Energy Drink Start-Up

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I took a phone call from a friend yesterday asking for some research advice on marketing a new energy drink. A couple of investors came up with a new packaging twist that sounds like fun and they are willing to spend a million dollars for the launch. Not a lot of money. 
 
The energy drink category is certainly mature, (for a list of competitors click here http://www.screamingenergy.com ) so this venture needs a big, consumer-resonating “branding idea.”  Packaging, ingredient sourcing, bottling/canning, formulating are all exciting new product activities, but when you start thinking about spending real money, that’s when the knees get weak.
 
The fact that these entrepreneurs are just now starting to ask primary consumer research questions is a concern. Marketing is not about tagging along to trends, it’s about creating trends.  New trends start with consumers. Consumers are not the last mile, they are the first step. And every step.