This week, I take a look at the national obsession with hydration and the newer opportunities for brands. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
The United States is turning into a hydration nation.
In the past decade or so, Americans have turned away from sugary sodas, in favor of seltzers and flavored water. Water plays a key role in maintaining multiple physiological functions within the body. The human body is made up 55-65% of water. Lately, the focus on hydration as a health and beauty concept has reached new heights, due in large part to the TikTok hashtag #WaterTok, which took off in March and has over 375 million views. In tagged posts, TikTokers detail how they are trying to reach their water intake and hydration goals, often through flavored water concoctions. The newfound obsession with hydration has spilled into the mainstream with wellness brands offering their own electrolyte flavorings and ingestible hydration supplements, and focusing on hydration marketing ahead of the summer.
Since the beginning of the year, brands have tackled hydration in myriad ways. Traditional beauty brands have for years zeroed in on skin hydration in their marketing for topical products, specifically how dehydrated skin leads to premature aging like wrinkles and skin laxity. But recently, inner-outer beauty has been taken to a new level. In May, vitamin brand Ritual introduced its first skin-care supplement called HyaCera, which contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid for skin hydration.
Traditional food and beverage brands also see opportunity in the traditional internal hydration category. Joyburst, a “good for you energy drink,” launched Joyburst Renew Hydration beverages at Costco in April. Coco-Cola’s BodyArmor brand also released its own hydration product called Flash I.V. in April, going nationwide in retailers in Jan. 2024. Flash I.V. could be viewed as a direct competitor to Unilever’s Liquid I.V. brand, which it acquired in 2020. Unilever has identified health and well-being as a key growth space for the future and has built its vitamin, mineral and supplement business to over $1 billion in sales.
“[Dehydration] is increasingly recognized as an underlying fundamental issue [behind] both fatigue and even beauty concerns around skin health,” said Jostein Solheim, CEO of Health & Wellbeing Collective, a unit of Unilever dedicated to vitamins, minerals and supplements. Health & Wellbeing Collective houses seven brands including beverage supplement Liquid I.V., Olly vitamins and Nutrafol. “What we’re also seeing is a fundamental shift away from thinking of health as the absence of disease, toward health as a lifestyle. This shift is being led by Gen Zers and millennials, who are educating themselves and sharing it, like on TikTok with #WaterTok, et cetera.”
To protect its crown, Liquid I.V. kicked off a summer-long campaign on May 1 called “Real Hydrating.” The 360-degree communications strategy includes ads across paid media, podcasts, OTT television, digital and out-of-home. Liquid I.V. launched in 2012 billing itself as a “hydration multiplier.” It claimed to deliver fast hydration via Cellular Transport Technology, or CTT — a term the company uses to explain that when water is combined with sodium, potassium and glucose, it enhances absorption in the digestive system. In Unilever’s latest earnings report from April, the Health & Wellbeing unit delivered double-digit growth year-over-year with Liquid I.V. and fitness supplement brandOnnit “growing strongly,” according to Graeme Pitkethly, CFO of Unilever.
Stacey Andrade, vp of marketing for Liquid I.V., said that while hydration beverages have historically marketed themselves toward athletes, there is a much larger opportunity for everyday people in non-athletic settings. A second part of the campaign, beginning in July, ties to Liquid I.V’s most substantive product launch since the original launch of its hero Hydration Multiplier in 2012.
There are four core pillars that Liquid I.V. is trying to get across to consumers: its products’ function and their enjoyable flavor, and the brand’s inclusivity and CSR impact related to clean drinking water. Advertising videos center on people in common scenarios — like standing at a baggage carousel, gaming or attending a music concert — while a voiceover speaks as though these are athletic events. The tagline is “Real life is extreme enough.” Real Hydrating is backed by a 43% higher marketing investment than the brand’s last fully integrated national campaign in 2022.
“This campaign and our platform are tapping into humor as a way to play on the historical marketing that exists within the hydration category,” Andrade said. “The main focus is to [spotlight] everyday people in everyday moments. … We’re [taking] this opportunity to highlight hydration moments and the way that Liquid I.V. is uniquely positioned to serve people for [those moments].”
The campaign’s out-of-home marketing includes billboards, extensive sampling and integrated marketing at buzzy events. Liquid I.V. was present at the live-action “Little Mermaid” premiere at the end of May and handed out samples to festival goers at Coachella. Additionally, Bonnaroo, Rolling Loud and Outside Lands festivals will have a Liquid I.V. presence this summer. Liquid I.V. will soon announce a promotional partnership with a musical duo.
Clinique also emphasized hydration in a recent multi-pronged marketing campaign, which encouraged consumers to combat the effects of daily dehydrating and aging aggressors by protecting their skin inside and out. At Coachella, the brand created a “Clinique Hydration House” and day club, and hosted off-campus pool parties at the University of Florida and the University of Arizona. The campaign was in support of Clinique’s Moisture Surge 100-Hour moisturizer and the launch of its new Moisture Surge SPF 28.
“There’s a huge emphasis on connecting the full marketing funnel, so our consumers are seeing Liquid I.V. at different touchpoints,” said Andrade. “There’s a big emphasis on expanding our footprint on the paid media front, OTT and digital platforms. There are a lot of different places where we’ve opted to double down [monetarily].”
Liquid I.V. focused on reaching certain audience segments based on their interest in hydration, including families, men and culturally diverse groups.
“The marketing for electrolytes has always been for vomiting children or for elite athletes, and I never fell into those categories,” said Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice.
In July, Moon Juice will debut a new electrolyte powder designed for everyday use, touting that adequate hydration and salt intake assist in maintaining cognitive function and energy and boosting hair and skin quality. Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs cognition that requires attention, psychomotor or immediate memory skills, according to studies.
But the hydration buzz online is also linked to diet culture, the downside of the renewed attention on drinking water.
The hashtag #WaterTok is often found next to #WeightLoss, with TikTokers discussing hydration or water consumption as a necessary element to feel full and lose pounds. However, the World Health Organization issued a warning against using artificial sweeteners for weight loss, saying that ongoing consumption could increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mortality in adults.
“Being properly hydrated makes you feel good,” said Bacon. “It’s one of those things where you can get almost instant gratification, its low effort, and, intuitively, we all know we should hydrate. This is going to be one of the biggest things in wellness; we’re definitely having a hydration moment.”
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