As I mentioned earlier, Darren Rovell arranged for me to receive a copy of his latest book entitled First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon. I drink the stuff from time to time, and while the story of its origins is interesting, the best part of this book is chapter 8, “The Gatorade Rules”. Rovell lays out “the nine business principles that helped Gatorade become one of the most powerful brands in modern-day business history.” Here are my two favorites:
Learn from your mistakes – Did you know there was a “Gatorade Light”? I didn’t. It sounds like it suffered the same fate as New Coke. This section talks about the dangers of overextending your brand, or trying to make it something it’s not. By coincidence, I happened to be reading the September issue of Fast Company magazine today. Right there on page 34 was a vivid example of how Coke continues battling that same temptation with their line of diet products. Take a look at that comparison, noting that they didn’t include the 5th variation, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, and tell me these guys aren’t creating market confusion.
Form Smart Strategic Alliances – OK, this one seems obvious, but look at how well Gatorade has leveraged their partnerships. Have you ever seen a football game on TV without also seeing at least one of those orange Gatorade coolers? Heck, Gatorade is so tightly linked to football that it’s customary for the winning coach to be doused in the stuff, right? Gatorade is always on the sidelines, not necessarily because the players like it, but because the Gatorade people know how to work the system.
First in Thirst does a good job documenting the Gatorade history, but I found the branding and business coverage to be the most valuable lessons in this book.