Thursday, May 16, 2019

Q&A: Vita Coco and its No. 1 tweet | Advertising Age

Vita Coco might be the first brand to associate its beverage with “piss” and celebrate it.

The privately-owned company, which sells coconut flavored water, made a splash of sorts after posting an image on Twitter showing its employee offering a user a jar featuring the company’s logo that was also filled with her own urine. The move was in response to someone who tweeted, “I would rather drink your social media person’s piss than coconut water.”

Vita Coco’s response wasn’t coordinated, it says, adding that it was part of a broader campaign dubbed “Impossible to Hate.”  Allison Finazzo, brand director at Vita Coco, described the atmosphere inside the company as “fantastic” hours after posting its tweet. Finazzo, who previously worked in a similar role at Anheuser Busch InBev on Bud Light between 2015 to 2018, adds that it was refreshing to act quickly without the need of getting approval from higher ups first.

At InBev, “you drafted a tweet and it got sent to the person above you, then to another person above you, then another person above you and ultimately to legal,” Finazzo says. “You couldn’t be reactive … we can take risks here.”

Ad Age spoke with Finazzo and asked her about the company’s No. 1 tweet (which currently has 2,500 retweets and some 17,000 likes) and, what happened behind the scenes prior to and after its move. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Are you the woman in the photo or is that someone else?
I am not. I’m the brand director for Vita Coco. That’s Lane Rawlings, our community coordinator.

And she actually peed in the jar – that is accurate?
That is accurate.

What was her reaction after seeing this blow up on Twitter?
She was like, “What’s my dad going to think?” But seriously, people started sending it to her, and it started traveling within her personal group, which I see as the ultimate sign of success. If something is being shared within your personal group … that’s gold.

What’s your response to people who say, “Vita Coco is going to forever be associated with urine?”
Vita Coco does not taste like urine – we can prove that. We’re a brand, we’re trying to sell a product and we’re trying to have fun while doing it.

What did you guys feel like after sending that tweet? Obviously, it was risky.
It was definitely risky, but we hope our consumers see the humor in it, and that they have a good sense of humor and know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re being playful and irreverent.

I’m sure you’ve seen brands try to be cool on Twitter and fail. Was any of that going through your mind?
Yea, we were nervous, but no risk no reward. We also weren’t trying to be cool. What we do is instinctive – it’s not like we were sitting in our boardroom with our creative agency saying, “Oh my god. How are we going to respond to this guy?” We didn’t throw ideas on the wall; we just did it. Which is really rare for brands.

That’s my follow up: The approval process to even send a mundane tweet is crazy. What are your thoughts about needing approval?
I’ve worked at those companies and you can’t be reactive. You can’t be agile, you can’t act on your feet. Vita Coco is independent so we can take risks. As long as the people in the room feel good about it, we’re ready to go.

What is Pressed Coconut?
Last year we launched a new product called Pressed Coconut, which taste like an Almond Joy instead of what regular coconut water taste like, which is an acquired taste. It’s an amazing recruitment tool for us to bring in new people to the coconut water category that previously rejected the taste. That was the whole impetus for this “Impossible to Hate” campaign.

Are there any brands that you follow on Twitter that you really like?
All the obvious ones: Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Burger King that are so explosive and get so much attention. We have the opportunity to garner the same audience and clout that they do, but it comes so naturally to us. It’s not fake, this is our genuine, authentic tone of voice, and when we really galvanize it, and put it out in the world, clearly people respond positively. We see this as an opportunity to do more of it. Clearly the bar is set high, but our team is up for the challenge.

So Burger King has McDonald’s. Who is Vita Coco’s McDonald’s?
I think unlike Burger King and McDonald’s, we aren’t competing with coconut water. We’re competing outside of coconut water. We’re competing in natural functioning drinks that include sports drinks, kombucha, sparkling waters. The aperture is much broader, which makes it difficult. We don’t have one competitor, but we’re the scrappiest.

Did anyone get their wrist slapped?
Mike Kirban, who is our CEO and cofounder, was like, “What happened?” I went and told him and we looked at Twitter together and cracked up. The fact people are talking about Vita Coco is a win.

Tell me about your team.
It was a team of three: Myself, Lane Rawlings, Brian Vieira and our creative agency, Interesting Development, who pitched this idea “Impossible to Hate.” A lot of brands would balk at the thought of using the word “hate” in their advertising, but they challenged us to be bold and not to be wallpaper, which we see so many brands doing.


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