Why V Energy's marketing manager is using both old and new channels to target Gen Z

Energy drink's marketing leader explains his mix of 20th century marketing with cutting-edge test-and-learn across digital


As the marketing manager for Frucor Beverages’ energy drink, V Energy, Craig Harkness’ target audience includes possibly the world’s hardest-to-reach segment: 18-to-24-year-olds.

But when it comes to getting in front of this thoroughly 21st century audience of highly-distracted screen-hoppers, he’s not afraid to admit he uses a pair of decidedly 20th century media as his main channels: Free-to-air television and cinema advertising.

“We are told all the time about audience fragmentation and how difficult it is to reach those target consumers – the 18 to 24-year olds,” Harkness says. “But I’ve got enough data to show over the last three years how well my brand reacts to having a great world-class piece of advertising in TV and cinema.”

The success of his strategy was demonstrated through V Energy’s most recent execution. Extending from the marketing slogan ‘The Massive Hit That Improves You a Bit’, V Energy’s latest campaign featured the character Quicksilver from 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise being replaced by a slightly better version of himself.

Craig Harkness
Craig Harkness


“We had a nine-point jump in consideration and a seven-point jump in preference,” Harkness says. “I would never advocate walking away from big broadcast advertising, because I’ve got the result over the last few years that show we need it. It is incredibly important to our brand health to be on air throughout the year.

“If you buy the big programming, you have everyone watching it. TV is still the number one gadget that people have in their homes, and it is just being smarter about the type of programming you buy into.”

The same goes for cinema advertising – another channel at times derided as being seriously 20th century. “You’ve got a guaranteed audience, and they are usually of the target that you want if you pick the right movies,” Harkness says.

Building a social and digital approach

That said, Harkness says V Energy also has significant spend through digital channels, such as Facebook. Use of that channel has evolved significantly since Harkness joined the company four years ago, when it was being used it to host 30-second adverts.

“We now have to look at what is the two second execution, what is the three second execution, rather than what is the 15 second cut down,” Harkness says. “That is the real challenge we have had to overcome in the last year; that we have to make sure we are serving things at the length that is required.”

Harkness cut his teeth as a marketer working for brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, in Scotland, before moving to Australia in 2008 to launch the 5 gum brand here for Wrigley.

Throughout his career, he has developed a test-and-learn approach to marketing that can be seen at V Energy through initiatives such as an early foray into SnapChat.

And in reflection of the somewhat cheeky nature of the brand itself, Harkness is also trialling a form of ad blocking technology in a campaign dubbed V AdNotes, where users can replace on-screen display advertising with their study notes.

Harkness says the campaign provides an alternate method of student outreach beyond standard o-week promotion.

“It’s a solution to talking to students on campus, but also giving something that was of utility that makes them a bit better at studying,” he says.

“We are only pushing it through Facebook advertising to start with, and will see how it goes. But it is an interesting idea and it is all part of this test-and-learn culture we have in our marketing at Frucor.”

The brand has also moved heavily into music sponsorship through the V MoVement dance music festival taking place across multiple venues in Sydney later this year. Harkness says the goal is to eventually take the program nationally.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Hey there! Very interesting article, thank you for your input! I found particularly interesting the part where you mentioned that certain...

Martin Valovič

Companies don’t have policies to disrupt traditional business models: Forrester’s McQuivey

Read more

I too am regularly surprised at how little care a large swathe of consumers take over the sharing and use of their personal data. As a m...

Catherine Stenson

Have customers really changed? - Marketing edge - CMO Australia

Read more

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among marketers and the most important thing is the transparency and consent.

Joe Hawks

Data privacy 2021: What should be front and centre for the CMO right now

Read more

Thanks for giving these awesome suggestions. It's very in-depth and informative!sell property online

Joe Hawks

The new rules of Millennial marketing in 2021

Read more

In these tough times finding an earning opportunity that can be weaved into your lifestyle is hard. Doordash fits the bill nicely until y...

Fred Lawrence

DoorDash launches in Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Highlights of 2020 deliver necessity for Circular Economies

The lessons emerging from a year like 2020 are what make the highlights, not necessarily what we gained. One of these is renewed emphasis on sustainability, and by this, I mean complete circular sustainability.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Have customers really changed?

The past 12 months have been a confronting time for marketers, with each week seemingly bringing a new challenge. Some of the more notable impacts have been customer-centric, driven by shifting priorities, new consumption habits and expectation transfer.

Emilie Tan

Marketing strategist, Alpha Digital

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

ABM has been the buzzword in digital marketing for a while now, but I feel many companies are yet to really harness its power. The most important elements of ABM are to: Identify the right accounts; listen to these tracked accounts; and hyper-personalise your content to these accounts to truly engage them. It’s this third step where most companies struggle.

Joana Inch

Co-founder and head of digital, Hat Media Australia

Sign in