Liquid Thinking

Prime Hydration

How did they do that?

1st February 2023

The debut soft drink from a pair of social media stars has started a sales frenzy few over the age of 12 can understand. But a frenzy it is. With Prime still selling out wherever it pops up even months after its release, and a black market of tracking apps, empty bottle resales and huge mark-ups, is showing no signs of slowing down. We ask, how did they do that? 

Time was YouTubers were just those annoying voices you heard blaring from the iPad as soon as your kids got home. Or else, whose sweatshirts and other merchandise you were pestered to buy. While the likes of Zoella and a few other lifestyle influencers having long put their name to homewares, fashion ranges et al, the furore around Prime marks the start of something different. Centred on harnessing the buying power of a group of consumers who sustain themselves almost entirely on pocket money, it’s the first time a soft drink has been so successfully marketed by influencers, to so young a market. 

The start of the frenzy

Launched in the UK in June 2022, the Prime Hydration range consists of seven flavours. That it uses a coconut water base (because, health) and contains electrolytes (what every tween and teen needs after a long day at school) is about as much product info as you’ll find on this elusive product. And if you think the flavour descriptors will help you, you’re wrong. Though Grape, Lemon & Lime, Tropical Punch, Orange and Blue Raspberry seem fairly self-explanatory, the jury is out on what Meta Moon, and Ice Pop could possibly contain.

If you’re not already familiar with their work, the drink has been launched by social media stars – and sometime boxers – Logan Paul and KSI, who have over 40 million followers between them.  These are the kind of ‘stars’ that are embraced by their fans with a frenzy once reserved for boy band appearances at your local shopping centre.

Obtainable, or is it?

So, when it came to launching a new product, something aspirational but obtainable by their young fans was important. And that’s part of the reason it’s proved so popular. Though the drink has an RRP of £1.99, there are reports of it selling for over £100. Stores that stock it – including Asda and Aldi – have faced mobs of shoppers who have cleared the shelves within minutes. There’s now tracker apps that have sprung up to help fans locate fresh stock. And unofficial stockists are commonly charging around £15 a bottle.

According to that great bastion of neutral and unexcited news telling, the Daily Mail, even little kids have cottoned on to the many side businesses this coveted launch has created. It reports that a “ten-year-old little Del Boy’” has been selling empty bottles of the stuff for up to £4 a bottle; double the price of a full bottle’s RRP. Presumably those that haven’t got their hands on it are refilling and posing with the bottles? Which goes to show how culturally significant the drink is for a specific group of consumers. So what lessons are there to be learned? Why has this launch, among all others, achieved such success? 

1)     Affordability 

For their young fans, the branded sweatshirts and whatnot that most social media stars flog are desirable, but unachievable. Usually only purchasable online (and therefore with a credit card) its not just the price point that puts them out of  direct reach of youngsters.  A £1.99 drink however, well that’s something that – in theory – a young fan can go and purchase themselves. 

2)     Harness a following 

There would be no sales rush, no craze, without the duo having built a colossal fan base. Their reach is, frankly, massive. KSI has 41 million subscribers and over 10 billion video views across three YouTube channels, with 24 million subscribers on its main channel and 5.95 billion views. Logan Paul has 23.6 million subscribers and 5.94 billion viewers. That’s a bonkers big market, just poised to sell to. 

3)     Multiple marketing streams 

As if their massive online presence and direct access to their fans wasn’t enough, the duo have created even more marketing streams to promote Prime. Partnering with Arsenal Football Club as the team’s official hydration partner means they have even more cultural relevance and clout among their football adoring fanbase, and an even wider reach to Arsenal’s colossal following. 

4)     Limited availability

This sounds counter-intuitive to any business looking for sales success. But how hard Prime has been to get hold of has helped boost its appeal to its core consumer base, among whom standing out matters. And having something cool, that few others have been able to get their hands on, has a lot of street cred. Around that, a legend has been born. Long lines, news reports of long queues suggest there’s not enough to go round. With stocks selling out rapidly when stores do have it, and stores limiting the amount of stock per person, the brand has built a “now or never” mentality to purchasing it. 

Though the duo claim they have been trying to keep up with and meet demand, not being able to is not doing its reputation any harm. 

5)     Restrained branding and flavour ambiguity

But what the heck is it though? With most of the bottle given over to branding, mentions of flavour are hard to find. That the launch is transparently linked to the cult of personality, rather than what’s in the bottle, is not in question. However, what is interesting is how the duo have chosen to keep their names off the branding and instead focus on a bold logo. For image conscious tweens, it’s a smart ploy. The brand doesn’t look overly try-hard. 

How many other reality stars and celebs will not work this formula for soft drinks launches? It seems clear that many will give it a go. However whether any will be able to replicate this winning combination of sales drivers, is yet to be seen. Putting their name to a product is not enough. What the success of Prime has shown is that it has to be the right product for the right audience. In Prime Hydration, KSI and Paul Logan have shrewdly given their image conscious, tween market something they can independently afford on their own... if they can find it. 

Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?

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