I am quite shocked at noticing that nobody
has started a thread centred on how to market Soylent as a product and/or
trademark. And I’m not counting that one about the Soylent mixing robot, as
that threat would seek to make Soylent into a passing fad.
I mean, people: have you ever heard about pricing to sell? Or a SWOT analysis? Or the
KISS principle (Keep It Stupid Simple)? Or just about a million
reasons why people would avoid coughing up half a grand for robotic,
single-purpose blender, especially when a regular blender runs at some
twenty bucks? Or, of the two persons posh enough to toss half a grand
on a single-purpose blender, one of them complaining bitterly how he had printer
problems rather than breakfast? And the other writing a seething
review that, because he lives in Florida and the humidity is so high,
all the powder cartridges get clotted ever third day? This last one
would, of course, raise hygiene concern a mile high, would raise
questions about automated cooking machines outside of commercial and
industrial applications, and we would likely gain the nickname
“Soil-shake”, which we would never live down before Nestle rolls the
Soft Super Supper, Roche claims the European markets with Future Cal-C-Tose, Unilever launches Slim Fast Complete and Kellogs and Quaker roll the Liquid Breakfast and the SpeedShake…
Thus, I’m starting this thread.
First of all, we would need to look at the Marketing mix. And call me old fashioned, but I like going by the 4 P’s formula: Product, Price, Promotion and Place.
By now, Soylent already has two variants developed by Rob himself: the very first Soylent, which provoked on Rob a phenomenal weight loss, and the second Soylent, which stabilized Rob again. Then we also have on the group trials for women’s Soylent and proposals for a heavy-activity Soylent.
Furthermore, almost anybody reading this post should already know of Soylent as a product: a one-step, fully nutritious meal. As the current paradigm of Marketing dictates that “everything is a service”, then Soylent can be defined from three different perspectives:
Price-conscious consumer’s perspective: “it relieves you from worrying about eating well with little money”
Time-conscious consumer’s perspective: “it lets you have a full meal really fast”
Health club user’s perspective: “it’s an efficient, cost-effective way of not worrying about what you eat”
There’s also a fourth possible perspective, but it is a narrow niche, the outdoorsman: “it is good food that is very compact and very light on my backpack”. I would prefer grouping this one with the previous and calling them both “Health-conscious consumer with disposable income”
All of this boils down to: four product formulas times three different market approaches, plus one narrow niche market, equals thirteen (12+1) potential products.
(I know that brand expansion is a blunder, but I’m discussing that further down.)
Soylent is cheap and should be kept that way. However, having a number of different market approaches, Soylent doesn’t need to be dirt-cheap in all of its presentations. As this has to do with market segmentation, I will go into that when I discuss Promotion.
(I know that not everybody out there is trained in
marketing lingo, so I’ll try to dumb down my explanation until
everyone can understand it.)
I already said that we have thirteen separate potential products. I have already said, too, that performing brand expansion is idiocy. Skip the following text if you are trained in marketing:
Brand expansion: it is an incredibly common blunder of
executives not professionally trained on marketing, who think that
because people are talking about their narrow product line, they can
make people expand their minds into a wide product line. There are
tons of possible examples, but I’ll go for some classic academic
(1) 7-UP: Remember the big launch of 7
UP in the late 70´s? Remember how huge it was, being the “Un-Cola”?
Remember how, riding their big wave, 7 UP decided to launch 7 UP Gold
(Ginger-Ale flavoured), Diet 7 UP, Cherry 7 UP, Orange 7 UP, Diet
Cherry 7 UP, Diet Orange 7 UP, Caffeine-Free 7 Up, Caffeine-Free Diet
7 UP, Caffeine-Free Cherry 7 UP, Caffeine-Free Orange 7 UP,
Caffeine-Free Diet Cherry 7 UP, Caffeine-Free Diet Orange 7 UP, etc.?
Remember how people almost forgot 7 UP, and PEPSICO and SNAPPLE bought
it for pennies, and nowadays 7 UP is nothing but a brand
(2) Heinz Pickles: The Henry Jones Heinz
Company, founded in 1869, was the undisputed leader for one product in
the condiment market: pickles. However, if you ask an average American
what he relates with the word Heinz, he’ll answer “ketchup”. That was
a huge blunder of Heinz: when they launched Heinz ketchup, they
actually managed to make people relate the word Heinz with ketchup, at
the expense of people forgetting about their pickles. In the end,
nowadays Heinz is a giant in the ketchup subsector, but their pickles
(and mustard, mayo and BBQ sauce) are nothing but faces in the crowd.
They are actually considered lucky, though: they could have lost their
position on the pickles without gaining it on the
(3) Xerox: Do you guys remember that,
for most of the 20th Century, the word Xerox was used as a
verb meaning “To photocopy”? Do you remember that photocopiers used to
be called “Xerox machines”, regardless of who was making them? Well,
thanks to their continued efforts at brand expansion, people nowadays
refer to photocopiers as “photocopiers”, and the Xerox Company has
become nothing but a face in the crowd of business machines and office
Thus, brand expansion is not feasible. At that, it isn’t even a rational choice.
So, how to market thirteen possible varieties of Soylent? Or should we just forget about the wide product line, going for a simplified, narrow 4-product line?
Not really. Even the quickest SWOT analysis will pick up that one of the greatest Threats to Soylent is that, being the product so simple, competition will appear as soon as any big company cares to try. This can be converted into an Opportunity by us becoming our own competition, having three companies targeting the three different markets with narrow, overlapping product lines (plus that one niche product).
We can take example from the Bimbo Group,
the largest bread-making corporation in the world, or perhaps more important
for the Americans reading this, the owners of Sara Lee: despite having
literally hundreds of products, Bimbo has been a company that has never
believed in brand expansion. They don’t even create new brands, but new
They first opened (as Bimbo) in 1945 with a narrow line of sliced bread. They did launch a few varieties of sweet bread, but when they decided to really push into snack cakes in 1954, they created their
first secondary company: Keik (later renamed as Marinela in 1957). Then they decided to go into fried potato chips in 1971, and created Barcel by buying and retooling a chocolate factory. On 1974 they then moved into normal-sized cakes by opening Suandy and into traditional Mexican bread making by opening Tia Rosa. They moved into candies and chocolate snacks by creating Ricolino in 1978. They went into ready-made sandwiches in 1990 by launching Lonchibon (although as a Bimbo line, rather than a separate company as usual). And from 1998 to date, they have made a sport of buying or creating companies (many in foreign markets) and keeping them on the race with narrowly specialized product lines.
What matters to us the most is that Bimbo has always liked to keep quiet its ownership over its other companies, going to the point that, before they were forced by law to publish their financial
statements over the internet, they wouldn’t even acknowledge the other companies beyond “strategic partnerships”.
And somehow, they made the Mexican public think for almost thirty years that Marinela, Barcel, Suandy, Tia Rosa and Ricolino (and a few others) were completely separate companies, with nothing but strategic
partnerships making Barcel trucks distribute Tia Rosa breads, Marinela snacks and Milpa Real tortillas, with Marinela and Ricolino buy fruit preserves from Carmel Marmalades, and Suandy cookies and Wonder bread be baked in Bimbo factories.
The second lesson we can take from Bimbo, and perhaps the most important as far as Soylent is concerned, is self-competition: while Bimbo has different marketing approaches and carefully differentiated brand images for all of its companies, the different Bimbo companies compete fiercely against each other on every single market overlap, thus marginalizing any real competitors:
Tia Rosa competes directly against Bimbo’s line of sweet breads. Suandy is a mass produced competitor against the more artisanal El Globo for simple, upscale cakes. Suandy has butter cookies and Tia Rosa has snack sizes to compete against Marinela cookies. Ricolino, Marinela, and recent acquisitions JoyCo Candies, La Corona Chocolates and Vero Candies compete for shelf space on corner stores. And then, there’s the cake: Wonder and Bimbo created the Mexican market for box bread through a fierce marketing war spanning from 1985 to 1995 (before so, Mexicans made sandwiches almost exclusively from Bolillos and Teleras (French buns) and Cuernos (croissants)), and to date the Mexican public still doesn’t know if Wonder is a strategic partnership or just another mirror of Bimbo.
(continues on another post, because the local system doesn’t allow to post long threads)