Unilever Brand Liquid I.V. Takes Its First Steps Into TV, OTT, OOH And MMM

You can call it a heat wave – but Liquid I.V. sees an opportunity.

The Unilever-owned brand, which makes powder that gets added to water to improve hydration (and taste), began its first national branding campaign a week ago, including its first TV, OTT and out-of-home media buys.

Liquid I.V. was acquired by Unilever in 2020 and six months ago added Stacey Andrade, a long-time brand director at Procter & Gamble, as its VP of marketing.

The brand and the company have now reached an “inflection point where we feel very well equipped to scale,” Andrade said.

Driving awareness and educating consumers are the top orders of business. And for Liquid I.V., which found its early traction as a Facebook and Instagram-based brand, that means exercising very different marketer muscles.

Liquid I.V. started with a massive consumer research report, Andrade said, and some of the findings were surprising.

For example, Liquid I.V. has historically targeted competitive sports, especially endurance athletes or those who are exposed to the sun for hours – but turns out that isn’t the best focus for a national branding effort.

Athlete influencer-types were among Liquid I.V.’s first loyal customers, but in order to reach less active (and more typical) consumers, the research pointed away from high-intensity activities and towards outdoor activities, hobbies and even relaxation, Andrade said.

The storytelling focus needed a change. And then there’s the measurement aspect.

Liquid I.V. has relied primarily on campaigns tied to direct sales and attribution, like affiliate-style social shopper traffic or sponsored product listings. But since the company is adding many new marketing channels (and legacy media at that), Liquid I.V. is also conducting its first media mix modeling report for this campaign.

Andrade said Liquid I.V. added an MMM vendor “to be able to say: ‘Okay, as a body of evidence, is this really moving the needle in the way that we would like to so we have ongoing tracking of things like our awareness numbers or household penetration numbers?’” She declined to specify the vendor.

The new campaign won’t necessarily drive direct conversions, but Andrade said the MMM information following the campaign should demonstrate which tactics or channels improved brand awareness and, most importantly, which has an impact on consumers in terms of education about the value of a powdered hydration product.

“In many ways, this campaign is like a big test for Liquid I.V.,” she said.

MMM will be a more thorough analysis of many different channels, she said. For instance, OOH ads may prove their value if the cities targeted for that media show a strong jump in Liquid I.V. awareness and sales compared to similar cities without OOH placements. And whole channels, such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, can be judged not on their in-the-moment optimization or self-reported conversions, but by a third-party vendor them alongside other entire channels.

The cost of MMM, however, is more than the price a brand pays its partner run surveys and parse the data. Setting up an MMM program takes time and the brand also has to wait before analyzing results.

In Liquid I.V.’s case, the plan is to start looking and run models a few months after the campaign ends, “in order to influence how we plan and decide what our strategy looks like for next year,” Andrade said.

But there is still room for instant data feedback and optimization, she said.

“One of the things I’m really excited about with Liquid I.V. after my background in longstanding CPG brands like Procter & Gamble is the benefit of a DTC property,” she said. For instance, because Liquid I.V. has a strong DTC ecommerce business, it can see if and when TV campaigns or OOH helped drive digital traffic, since the company can attribute by tracking any surge in search and site numbers in a specific market.

“There are a couple of metrics that I would say are short term, even real time, and allow us to pivot and be flexible as needed,” Andrade said.

For comparison’s sake, a P&G laundry detergent brand doesn’t have a site that provides a reliable stream of first-party data signals to gauge the efficacy of its TV ads.

“As we learn more and as we layer on this upper funnel to what until now has largely been a performance marketing company, it’s going to illuminate what is really effective at driving awareness,” Andrade said.

Some channels, for instance, are focused entirely on conversions, but don’t drive home the marketing objectives of helping people understand how Liquid I.V. works and getting them to consider the product as a hydration benefit.

“Where are the best returns in terms of being able to tell a story versus being laser-focused on conversion?” Andrade said. “The answer may evolve the future of our marketing strategy and the platforms that we choose to prioritize.”

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