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It's no secret that the internet is filled with negative content: damning restaurant reviews, cynical movie critics and nasty trolls. Instead of shying away from these "haters," beverage brand Vita Coco dared some of the harshest product reviewers online to try its new coconut water — a polarizing flavor for many consumers — that quickly turned into a heated Twitter exchange about the drink "tasting like piss."
The brand went beyond simply acknowledging that many people dislike the taste of its core offering by having several of these naysayers star in its first ads around Pressed, a beverage that debuted in March 2018.
A series of video spots are part of the brand's broader marketing effort to win over the internet's most negative people. Vita Coco and agency Interesting Development created an algorithm to identify 1 million harsh product reviewers on sites like Yelp, Amazon and TripAdvisor. Some of those critics were pulled for a live taste test where they shared honest — but not glowing — endorsements of Pressed, serving as video ads that kicked off the campaign last week.
Instead of trailing the trend of using microinfluencers or celebrity endorsements, Vita Coco wanted to take a fresh, seemingly counterintuitive approach, Brand Director Allison Finazzo told Marketing Dive.
"Influencer marketing is so saturated with people trying to use advocates and brand ambassadors. We tried to flip that on its head to change the conversation and actually dare some 'negative Nancys' to hate Pressed," Finazzo said. "We've always known internally that our brand is lighthearted, so this is an amazing expression of our personality and tone of voice."
Squeezing out confidence
A major risk around the "Impossible to Hate" strategy centered on toeing the line between exuding confidence and ensuring solid messaging. Vita Coco began working with Interesting Development in late 2018 to crystallize the brand's tone and creative strategy. It's been an equal partnership between the two teams, Finazzo said, with the agency pushing the brand to be bold and "not be wallpaper."
Along with the video spots, Finazzo said the campaign includes significant out-of-home buys in seven key markets and user-generated content on social media. So far, the organic UGC is performing well in driving brand engagement and allows Vita Coco to show off its target customer base in a fun way, she added.
Just days after the campaign launched with the ads' debut, Vita Coco reached out to social media users who had previously shared negative reviews about the brand's products. That's when user Tony Posnanski took the bait and tweeted about his distaste for all coconut water, triggering a snarky back-and-forth with Vita Coco.
"Alongside [Posnanski's] takes like 'the Beatles are overrated,' 'candy corn is trash' and 'Ariana Grande is better than Britney Spears,' we loved being mixed in with these cultural icons," Finazzo said.
Stunting on Twitter
The unapologetic clapbacks really ramped up when Posnanski tweeted at Vita Coco with, "I would rather drink your social media person's piss than coconut water." The brand then posted a photo of an employee holding a branded jar of yellow liquid and cheekily asked for Posnanski's mailing address.
"Hoping our consumers have a sense of humor, we were just trying to be real and have some fun with a new product."
Vita Coco brand director
"Knowing how people tend to react on Twitter, we told [community coordinator Lane Rawlings] to go for it and give the hater what he asked for," Finazzo said. "Hoping our consumers have a sense of humor, we were just trying to be real and have some fun with a new product."
It's no secret that brands have grown more brash in their marketing, especially on social media, as they explore lower-cost ways to spark real-time conversations online. Chains like Wendy's, KFC and Burger King have become synonymous for dishing out direct, cheeky jabs at competitors, fans and trolls while developing off-the-cuff voices on social platforms.
Just the beginning
Timing around the brand's Twitter stunt was a happy accident that drove an uptick in social conversation during the campaign's first week, though it's too early to measure its sales impact.
"We've seen on Twitter people saying they bought Vita Coco at the store after seeing this all play out on social media," Finazzo said.
Next week, the brand plans to take Pressed's "Impossible to Hate" tagline to the next level by announcing a money-back guarantee to anyone who can explain why they dislike the flavor, she said.