eight years, we're still seeing fantastic growth.

Ad Age: How is the category overall doing?

Mr. Lange: In 2012, sales were double what they were in 2011. This year they're up about 50% vs. where they were last year. And we haven't really hit prime selling season.

We estimated last year coconut water cross half a billion in retail sales. And it's still in less than 10% of households. You've got a relatively small group of really heavy users; now it's about expanding relevance.

Ad Age: How do you expand relevance?

Mr. Lange: From the start we were really involved with hard-core athletes. This year we're branding to the triathletes and the "try-athletes" -- those people who see the value in making healthier choices. The tone of voice in the new campaign talks to a broader group.

Once [coconut water] is in the pantry it replaces fruit drinks, it's used with meals, as drink mixers, hangover recovery. It really plays all day long. I can't think of another beverage that has that versatility. But we can't be everything to everybody, so we'll talk about the benefits and let the consumer decide where to insert those benefits. ... It's a learned taste for some-not something they love off the bat. If they tried it in a grocery store on Wednesday, they might not love it. But if I hand it to you at the finish line of a race and talk to you about the electrolytes, it's more relevant to you.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Coca-Cola had acquired Zico. In fact, Coca-Cola acquired a majority stake in Zico.

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