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228. New Gatorade G Campaign.

Maybe the best part of the huge Pepsi brand redesign, is the work for Gatorade. The packaging is looking rather good. Though I’m not totally sold on the font choice for the G, I do like the idea of changing the names of the product lines from weird things like ‘rain’ or ‘x-factor’ to strong call to actions like, “No Excuses” and “Be Tough.” And that’s when the type shines - doing justice to these new mantras. Overall, a logical step for the beverage maker. So the packaging is getting there, but I have a serious issue with the way the G is being used in the advertising launch.

A Teaser Ad in USA Today

Gatorade is (was?) in the rare position of being able to progress past an ordinary logo. They could have used this rebrand as an opportunity to evolve into using a symbol for their brand. Their ‘bolt’ is fairly recognizable and when backed by a heavy media budget, could have entered Apple and Nike territory, needing only a symbol to communicate their message. (Which is a nice progression if a brand can manage taking that step successfully.) Gatorade has experimented with that in past, but seemed a little shy to commit to it. In the new advertising they are finally showing this courage – except for the wrong element. Instead of using the bolt, they are letting this new block G sit out there all on its own – except that it has no real brand equity yet and worse still, they seem to be tossing away the bolt for no good reason. This could be simply a teaser campaign, but even if that's the case - it feels a bit irresponsible.

The New Packaging

And the advertising itself focuses on the G, as if it means something. The spots (below) are not awful, but they’re trying way too hard to be any good and it’s a missed opportunity for Gatorade to reclaim the throne of energy drinks. A couple spots cannot give meaning to a letter overnight, and I’m not sure many years of advertising can either. The company could have easily shot the same footage and using a different voiceover and the bolt symbol, ended up with a more powerful, disruptive launch. Which is what they needed. But the communication itself isn’t that bad – it’s really the design decision concerning the logo that adds a confusing, misguided layer to the work that is completely unnecessary. The only thing I can figure out is that Gatorade’s new agency (TBWA/Chiat/Day – a great agency, to be sure) is trying to be a bit mysterious. Normally, I like a little tease – but not at the expense of a brand that was so close to entering the rarified air of only needing a symbol to mark their brand. I predict in a few years that you’ll be seeing the bolt instead of this lonely letter G. And maybe, when the tease period is over, they’ll at least go to a combination mark that includes the bolt. We’ll see. I'm wondering how you folks out there feel about this. (I see a similar issue with Tropicana dumping it's straw in the orange concept for a more generic look too.)

The Launch Spots

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Reader Comments (19)

Wonderful observations. You wonder what they were thinking. It's a sad downfall to see for these brands who can fully encompass an ideal; who can become a moral subject in the media in terms of staging a presence. Truly sad.
January 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLAC
Great post. Have lots of thoughts...

First off, I love the font and the look of the type wrapping simulated news style at heavy weight. Medium weight seems like "Archer" (from H & FJ, Martha Stuart Living), and looks good. Also feel like the G is stellar. -- Stands well alone, and incorporates the bolt nicely. I'm not sure how athletic it all feels, and I think that is probably where I would jump in to speak up. It all feels rather "now", but I'm not sure that's ever a good thing -- My biggest Issue.

In terms of a new mark, I really feel that we've become obsessed with marks. The brand logo should say something. I really like the idea of building a logo out of the name alone, and a mark (if need be) out of an element of that name -- like the favicon. They've continued to say something with the flavors and try to make the brand into one cohesive thought. I love being able to pick up on a brand regardless of instance. If you can do that with type instead of a mark...then you're Obama.

I also think that there is a pretty ballsy move here to just generally address the fact that the brand is f**king hideous. The bolt/neon colors is like the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life, and I think a move to strong emphasis on typography is/could be really smart.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but that's my $0.02.

Thanks again for posting something that's fun to talk about :)
January 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
well, you're right on the bolt not being the prettiest thing ever - maybe that should have been the focus of the rebranding too. I do think the type is handled well... though i must admit i didn't realize it was Archer (or close). Archer is beautiful.

I guess I just question dumping the equity of the bolt - ugly as it is.I would have rather seen them address that issue, much like they did (unnecessarily) with tropicana and pepsi.)

Obsessed with marks? Yeah, you're probably right about that one. Ha.

Thanks for the comments.
January 17, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
Well, I guess I just feel that the mark has grown beyond intention. If the equity of the mark means being able to stand alone as a representation, then I think you could be on to something. But, if that's the case...what is it we sell? Is it a bolt of lightning, or "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", or a picturesque view of the horizon? Without a reference point for context, we lose everything.

Look at Logopond. We've become obsessed with symbolism in our brands. And yet, history repeatedly tells us that our symbol will be misconstrued, copied, or put to bad use at a later date. If this is what we do as graphic designers, then we should all be equal experts in Symbolism or the history thereof. Perhaps we should just learn Chinese and build our brands out a collection of symbolism that already seems to supercede most others?

Or, maybe we just say who and what we really are...

We're sports, we're people, we're Gatorade.
January 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

I don't think the mark has grown beyond good use, but nor do i think it's supposed to be able to stand without context. And Gatorade doesn't sell lightning - it sells competition, or faux-competition - but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be able to use a mark of some kind to represent itself when longer more complete communication isn't possible. Or that it can't use a symbol in combination with a story, to remind or 'brand' that piece of communication as theirs and theirs alone. Sure logopond and a host of other stock icon sites seem to generate adequate marks, but what those don't have is a singular purpose and reason for being. The design can't come first. The context comes first, and the branding/design is generated best from that substance.

I believe graphic designers are really storytellers, or in your terms, context makers.But you can't just say who you are and what you do - because people don't care. They don't care about what you are selling unless you grab your attention in some way. In other words, you can't just say who and what you are - you have to do it in style and add value to someone's life. And design, design of a precise logo that represents the story you are telling and will be telling, helps do just that.

But I know what you mean. And thanks for posting - these types of conversations are great and worthy of our time.
January 17, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
Sorry to keep jumping in, but this is fun.

Think my last comment was a little confusing as I was talking specifically about the symbol. I should have clarified that from the mark.

You're saying (I think) that Gatorade has/had a unique opportunity to transition to the incidental symbol for brand recognition, and you're right. But, I would maybe argue that Gatorade has a unique opportunity to just be Gatorade for a little while. I think the point here is that they are using the "G" to introduce the new flavor names and bring emphasis to the type defining those names in one swoop. Maybe it's temporary, maybe it's not...we'll have to wait and see.

Incidentally, I showed my 10 year old daughter the picture of Gatorade being poured over the athlete with only the letter "G". I asked her "what is this?". She said "it's Gatorade, Dad. Duh." I asked her how she knew, and she looked at me like I was crazy for a second. Then she pointed to the "G" and said "G", then pointed to the Gatorade and said "Gatorade". Kids are funny :)
January 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
You know - I hadn't really considered their emphasis on the G to have more than a teaser purpose - but it does introduce the type and the names. And that's not a bad thing really.(Though why not have a name of a drink at the end or something more direct?) I guess, I would rather see that teaser newspaper ad just say Gatorade - and it does actually on the bucket - without the G or the logo or anything - as it's redundant. That's probably the most elegant way to do that.

And I would like the TV a lot better if it ended in 'Gatorade" and not just the G. Trying to imbue meaning into that letter seems silly, they could just say Gatorade and it wouldn't lose anything. I guess it bothers me that they are focusing on the G. I'd prefer either the combination mark or the word Gatorade. The G is just kinda silly without the bolt. Unless they want to go into kindergarten classes and have the teachers tell the kids that G stands for Gatorade much like B stands for buttons and C for Cat. Ha.

I think the ads fall short, where the packaging at least is much better than before. More honest. And not trying so hard. In terms of Gatorade being Gatorade.

Who knew this much could be said about a little beverage campaign.

Really enjoy the commentary, Stephen. Most people are afraid to comment, esp. if it's not anonymous.

January 17, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
What's with the varying Ss? (Am I making that up?)
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
Glad I read this post, because my husband and I saw the commercial on TV last night and promptly looked at each other with puzzled looks on our faces. I even knew Gatorade was re-branding and I still had no idea that was a Gatorade commercial! Had it been the G with the lightning bolt, I totally would have "gotten" it, but by omitting it, I dismissed the commercial completely because I had no idea what it was for. I guess we'll see how the new brand further develops, but especially in a world full of DVRs, it seems a bit risky to not fully communicate a re-branding when you actually have someone's fleeting attention!
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenni McKay
I agree with this post. For the past week, my buddy and I have been wondering what the heck that commercial has been promoting. Here is the problem if you live in the DC area. The new "G" logo that Gatorade is using in this campaign is very similar to Georgetown University's "G" sports logo. The first couple of times I saw the new Gatorade TV ad, I thought it was an advertisement for Georgetown University Sports. Obviously, I kept saying to myself, I know for a fact that those athletes in the ad did not attend Georgetown so what the heck is this ad promoting. Go to this page and you can see the similarity between the Gatorade "G" and the Georgetown University "G". I am surprised that Georgetown University is not making a bid deal about possible infringement of their logo. I am not a lawyer so maybe there is no basis for a case. Anyway, my two cents for what their worth.
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConfused DCer
I have been seeing these ads from the train all over Chicago. (Bus stops too) It wasn't until viewing this post that I knew what they were for. I have to admit I could only read about half of them. I think it's great because it kept me looking at them, but bad because I had no idea what it was for.
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea Winkel
Guys, it's a tease campaign. You aren't supposed to know. And if you can't wait, you search it out online.
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy
so many people have put so much thought into a font. I can't stop laughing. Have fun, nerds.
January 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephe
Stephe - if you are doing something, why not do it passionately? We love what we do, that's why we discuss 'little' things like fonts.
January 24, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
Interesting discussion guys. It only started flaming towards the end. The fact that it elicits strong response I think it has accomplished the much of the re-brandong goal.

If puzzlement is the response to some of us grownups and a 10 year old gets it, then it seems like the ad-folks have hit the target.

There is a whole new generation that drinks stuff they think is cool, not for the electrolytes or some attachment to an old mark.

Jones Soda, Apple, u just feel cooler when companies dont try so hard to overly hit you over the head with an old mark, especially if that mark had lost some luster

So cool.
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDutch Schultz
Not sure if anyone noted this earlier, but it looks to me like the new branding is trying pretty hard to go up against the Vitamin Water brand. Just my 2 cents.
February 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAb
Hello, can anyone tell me please which is the font they use in this campaign?
September 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramz
Well this is really late and all...I'm actually analyzing this campaign for a rhetoric class...

First off. I think it's smart to get rid of the lightning for now...Gatorade is indeed not selling lightning and that bolt, in my mind dates the company because it brings to mind the 90's...I feel that people had kind of forgotten about was just kind of something that was always by creating so much buzz over what exactly this "G" was, Gatorade was able to bring their brand right back into the spotlight...and make what was becoming a stale brand fresh again. It also gave their designers the chance to use contemporary design that young people most identify with. Chopping up the phrases at random places on the bottles? That is a trademark of this generation. My friends and I were talking about those ads for days trying to figure out what G was...and now I know, I'm not likely to forget anytime soon...Gatorade got people curious again so I say kudos.

And for those haters talking about font...typography is one of the most important aspects of a successful design, composition and especially brand. Companies spend millions of dollars researching what happens with different fonts for their logos and documents. I mean think about KNOW what an ad is for from a company more times than not before their logo even shows's because they have identified themselves with a certain font face. And if you don't believe me about font making its own statement, write a sentence, then paste it a few times below and blow up the font size--20 should be cool--and then change the fonts for each line...use Goudy, then use Arial, then use Rockwell and then use Georia--then make them bold...try and tell me that those fonts don't have different tones to them.

But good post...thanks for the embedded vids...makes my life a lot easier
November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh
Josh, you bring up a great point about typography. (And I'm a fan of the type work on the packaging and communication on this campaign. Archer from H&FJ is a sweet, sweet face and works well for anything athletic. Gorgeous, yet tough. I approve. You see a typeface and sometimes you know who the advertiser is immediately if they are consistent enough.

I disagree about the bolt - I think that's more Gatorade than the letter, and although Archer is great, making the identity rely on one letter set in one font takes time to be effective. Not that the campaign went away from the bolt - it didn't, except during this tease phase. I don't think the tease was good enough in this case. what is G? I think most people didn't give a rats rear-end, except we industry folks. That being said, I have liked where they've taken this campaign since and the tease was only a small part of it of course.

Appreciate you taking the time to post your thoughts. Good luck on your project.

November 22, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj

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