This summer Sprite has launched a series of campaign under the banner of University of Freshology. This heavily invested high decibel campaign is interesting because it has subtly changed the basic DNA of Sprite ( Indian context).
Sprite belongs to the sparkling beverages segment which is having a market size of 700 million unit cases and the brand has a market share of 14% . ( Source afaqs). The brand had crafted a special place for itself by differentiating itself as a plain thirst quenching drink.
Sprite gained much traction in the market by promoting simplicity. While the other soft-drinks brand including Coke spend lot of time building hype and building castles on air, Sprite did a contra - thinking and projected itself as a drink that quenches thirst . That plain non-reverence take on the other brands made Sprite a huge hit in the market .
Sprite was launched with a famous tagline "Bhujaye only pyas , baaki all bakwaas" ( Sprite quenches thirst while rest talk nonsense) .Over these years, the brand experimented with different taglines which were not quite successful as the first one. The brand never the less maintained its posture of a no-nonsense softdrink which was its DNA.
The recent taglines were " All taste, No Gyaan " and "Seedhi baat, no bakwaas, clear hai "
The current campaign of Sprite talks about a hypothetical " University of Freshology " . The University presided by the brand and a fictitious professor will teach youngsters to tackle difficult situations like :-
How to ogle at girls when you are sitting with your girlfriend ?
How to handle difficult questions especially from papa or mom ?
Watch the campaign here : Sprite roommate
Even though the campaign looks quite interesting, there is nothing fresh as far as the big idea is concerned . The idea of a University is pretty stale and has been in the market before in the form of Axe Academy and Horlick's Nutrition Academy etc. The positioning strategy of a brand posing as an expert is old fashioned strategy.
Here there are two significant changes that has happened interms of brand's positioning. The brand has moved from its core positioning as a Thirst Quencher to Freshness Provider. Thirst and Freshness, although related, are two different platforms. Thirst is a basic need while Freshness is a broader concept ( benefit). So by shifting focus from thirst to freshness, the brand has made a significant change in its positioning.But the current positioning has a problem. Another brand from Coca Cola stable - Limca has the positioning based on Freshness. The imagery of water splashing is shown in the commercials of Limca also.Limca has the tagline " Fresh Ho Jao " meaning " Be Fresh " . So is Sprite taking the place of Limca ? Can two brands from the same company in the same market have same positioning ? Which is more fresh - Limca or Sprite ? Is Limca on its way out ??? Has the company looked at the similarity in positioning of the brands in their portfolio ?
Another significant shift is with regard to the brand personality of Sprite. All through the life, Sprite has been a ruthless critic of preaching. It had made sarcastic parodies and spoofs of brands which tried to show off or preach to customers. At one point of time, Sprite even had the tagline "All Taste No Gyaan " means All taste No Preaching. It is saddening to see such a brand starting a university to teach some Gyaan to the consumers. This is a huge backtracking from the much publicized, much liked DNA of Sprite as a plain Thirst Quencher. The new ads of Sprite even shows the professor having a board which shows Freshology Lessons ( Gyaan) ! What a paradox.
It is confusing why Sprite thought of such a big shift interms of the brand DNA ? The concept of a honest thirst quencher is a platform which is very strong and relevant. The scope of creative execution was also plenty. Since the brand has strongly associated with that platform, it also acted as a clear differentiator for the brand. If a consumer is asked about Sprite, he would definitely say that its a clear drink that quenches the thirst , which is a powerful place to occupy in the consumer's mind. I feel that the brand has taken a huge risk in diluting the core positioning and altering the brand personality. The damage will be hard to repair.
Another factor which I have noticed is the audience or the TG which the brand is talking to. Sprite, in its commercials has always been male dominated. In all the campaigns except the Sania Mirza ad, main characters were male but the brand was never perceived to be a drink for men because the ladies were not shown in poor light. But in the latest two campaigns of Sprite, the brand has taken potshots on girls directly which is also a risky move for a gender- neutral product like a softdrink. There was no need to show girlfriends as jealous or boring unless the brand decides to target only male consumers. All though these issues may seem petty, its better to be careful.
The brand also has changed its tagline to " First Drink, Then Think " which may not have much relevance to the brand outside the context of the current campaign. The tagline is neither catchy nor worth remembering unlike the earlier taglines.
All those which has been discussed in this post are changes which have long-term effects. The shift in the core DNA of the brand will dilute the brand's equity which was built over the last 12 years. There is a clear sign of confusion in the brand's vision about its Manthra and Positioning. I think the brand should First Drink and Then Think ... Clear Hai ?