From Pepsi A.M. To Mountain Dew KickStart – Why did the latter succeed

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Mountain Dew KickstartIn early 2013 Mountain Dew Kickstart was launched in the US with a proposition that was similar to something that they had tried earlier. I stumbled upon the product’s 2016 Super Bowl commercial and after reading a bit about the drink, I had a flashback. It was during one of my Marketing classes, our teacher had brought up the case of Pepsi A.M. (launched in 1989) and why had the drink failed. And after doing a bit more research about this topic, I believe I have found why Mtn Dew KickStart is selling much better than its predecessors. In this post I will be discussing about the failure of Pepsi A.M. and then shift the spotlight on Kickstart.

Why Did Pepsi A.M Fail

Before launching any product, marketers try to identify a positioning that they want their product to have in the market. With this in mind, they go on to prepare the campaigns to make sure that their target consumers develop the required perception of the product (Fancy, right?). But at times, this can backfire as consumers may typecast the product for only a very narrow usage. This therefore reduces the market size and if consumers can’t make a strong association between the product and its positioning then this will lead to a failed product.

While researching about Pepsi A.M. I didn’t have access to a lot of data. I couldn’t find details with regards to the targeted consumer segment, advertisements or consumer satisfaction reports. All I could find is that Pepsi A.M. was marketed as a morning drink (A.M. makes it very clear). It was basically Pepsi with more caffeine. The name led to serious typecasting and consumers thought they should only consume the drink in the morning (reducing the market size). Further, I hypothesize that in 1989 people would not think about drinking soda during breakfast. The picture below illustrates, what is exactly happening in consumers’ mind.

Associations and Type Casting

Why is Kickstart doing Well

For Kickstart, fortunately I have enough data and I am going to present it MBA style 😀 but just focusing on important parts.

Targeted Consumers – The millennials, which is a fancy term for people born from 1982-1995. These consumers have been targeted by different brands over the years, especially the ones who want to position themselves as young and energetic. Pepsi has been targeting this group for variety of products/campaigns (including Dew/Pepsi Refresh) and so has Red Bull.

Positioning – “Kickstart your Day”. Even though in all press releases PepsiCo has been mentioning the “Morning Drink” positioning, the promotions (discussed later) don’t particularly highlight this. And if one were see the consumption pattern, one would realize that the consumers don’t typecast like they did for Pepsi A.M. The more appropriate positioning should be Morning Energy Drink … Energy Drink.

Company – Mountain Dew is one of the oldest energy drink brands and has been associated with extreme sports just like Red Bull.

Competition and Context – There is a more than ever craze in the market for energy drinks. With brands like Monster Energy, Red Bull and Rockstar leading the segment, it is natural for PepsiCo and Coca Cola to attempt get a slice of the big pie.

Product – The advertisement I stumbled upon, which led to my discovery of Kickstart was the Puppy-Monkey-Baby ad. This ad shows Kickstart = Dew + Coffee + Juice. And after doing some digging to understand the ingredients, I found that it contains 5% fruit juice with artificial sweeteners, 92mg of caffeine (in 16Oz can) and Vitamins C and B. With less sugar, Kickstart was much lower in caloric value (only 80 kCal) compared to Red bull (240 kCal) and with not a very high caffeine content it is safe too (gives just the right kick!). PepsiCo has extended the portfolio to six flavors now.

Mountain Dew Kickstart flavors
Promotion – There have been quite a few ads launched to promote Kickstart and if one were to find the underlying theme across all the ads, one would see the energy drink DNA. In none of the advertisements I have come across, did they show people sitting at the breakfast table drinking Kickstart. In recent promotions they are selling “Kickstart your night” idea as well. Here are some.

This is the oldest one I could find

Kickstart – Come Alive


Without the need of going into more details, one can see that the idea of typecasting has been put to rest by PepsiCo by using the energy drink theme and targeting the right audience. Thus, even after proclaiming Kickstart to be a morning drink, PepsiCo did make sure that promotions help develop a more general perception – that of an Energy Drink.


About Anshuman

Computer Engineer ... MBA .. Endurance Runner ... Physics Geek ... Genius
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