A 20-20 view on coconut water: is Vita Coco okay?

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What does Vita Coco’s perfect customer look like?

According to a recent campaign, it looks like the most unlikely Vita Coco customer of all: the customer who hates coconut water.

One of the brand’s biggest challenges so far has been overcoming the fact that coconut water, which sounds delicious, is actually pretty disgusting – and many agree.

Especially social media users, who take to Twitter to blast coconut water as, in the words of one outspoken poster, “f**cking disgusting.”

Vita Coco’s response has been to develop a product which actually appears to taste like coconuts, and then to roll it out with a campaign claiming the new Pressed water is “impossible to hate.” Then they began reaching out to social media users, such as the aforementioned disgusted tweeter, to give them a gentle ribbing in service of their new, improved product.

If you want to read about the chain of surreal events which led to Vita Coco temporarily changing their brand Twitter avatar to a jar of (apparently real) human urine, you can do so here – the story opens a whole new can of worms about brand behaviour in the social media age. But here’s a quick digest: a social media user, to whom Vita Coco offered to send a free sample of their new product, tweeted in response that “he would rather drink your social media person’s…” well, you can fill in the blanks.

Vita Coco responded with a picture of in a bathroom stall holding a jar of ominous liquid, with the caption, “address?”, in what might be the most spontaneous piece of social marketing since the Super Bowl Oreo ad. A laugh was had by some, and the heady days of brand japiary — the golden age of Burma Shave and Mars, when brands seemed like real humans and not faceless pillars of corporate responsibility — were brought to mind, albeit filtered through the very modern lens of the online overshare.

But we’re here to talk about Fearlessly Frank’s 20-20 business tool, and how the Vita Coco strategy is an interesting one from our perspective. So, for now, we will refrain from commenting on the jar of urine.

Instead, let’s focus on Vita Coco’s proactive approach to courting new customers. Right now, the brand is huge – but an obstacle to growth is the fact that people who dislike coconut water REALLY dislike it, and probably won’t ever change their minds.

At the heart of their new campaign, Vita Coco have recognised that their “perfect” customer for the future is not the flag-waving coconut water aficionado but the casual hater. They want to convert the nay-sayers and win new fans and customers, and are taking some pretty bold steps (I reiterate: jar of human urine) to make it happen.

This is a lesson to all brands. The perfect customer for your business might not be who you think it is. It’s easy to rest on your laurels when figuring out who you’re going to sell to. But in order to innovate, challenge, grow and disrupt, sometimes you need to look beyond the obvious candidates for your brand and figure out how to appeal to them.

That’s what our 20-20 tool is all about – we take an intensive strategic look into your business, the marketplace, and your offering and synthesise this into an in-depth analysis of how your customer base is changing and what it might look like in five years time.

You don’t need to be proactive in the way that Vita Coco are currently being – for many businesses, it’s fine to rely on your existing customer base. But in this agile marketplace, that base is always changing, always open to challenge. In order to identify new opportunities, you might need to look into new ways to meet the needs of an ever-changing audience – a more clear-sighted view of who actually needs your products and services.
Is coconut water consumption always going to stay level, or, like many trendy FMCG products, will it begin to lose popularity and require reinvention?

If we were to apply our 20 20 process to Vita Coco, we would possibly discover that the coconut water customer of 2019 – the health-conscious, clean-eating, athletic demographic – likely has a shelf life. The same is true of almost any demographic in any industry – advances in tech, behaviour and the fast-moving pace of modern life ensure that much. Vita Coco have, it seems, realised the perfect Vita Coco customer is not a marathon-runner with a penchant for poke and activated charcoal, but a thirsty morning commuter who doesn’t want an E-numbered soft drink in a can; the shared work-place caterer looking for an exciting alternative to sparkling water; the lady-who-lunches who usually drinks Redbush tea, but prefers cooler beverages in the summer months. Among many others.

At Fearlessly Frank, we applaud the sentiment and the strategy, if not necessarily the specifics, of Vita Coco’s stunt. Our tools help to uncover the real truth at the heart of your brand – or, more specifically, the thing that might eventually be your truth in five years’ time, when the current fads are cooling off and the human impulses at the heart of all popular products are all that remain.

Of course, just because Vita Coco have recognised the need to innovate doesn’t mean that they’re doing it with the rigour that the 20-20 tool promises – what Vita Coco have done, intentionally or not, is identify their perfect customer as the type of person who enjoys seeing businesses threatening to send people jars of urine in the post. Maybe that is their perfect customer. Without applying our 20-20 process, we just don’t know.

But one thing is clear, and this is pretty key: there was a jar of urine in their corporate Twitter’s profile picture, for a whole day. A jar of urine.

…is Vita Coco okay?