ZOE GIVES BRAND STRETCH A SHOT
A full page advert for an attempt at brand stretching grabbed my attention this weekend. The new product in question is a probiotic gut shot from ZOE, created in collaboration with retailer Marks & Spencer. In case you haven’t heard of it, ZOE is an increasingly popular service that monitors individual responses to different foods. The personalised analysis enables users to adjust their diet to try and improve overall health, especially gut health. The distinctive yellow ZOE monitoring patches have something of a lifestyle statement: a visible commitment to a proactive, informed approach to health (see below). The app launched in April 2022 and already has over 100,000 members.
The new launch looks like quite a bold brand stretch, taking ZOE from services into the fast moving consumer goods market. How might we assess the chances of success? One question we could ask is, “Can the Zoe brand stretch into the probiotic shot market?” But a better question is, “Can Zoe make any money from stretching into the probiotic shot market?” To help answer this question, we’ll use a simple framework from our brandgym projects and brandgym Mastering Brand Growth Program.
1. SIZE OF PRIZE
When exploring the potential of brand stretch, it’s crucial to evaluate the ‘size of the prize.’ This involves considering the market size and growth, the concept’s appeal and product delivery.
The market for probiotic drinks is pretty big, based on the data I could find. The European market size is around $5billion (1), of which c.50% is dairy-based drinks (2). The market is also forecast to grow strongly, with an estimated CAGR of 7% from 2023 to 2033 (2). In terms of competitive intensity, Danone’s Actimel is serious player with sales of £130million in 2022, with Yakult a long way behind with £31million (3)
The concept of ZOE Shots should hold strong appeal. These product leverages the scientifically-backed, personalized approach to gut health of ZOE based on advanced nutritional research. Each shot contains 5 billion live cultures from 14 strains of gut-friendly bacteria (other probiotic drinks tend to contain around two or three) (3). In terms of the drink itself, Marks & Spencer’s reputation for quality ingredients provides valuable reassurance.
The effectiveness of any brand stretch lies in the product’s actual performance. For ZOE Shots, the promise of a scientifically-proven, beneficial impact on gut health is hard to assess. In terms of the product itself, the early feedback I could find was positive.“The shot certainly tastes good – less cloyingly sweet than other probiotic drinks I’ve flirted with in the past, such as Yakult and Activia,” reported one early review.
2. ABILITY TO WIN
Marketers tend to be pretty good at estimating the size of prize for brand stretching. Where they often fall down is on assessing ability to win.
This evaluation starts with determining if a company possesses the necessary capabilities to manufacture and distribute the new product. ZOE’s stretch into gut shots is clearly a significant step from their digital health monitoring services. This explains the smart choice of collaborating with Marks & Spencer, who bring extensive experience in food product development and distribution. The latter means that ZOE shots can get broad distribution much more quickly than if they are launching solo and trying to secure supermarket listings.
Furthermore, the commitment to long-term investment in the product is crucial. Launching a new product, especially one that diverges from a brand’s core offer, requires not just initial investment but sustained support. The collaboration with a retail giant like Marks & Spencer, known for its quality and customer trust, provides a solid platform for this endeavor. And the launch is being supported with advertising. However, ZOE must be prepared for continuous investment in research, marketing, and product development to maintain and grow their market position in this new venture.
3. GROWING THE CORE
A successful brand extension should not only create a new revenue stream but also bolster the core business. And this is where the ZOE shots score especially high for me. The brand stretch and collaboration with Marks & Spencer will enhance brand visibility and drive trial. This is turn has the potential to attracts new users to the core digital health monitoring platform. And the health platform could suggest use of the ZOE shot for gut health, reinforcing the core service of personalised nutrition guidance. In this way, the brand stretch goes way beyond the image effects often used to justify brand stretch. Rather, Zoe is starting to create a brand ‘ecosystem’, where products and services work together reinforcing one another.
In conclusion, the above 3-step framework can help you assess the chances of success for a brand stretch opportunity. In the case of ZOE shots, I rate the chances of brand stretch success as good. High on Size of Prize, with Ability to Win enhanced through the partnership with Marks & Spencer. The true test will be to see if ZOE has the stamina to compete against the likes of Danone and Yakult over the long term, not just at launch.