Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The pandemic pivot: how energy drink brand Tenzing is responding to Covid-19

As a small start-up, drinks brand Tenzing had been building up a loyal following of consumers through a combination of sampling and community initiatives – coronavirus changed all that.

Speaking first at the inaugural  99//Club Digital Festival, a week-long event tackling the theme of ‘Emerge Stronger’, founder Huib van Bockel outlined the particular issues that had hit his business – and the surprising opportunities that arose.

Bockel predicted a “massive shift” to people buying much more stuff online, which was a worry for a brand aimed at those “on the go”. “It could be quite a long time before we fully recover,” he said, adding that online channels were going some way to making up sales lost in physical shops.

Another Covid factor had hit Tenzing’s marketing hard. A core pillar of its strategy had been sampling, particularly at high footfall locations such as Waterloo Station. “That’s obviously not going to be possible for the foreseeable future,” he said, citing the one to two metre distancing rule as a particular factor.

However, the start-up brand had instead secured TV advertising with Channel Four, a first. “This would never have been possible with our budgets in normal times. We have partnered with them because not a lot of people are advertising at the moment – it is a great opportunity,” he added. “These are the kind of risks you have to take in these times.”

Bockel had first spoken about the brand’s tight ties with the running community and how that had led to their engagement strategy with them. He said that asking how Tenzing could “add value” to that community had led to the realisation that running in some areas of London was more harmful than good because of pollution levels.

The result was a branded app, the Clean Air Run Club, that syncs with Strava and enables runners to plot their least polluted runs.

Runners were the perfect audience for the natural energy drink, he said, because “we know they’re active. We know they care about their health. We know that we know they love to be in the outdoors and all the things that we stand for as a brand”.

The week-long invite-only festival was a collaboration between MAD//Fest and New Digital Age, and follows a successful 99 Club event held earlier this year before lockdown. Over the course of five days 99 speakers delivered 99-second polemics before being questioned by the virtual audience.