Anyone who has followed the news in that odd time warp that is the period between Christmas and New Year won’t have failed to notice that 2022’s scenes of retail carnage were caused, not by the Harrods sale, but by mass hordes in Aldi trying to lay their hands on a bottle of Prime...
Sadly, for those with teenagers, this was anything but new news. Last Autumn term quickly saw school buses and playgrounds up and down the country being transformed into trading grounds for the lurid coloured ‘hydration drink’ (don’t blame me for the tautology, readers!)
The only comfort for those of us in the marketing world is that Prime has provided another timely reminder of the value brands play in the marketing mix. Launched by YouTubers-turned-boxing-foes Logan Paul and KSI, Prime is billed as the drink created to ‘to showcase what happens "when rivals come together as brothers and business partners to fill the void where great taste meets function". No, I have zero idea what ‘when taste meets function’ means either, and neither would the vast majority of those fighting to get their hands on a bottle.
The kids, it seems, can’t get enough of it; Prime has become the brand to be seen with. One thing is for certain, the hype appears to have little to do with the taste of the product itself. A test verdict from my son’s U14 football team (all of whom are buying bottles from a former teammate for a fiver a pop, by the way) is full of such hyperbole as “It tastes alright”, or “I didn’t like it at first but it’s better once you get used to it”. If my own son is anything to go by, getting a photo of the actual bottle was more important than drinking its content.
Given that he’s not on social media, this photo opportunity was intrinsically motivated rather than posting for shares or likes. Before we get too judgemental about our teenagers, it's not just school buses where Prime is in demand; in the last week bottles have been changing hands on eBay for £20 a bottle or more!
Much of Prime’s initial success appears to come straight from the behavioural science playbook. Author Richard Shotton’s The Choice Factory cites how a store which limited sales of Campbell's soup saw a higher purchase frequency than stores with no restrictions in place. Current attempts by retailers to limit purchase volume of Prime could therefore end up building, rather than capping demand.
Indeed, the popularity of Prime appears to be fuelled by a heady mix of both scarcity and social proof. It’s a familiar, well-trodden recipe for success in recent times. Again, just look how Wordle tapped into the sub-conscious during lockdown when we were restricted to playing just once a day, and the game encouraged us to share our progress (or failings!) on social media.
Like Pokemon Go, Fidget Spinners and loom bands before it, the thirst for Prime will inevitably dry up when this incredibly fickle young adult segment moves on to the next big thing. Yet, in the short term, the success of the Prime brand offers up a challenge for KSI and Logan Paul’s own personal brands. How long can they sit quiet while their product is sold for ten times its face value online?
We’ve heard Taylor Swift call out ticket sales being ‘scalped’ but, so far, the social media heavyweights, KSI and Logan Paul, have been silent on the messy supermarket scenes of shameless profiteering. Their evolution from YouTube stars through to music, boxing and now soft drinks is to be admired but this could present an altogether different kind of brand challenge. Will the unsavoury scenes we’ve seen in supermarkets up and down the country continue to fan the flames of popularity or will frustration over the lack of supply and inflated prices kill the golden goose?