A curious re-branding exercise

ImageWhen I was a kid, Lucozade came in a tall glass family-sized bottle with nobbly bits on the top part, all wrapped in stiff yellow cellophane. Lucozade was a yellowy-orange sweet fizzy drink, something you bought from the chemist and which you only drank when you were sick. I loved the stuff. Whether or not it made me better, sooner, is disputable. But it definitely had the placebo effect; it was a real treat as I struggled with sniffles, tummy upsets, chickenpox or measles in the freezing cold, unheated bedroom of our 1930s suburban semi. Ill or tired, Lucozade aids recovery, my mother was informed.

Then in 1983 everything changed. Almost overnight, thanks to advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather with the help of athlete Daley Thompson, Lucozade was completely re-branded. No longer did it ‘aid recovery’ from sickness; it ‘replaced lost energy’ from high-impact sport. Now Lucozade was what you drank after slogging it out in the gym.

New flavours were introduced, but the old yellowy-orange original flavour remains to this day. Lucozade morphed into Lucozade Energy and, although you could probably still buy it from chemists, it was on sale everywhere. There is a Lucozade machine at the gym.

And now another drink has been re-branded, but I’m a puzzled by the way it’s been done.

Erdinger is a German beer made by the world’s biggest wheat beer brewery. There is no dispute that it is beer. It tastes like beer and it looks like beer – and if you drink too much of it you get sloshed.

In my bid to stay tee-total for January after the Christmas excesses, I tried the alcohol-free version. After 16 days of ploughing my way through several, mainly disappointing alcohol-free beers, Erdinger Alkoholfrei is, without doubt, the best of the bunch. If you didn’t know it was alcohol-free, you would never realise it. No watered-down taste, no give-away metallic overtones… It even has a kind of placebo effect that makes you feel a bit tipsy. Maybe it’s the bubbles that do that.

But one thing Erdinger Alkoholfrei isn’t, in my opinion as a copywriter that’s been in the advertising business for over 25 years, is an isotonic sports drink, especially a ‘Refreshing Isotonic Recovery Drink’. It looks like beer, it tastes like beer and it comes in a brown beer-like bottle. Yet it is being branded as an isotonic drink.

From what I can see, the word ‘beer’ doesn’t feature on the bottle at all. And its website is jam-packed with sporty news and stuff. So is its Facebook page.

Now, I wouldn’t drink a pint of Tetley’s after slogging away at the gym, so I wouldn’t drink a bottle of Erdinger Alkoholfrei either. I might drink Lucozade, because, with Lucozade, it’s not just about re-branding, it’s about the fact that the product itself works very well as a sports recovery drink. Fruity, refreshing, packed with glucose and all that…

And the branding looks right for sport.

But beer… nah.

Not in a million years.

Alcohol-free or not alcohol-free.


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