Rarely does a brand unintentionally make its intentions as clear as Lucozade did last week.
The energy drinks supplier – in registering a slew of trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office – looks to be readying to launch blue versions of its Energy, Alert and Sport drinks in the UK.
It’s a move that fills a gap in the brand’s flavour roster, and pits it against long-standing blue isotonic beverages from Powerade and Gatorade, as well as newer viral sensation Prime.
But what’s so appealing about blue, and how can Lucozade make a blue debut a success?
The use of the colour blue in drink-making is thought to date to 1850s Victorian England. During this period, cocktails and other alcoholic drinks were turned blue through the use of coal tar (the FSA would have had a field day), until Curaçao – made from oranges from the then Dutch-owned island of the same name in the southern Caribbean sea – burst onto the scene in the late 1800s.
Blue drinks blossomed throughout the early 20th century, but remained mainly the preserve of the on-premise until the 1960s when Gatorade entered the scene.
New Lucozade getting in on the blue action
The beverage was initially developed by researchers at the University of Florida. Cool Blue was one of three original variants, and to date remains the bestselling Gatorade flavour according to the brand.
Gatorade’s success prompted Coca-Cola to launch its own blue-hued Powerade in the late 1980s, and the two have gone toe to toe in the sports drink category since.
Now Lucozade looks to be getting in on the action, which – according to Alison Gray, head of brand at alcoholic RTD brand WKD – shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“A blue variant offers a drinks brand something a little unconventional: something that will stand out and get noticed,” Gray says.
She describes the introduction of WKD’s now iconic blue variant in 2001 as a “lightbulb moment” that helped it crack the south of England and become the UK’s number one RTD brand.
For Lucozade, however, circumstances are different. Unlike WKD in RTDs, the brand will be far from the first in its category to bring a blue beverage to market. As such, if it wants ‘Blucozade’ to be a success, it’ll need to get its execution right.
Does Lucozade have what it takes to tackle Prime?
“Kids still see it [Lucozade] as being a bit for older people, so the bit they need to work on is relevancy,” he says. “It’s got brand awareness coming out of its ears, but what’s the perception?”
McCulloch acknowledges the challenge of tapping into counterculture as a heritage brand, and suggests a successful Blucozade marketing blast will need to centre on tapping into social media trends to get sips on lips.
“The strategy will need to revolve around getting it into the hands of content creators, YouTubers etc,” he says. “It’ll be down to that, and how [much] they can get university campuses and playgrounds awash with the product. You need to get people to go crazy about it.”
So does Lucozade have what it takes to give Prime a run for its money, or even break the well-established Gatorade-Powerade blueopoly?
“Parents might trust Lucozade a little bit more, and so it might be the one they are happy to buy for their kids,” McCulloch offers. He adds, however, he can’t see it matching Prime’s runaway success.
“It sounds like they’re trying to do something to get a bit of the ‘cool’ market without harming the core. I think through their brand awareness and their merchandising they’ll naturally get their share of sales. Will people be selling it on eBay? I’m not so sure.”