Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: Vitaminwater (explainer video)

Blake Harris 02.03.2016

Doesn’t it seem like Vitaminwater is sold just about everywhere these days? Well, that’s because it pretty much is. Impressive! But perhaps what’s most impressive about Vitaminwater’s omnipresence is that the beverage was launched only 16 years ago, and with the most humble of origins. How humble are those origins and how quickly has Vitaminwater grown? That’s what our PICK OF THE WEEK was created to tell us.

Our PICK OF THE WEEK is a minute-long explainer video by ANIMAL, a boutique production house based in Barcelona with a specialty in handcrafted animation. Before we post this explainer video and discuss a few of the things we loved about it, we wanted to share a few interesting highlights about Vitaminwater’s backstory:

  • In 1996, J. Darius Bikoff—a self-proclaimed “health nut”—founded Energy Brands using his own personal savings. He contracted with an aquifer in Connecticut and essentially went door-to-door trying to sell his innovative and healthy beverages.
  • He started by personally introducing Smartwater to smaller independent natural food stores around New York. He then used this same grassroots method to launch Fruitwater (1998) and Vitaminwater (2000)
  • In May 2007, Energy Brands  was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company for $4.1 billion.

Hard to believe that VitaminWater has come so far in such a short amount of time. To celebrate this ascent, here’s Animal’s explainer video:

3 Things We Loved About This Explainer Video:

1. Color Palette and Color Scheme:  When making an explainer for an established company, it’s always a good idea to leverage some of their brand assets to help tell your story. That’s easier said than done, especially the second part of that sentence; meaning that it’s easier to identify the assets than it is to effectively use them to help propel execution of story. But Animal does a great job of this by focusing on the color palette and color scheme of Vitaminwater’s most familiar bottles. At the same time, however, when relying on recognition, you always have to try and design in such a way that it doesn’t deter those unfamiliar with the brand; in other words, you want to celebrate the exceptional without feeling exclusionary.

The explainer video cleverly sets this up from the opening shot, where we are shown a lineup of flavors  that don’t even have the word “Vitaminwater” printed on the label. This way they establish the motif in a universal way that plays to both those who are familiar with the color scheme and those who are not:

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Even more cleverly, we then see derivations of this palette in just about every facet of this explanation video. From the eye of Vitaminwater’s founder to the trunk of his car:

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2. The Underdog Story: In many ways, the underlying message of Vitaminwater’s explainer is this: Even though we’re now a multi-billion dollar company, we’re still as cool and fresh as ever because that’s a part of our DNA.

Saying something like that directly is always difficult to get away with. It often comes across as feeling arrogant or insincere. So wisely this explainer video opts for a different direction, one that harkens back to the oldest writing trick in the book: show don’t tell.

Instead of saying too much about what makes the Vitaminwater brand hip and likable, much of the explainer video is focused on the personal narrative (and struggle) of the company’s founder. And again, as a credit to Animal, the video doesn’t just tell us about his challenge, but actually tries to put us in his shoes. To bring his incredible underdog story to life, earning out empathy, excitement and enduring curiosity. Below are a few of the ways this is accomplished:

By visually bringing us in to the founder’s eureka moment:

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By playing up the popular startup motif of a garage and then expanding outwards:

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And playing up the determination aspect of selling Vitaminwater out of his trunk and the grassroots struggle of going door to door.

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3. Depiction of Growth (and Success): As mentioned above, this explainer video is really a narrative; one that highlights the rags-to-riches success of Vitaminwater. We’ve applauded this approach because of how depicting that underdog struggle earns the affection of viewers, but with this approach comes the inevitable problem: how do you depict the “riches” without losing that affection?

Animal does a great job here, but keeping things simple (for the most part) and when scaling them up (i.e conquering the world) they are careful to keep those images upbeat and humble  by using a fun, cartoony feel:

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If you enjoyed this explainer video, you may also enjoy these other animated videos that were amongst our favorites from the past week…

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Four Horsemen, A Dog, and A Cowboy (1:05)

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Get to Whurk! (0:55)

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Growth Street (1:00)

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Erric: When It Really Matters (1:25)

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Step Changes (1:23)

Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

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