- GNC has been selling nutrition in various forms for over 75 years, with well-branded stand-alone stores selling a broad range of proprietary products. However, when Shadow Beverages sought the license to create beverages under the GNC brand name, they wanted to take the brand out of the GNC store and into mainstream supermarkets and convenience stores — a much larger and more crowded playing field. Shadow partnered with McLean Design to create this complete line of nutritional beverages, from sports drinks to protein shakes, and beyond.
BRAND CONSULTING, POSITIONING, STRUCTURAL DESIGN, PACKAGING DESIGN, SALES SUPPORT
- Embedding the high-potency GNC brand into the sports drink arena shines a glaring spotlight on what’s been missing from the traditional sports drink formula… Nutrition. On that note, GNC not only beats the competition with its standard white label formula, it also delivers an extreme performance black label ‘XP’ mixture complete with a robust cocktail of branch chain amino acids, electrolytes, and vitamins B and C, credibly changing the game for the entire category — and leaving the competition flat.
- Similar to the sports drink category, GNC’s presence in the nutrition waters category changes the game from “less bad for you than sugar water” to “this stuff is actually good for you, and you can feel the difference.” Coming from the original nutrition brand, the claim carries weight. Our white label/black label strategy plays out here as well, boldly marking the different formulas as fitness or enhanced performance. The NutriWater sub-brand was our long-shot conceptual name, aptly on target but likely unavailable — recently abandoned by one of the big three, but perfect for us.
- Protein drinks are a growing segment, also populated with heavy hitters, but a perfect complement to GNC’s current base of fitness and performance enthusiasts. Rather than showing product and using the color as part of the art like the other items in the line up, here we needed an opaque shrink to protect the product. Fortunately, based on the flavor profiles, bringing color and appetite appeal to the packaging was an easy addition. Plus the white label definitely helps ground this in proteins. Look for a protein shake (currently under wraps) to appear in a black label soon.
- Is it a sports drink, a protein drink, or a vitamin water? The trick was to avoid becoming “none of the above,” which is the usual result when sharing structures across multiple and diverse categories. That said, by pushing for a shared structure that works at all sizes and in all categories, we were able to establish a proprietary GNC bottle that fit the brand — not trying to meet expectations, but setting expectations instead. Although not our usual approach to structure, this one-size-fits-all solution saved time and money, plus created a new point of difference in well-established categories.
- Marking the distinction between the GNC brand and the new GNC beverages division was important both for the company and for the licensee. All trade and promotions would need to be separated from the main company’s efforts, yet not be seen as a division of the main, or worse, as a licensee merely using the name. Our solution was to integrate the GNC brand into a simple moniker that said beverages without saying “beverages.” Although “Drink Me” has been around since Alice fell down the rabbit hole, it’s an all new concept when applied to the store-based GNC brand.
- Supporting a new brand — or a new perspective on an established brand — takes a whole lot of representation, from boardroom to loading dock, and Shadow’s class act needed a special touch. These tech-fabric golf shirts are sporty and sensible, and carry a simple message that’s both corporate and commercial. When heading to trade shows, buyer conventions, or the third distributor meeting of the morning, feeling fresh and well presented means half the battle is already won.
- There’s nothing wrong with crass commercialism, as long as it’s done well. These graphic tees were handed out at trade shows and shopping malls, and could be won on Facebook as part of DrinkGNC’s social strategy too. Black shirts for the black label extreme performance products, naturally, and white shirts for the white label fitness products. The out-of-control splash elements used on the back were repurposed from the oversized fridge art shown on a later slide.
- Launching GNC into the retail beverage space means making news that counts. In this launch ad, we let it be known that GNC was planning an aggressive campaign, taking on heavyweight Gatorade and industry darling Vitaminwater — head on, no holds barred, on their home fields, for the win. The excitement of a brewing battle, especially between aggressive new-comers and established heavy-weights, is worth paying attention to — especially when money is on the line.
- That’s the Florida Gators stadium, the literal and spiritual home of Gatorade where the world’s first sports drink was invented… The billboard is just a mock-up for now, but GNC is definitely competing with giants so our recommendation was to make the announcement at the very birthplace of the entrenched category leader, putting them on notice that there’s a new player in town with a similarly powerful lineage. Although the launch ad was slightly less aggressive than this, we did get smiles all around the table at GNC HQ and kudos for our enthusiasm.
- The competition in the sports drink category is deeply entrenched in the market and in the American psyche as well. The only real opportunity to break through to new or “switchable” users is to offer a truly unique experience. GNC has led the way in educating its user base about new and useful products, in the store and online. Here, we demonstrate how to capitalize on that framework to expound on the properties of the new beverage line, and continue that all-important conversation.
- While GNC has a hardcore user base, it also appeals to consumers who are more interested in maintaining a fitness-based healthy lifestyle. These users have gravitated toward Vitaminwater and similar less-bad-for-you beverage offerings, based on a scarcity of options. To start the conversation around nutrition and wellness, and promote the white label fitness products, we worked within the existing GNC web site framework to encourage healthy living based on good nutrition — with hydration at its core.
- McLean Design worked with Shadow Beverages and In-Store Experience (Westport, CT) to create a range of variations that would meet the diverse display needs of the open market. Because the GNC product line is composed of white label and black label products, showcasing the complete set became a complicated proposition, resolved by either splitting the shelf, or by dividing the products into a multiple unit set-up. In-Store helped bring the concepts to life with simple 3D renders, and helped Shadow sell merchandisers on their fully customizable in-store support.
- Refrigerated units can be an effective tool to promote product sales, right at the point of purchase. Our focus here was to promote the new packaging and emphasize the immediacy of refreshment. Selecting the right product and flavor color turned out to be the hardest part of the assignment, but we eventually determined that the lemon-lime sports drink was the most representative of the line. As a finishing touch, we added “Liquid Nutrition” to the stainless steel header to encapsulate the proposition within the realm of GNC’s credible brand benefits.