A friend of mine shared a link on facebook the other day to a product that I honestly did not believe was real. The product is called, Soylent 2.0. It has been on the market since last September. There are so many things wrong with this from a branding standpoint (and 1 thing right at the end of this blog) that I almost didn’t share it, but considering I work in marketing, I figured I needed to give it a try.
First of all, there’s the obvious. The connection to an incredibly bad sci-fi movie from the early seventies, Soylent Green. An early nod to the Global Warming movement, Soylent Green was about the depletion of resources in an overpopulated world, and where people would have to turn in order to find sustenance.
Yes, Charlton Heston starred in this thriller about what is now the not too distant future. Think about this; Soylent Green was set in 2022. That’s just six years from now. I love protein shakes and meal replacement shakes, but now that this product has reminded me of that climactic scene from the film, I’m going to have to think about curbing that craving.
Before you ask, the answer is yes. The makers of Soylent and Soylent 2.0 are fully aware of the film, its plot, and its big reveal. They named their product in part as an homage, but also as a description of the product’s main ingredients. And yes, you read that right, there was a Soylent before there was a Soylent 2.0. They actually stuck with the name. As a marketer, I have sat in on my share of brainstorming sessions. I can not imagine what it must have been like in that room when someone pitched this idea. Everybody discretely slides their cell phones off the table and starts a group text in their laps that includes everyone in the room except the genius that threw this idea out. The thread probably looked something like:
Which brings me to my second point of contention; what is soylent? Turns out is a mash-up of soy and lentils, the two main ingredients of Soylent 2.0. (at least, that’s what they’re telling us… “IT’S PEOPLE!!!) But, from a strict marketing standpoint, why would I, a consumer, care enough to find that out? Three protein shakes that already share a chunk of the market come to mind as better alternatives for branding your product than a made up word that people either won’t recognize, or do and not in a favorable way.
The first is Muscle Milk. I love Muscle Milk. Aside from being a convenient meal replacement, its name tells you something about, not only the product, but also the consumer. “Are your muscles important to you? Then drink Muscle Milk.” Seems like a pretty simple message to me.
The second product is Ensure. Ensure speaks to its audience the way Muscle Milk does. “Does your body need a nutrition and energy boost? Ensure that it gets what it needs.”
Finally, there’s Pure Protein. If you read the words Pure Protein on the cover of the bottle and can’t crack the code to figure out what the product is all about, then I can’t help you.
If you were to ask me, “do you want a Soylent?” My response would likely be, “what? Like the movie?” Or if I had not seen the movie, I would likely say, “a what?” Then, you would have to respond with a few lines from the video in the link above. Which, by the way, is incredibly vague. “It offers a pleasantly subtle flavor, a smooth texture, and a lasting fullness.” At which point, I would say, “dude. huh?” You can’t just say, “it’s an energy shake.” Because that ship has long since sailed.
The third problem I have with this name is; what happens if I do research it? Surely, an intriguing name like Soylent 2.0 will cause a few people to look it up online to learn more. Well, that is exactly what I did. What I found, in no way, made me want to pursue this product. One of the first results of my Google search is a review from a site called Alpha Efficiency. In this review, they blast the nutritional value of Soylent 2.0. Then, at the bottom, they have some quotes from “what users are saying” about the product. One of those quotes read, “When I have, what I guess you could call a bowel movement, it’s like Soylent is made from ghost peppers. I cry, I sweat, I hear Johnny Cash singing “Burning Ring of Fire”. It’s horrible.”
I’m probably done with a product after reading this, but for the purposes of this blog, I looked up another review. This time from The Huffington Post, where I found this gem of a quote, “Soylent 2.0 tastes like a chalkboard-eraser-Elmer’s-glue smoothie, but it really is convenient and, if not tasty, palatable.” By the way, the terrible taste of Soylent 2.0 is mentioned right in the title.
But how bad can a review be for a nutritional supplement, right? Does anybody really ask Google before buying a smoothie? Well, I asked Google that as well. Sure enough, an article on thinkwithgoogle.com had this to say, “today’s weight-loss consumers typically begin their journeys with a search query. Eighty percent of survey respondents rated search as very or extremely important to their decisions to purchase health, diet or fitness products. This instant access to information allows health-conscious consumers to engage in a conversation about their health in any place and at any time.” So yes, those bad reviews will be read.
However, I do need to be thankful for Soylent 2.0. Because if not for this product, I wouldn’t have an excuse to share this: