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The energy drink industry has now secured itself, becoming a required category for retailers of all sizes. Commercial refrigerators with clear glass displays provide the right environment for colors, stimulating the desire for greater energy and focus. But it isn’t all good news; competition is fierce, and energy drink brands face more challenges than ever.
It isn’t just energy drinks that a brand is competing against. Energy shots, energy slushies, spiked alcohol products, and energy-enhanced foods are just a few examples of stimulant competitors. In such a competitive landscape, energy drink marketing must be thought out, tested for performance, and well executed by the brand.
The good news is that energy drink consumption continues to rise. With the high consumption comes opportunities in niche energy drink categories. For brands willing to embrace a challenge, unique marketing angles can still disrupt the market.
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Energy Drink Packaging
In the infancy phase of caffeinated beverages, it seemed like any packaging would work. Reflecting on the silver Xyience cans held by MMA athletes, Spike cans with a straightforward look, and Redline energy drink with its squeezable plastic bottle. It seemed like you could package can or bottle packaging would work, as long as it fits the drink cooler organizer.
This led to a lot of subjectivity in packaging design. Decision makers and designers sitting around the table saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we shaped our drink like a dumbbell?” Yep, this concept exists but before you get excited and swipe this idea, recognize that if this type of packaging worked, you would already know about it.
In today’s competitive climate, packaging must go through a rigorous process to ensure your energy drink design captures the consumers’ attention. Not just for a quick glance but to the point of buyer consideration, where they open the door and grab your drink.
Messaging That Stands Out
An innovative ingredient in your formula doesn’t mean it belongs on the front design. Unless the ingredient is an existing awareness purchase driver or by stimulating intrigue, other purchase drivers such as flavor profiles may perform better.
Ghost Energy exemplifies this by including recognizable childhood flavors such as Sour Patch on their cans. But flavor isn’t the only feature making a product look good, it’s how flavors connect with the graphic design.
Designing For Nonverbal Purchase Drivers
Ghost energy speaks fun and flavorful throughout the entire look and feel. From floating gummies to Pac-Man referencing ghosts, Ghost speaks to the inner child needing caffeine and stimulants to feel youthful energy.
Nonverbal purchase drivers also encourage greater brand identity and brand recall. A proper design ensures the correct target audience takes notice of your packaging. Creativity alone won’t get the job done. Nonverbal purchase drivers must speak to their buyer persona.
Ensure your energy drink logo design, color scheme, and other graphic elements leave a lasting impression. Do not let the brand experience die once the consumer crushes the can.
Designers should know in advance that their job isn’t to create a work of art, it is to create art that works at repeating sales.
Let’s take some pointers from a few successful brands in the energy market:
A Look Back At Popular Energy Drink Companies
Competitors come and go from the energy drink market. Our experience tells us those novel ideas are not enough. Without a strong brand strategy, package testing, and proper execution, the next best energy drink becomes the next catastrophic mistake.
Red Bull Energy Drink
This Austrian energy drink continues to be one of the bestselling energy drinks in the world. Their boots-on-the-ground marketing efforts and the “Red Bull gives you wings” slogan make for a successful energy drink formula.
The Red Bull packaging strategy includes the tall yet thin aluminum that quickly became the signature packaging design for energy drinks. The can is ideal for its portability, grip ability, and durability.
Differentiating yourself from the crowd is one thing, but they can have become such a symbol, taking a different packaging approach risks consumers’ recognition. When looking to stand out, test your packaging innovation against the industry standard to ensure that your point of differentiation isn’t a distraction.
Fun Fact: Red Bull Packages are 100% recyclable and cost-efficient. Another win for the Red Bull can design.
The colors of Red Bull include bright clean lines. Marketing for Red Bull is towards young athletes who are into extreme sports. Matching their demographic, the symmetrical image of fighting bulls suggests power and endurance. You can almost picture a couple of BMXers and Formula 1 drivers seeing their image in these powerful beasts of burden.
Monster Energy Drink
It’s easy to market the Monster name when your can is double the size of Red Bull. Contrary to the industry leader, Monster energy drink carries a darker look with a hard-to-miss logo.
There have been many stories told about the Monster energy drink logo. It doesn’t matter whether they are folklore tales. The publicity Monster received for its logo became viral marketing well before the social media world.
Monster found a mismatch between Red Bull’s approach to extreme sports. Monster attracted many BMX, Motocross, Skateboarding, and other X Games events. Tough bad boys are the influencers for those interested in these extreme sports.
Bang Energy Drink
Fast forward to 2012, and you find a fuse being lit that would soon put a bang in the energy drink market. VPX Sports had previous success with RedLine, but nothing prepared convenience stores and grocery retailers for what was to come. By jacking up the caffeine, adding novelty ingredients, and going wide with their flavors, Bang went beyond the sports nutrition store.
You can now find Bang in almost every consumable CPG store worldwide.
A big ole’ B with a bullseye sits front and center of the packaging. It may not have intentionally let the consumer finish the word, but it works. Using the beginning phonogram sound is how many parents teach children to read.
Unless written sideways, it is hard to get the full product name large enough on the front of the can. Like Monster, Bang let the first letter carry the weight.
But Bang has a level of graphic design that’s just hard to beat. Bang adopted the concept of taking adult drink packaging and evoking memories from our childhood.
Is the general public drinking 300mg of caffeine a good idea? Probably not. But Bang took notice of the exponential rise in pre-workout drinks, matching the dosing to what people consume before they work out. This way, people could have the same feeling while waking up or when leaving to work.
International Energy Drink Success Stories
We can’t just ignore the international market. Other countries needed to be strategic with the invasion of US-based energy drinks. International brands sometimes take a controversial approach to marketing, creating a strong enough pattern interrupt for the consumer to give (almost) undivided attention.
Black Energy Drink
This is still the number one energy drink in Poland, where it’s produced. It contains the usual components of an energy drink packaging design, and at one point, the company even brought Mike Tyson to help market it.
Including a convicted rapist on a can, carrying the slogan “Sex Energy, “ seemed like a good idea to Black’s marketing team. Oddly enough, while Poland and much of Europe can’t get enough, gathering momentum on the American market has been tough. Imagine that.
When introducing a product to a new market, look into local pop culture and references – especially if you plan to promote an energy drink. Cultural context discrepancies differentiate between X-Gamers swearing “it gives you wings” and the public collectively canceling your product.
VAAG Energy Drink
Launched at the start of 2013, this energy drink is popular in Asia and Africa. “Vaag” means “tiger” in certain dialects of India and other parts of Asia. In English-speaking countries, this brand may have withstood more chances for popularity by choosing a name that is not mistaken for the female version of Viagra.
The can features an interesting image of a tiger emerging from swirling vapors, giving the sense of an opium-induced hallucination rather than a lucid energy charge. Strangely, the nutrition label takes up nearly a quarter of the surface area and doesn’t blend with the design.
This may work for Africa and Asia, but this drink will probably remain out of the American consumer‘s selective grip.
For marketing your product, the packaging design delivers the message of what you’re selling. Without stellar packaging and an effective design, it doesn’t matter if your energy product transforms people into the Incredible Hulk.
Delivering a crisp, clear image of what your product can do without the obstructions of controversy and confusion makes all the difference in the open market.
Energy Drink Packaging of the Future
Brands will continue to push the envelope into both can and bottle packaging design. But innovations may extend beyond how a product looks and the consumer experiences it. Can design will include unique shapes and textures with 3d effects. Brands may solve problems such as energy drinks warming up to room temperature (gross!).
Eventually, as we’ve seen with soda, energy drinks will bring further awareness to sustainable packaging by showcasing the brands’ eco-friendly approach. Many already know the cans are recyclable, but brands may benefit from marketing more than the little symbol. Going one step further, this category may see a trend in “from recycled packaging.”
The packaging trend toward natural ingredients has not yet reached the mass market. Will this happen in the future? It is unknown, but we welcome the opportunity to perform package design testing that starts this conversation.
How G Fuel Captured a Wider Audience
G Fuel is not new to the energy drink game. In fact, they launched their first version back in 2012. Having a cult following amongst gamers helped them become the go-to choice for the gaming, programming, and content creation communities.
But they struggled to translate that to the larger audience sitting at the edges of these communities.
By working with our design team, G Fuel increased purchase intent among gamers by 42%! As a result, you find their energy drinks in the largest retailers.
Energy Drink Packaging Design Agency
Are you an existing or aspiring energy drink company looking for a package design that performs? Whether it is a new-to-market drink or brand refresh, our team can help. Our proprietary package testing process leaves no stone unturned for packaging performance. We make the process seamless by handling everything from design to print.
Discuss your project with our team.