Kool-Aid Man Returns in Race Against Soda

Kool-Aid is honing in on its pitch against soda as an affordable drink with a new campaign breaking today, which shows the Kool-Aid mascot outrunning a liter of cola.

Kraft has been giving its mascot—the Kool-Aid Man—less airtime since last year’s “More smiles per gallon” campaign. Those spots, via Ogilvy & Mather, New York, contrasted a dollar’s worth of Kool-Aid (four pitchers) with a two-liter bottle of soda. The mascot, however, wasn’t featured in the ads.

The new TV spot, also created by Ogilvy & Mather, shows the Kool-Aid Man defeating soda in a race at the beach. “Regular Kool-Aid goes almost three times further than soda,” a voiceover says, as the unnamed soda bottle calls it quits. The comparison is “based on the cost of a two-liter bottle of leading soda versus a two-quart pitcher of regular Kool-Aid,” the ad asserts.

Kool-Aid senior brand manager Gregory Nesmith said the brand is leveraging its mascot’s familiarity and likeability to create a touch point with consumers. “He is someone who we know is a fun, loving smile maker,” Nesmith said, adding that the new ads introduce the Kool-Aid Man to younger consumers while reconnecting with those already familiar with the mascot. “The insight is this idea of affordable family smiles. Consumers are looking for fresh beverage ideas and they’re doing more with less,” he said.

The campaign also is part of Kraft’s strategy to position its large, iconic brands against private label. In an earnings call last week, CEO Irene Rosenfeld said value marketing behind Kraft powerhouses, such as Kool-Aid, Macaroni & Cheese and Jell-O, has done “exceptionally well.”

“We feel very good about that because [these brands] tend to carry higher margins as well,” Rosenfeld said. For the 52 weeks ending April 19, Kool-Aid fruit drink mixes grew 4.33 percent, per IRI. (The data excludes Wal-Mart sales.) The overall fruit drink mixes category, which comprises $570 million in food, drug and mass merchandise sales, was down 1.44 percent. Kraft spent $11 million advertising Kool-Aid last year, excluding online, per Nielsen.

The new campaign stemmed from positive consumer reaction to the brand’s positioning against soda last year, as part of the “More smiles per gallon” effort, according to Nesmith. Following a growth in sales, Kraft decided to extend that campaign into the winter months.

Allen Adamson, managing director at consultancy firm Landor Associates, New York, said such efforts are a way for companies to develop brand recognition. “It’s a shortcut to saying: ‘This spot is about this brand.’ Within two seconds of seeing the Kool-Aid Man, you know it’s a Kool-Aid spot.” Adamson added that the strategy is especially effective for companies with established brands that are well recognized by consumers.