H2OH! – people centered total brand

17. 10. 2013.
H2OH! – people centered total brand

In 2011, VRD was called to participate, together with Pepsico’s Marketing and Marketing Innovation Team, in the re-thing of Pepsico’s H2OH! identity. Launched in Brazil in 2006, H2OH! is a unique light soda. With natural juice, sugar free and low carbonated, H2OH! not only succeeded in conquering the Brazilian market, becoming today’s number one brand in the segment, but also defined a new beverage territory.

The dimension of the challenge was given by the project statement. “H2OH! – evolving intensely” conveyed the idea of projecting the brand into the future. It emphasized its daring, bold personality, and brought the idea of evolution to the front while reaffirming the best thing in the history of H2OH! – its own legacy. Beyond a new identity design, a total brand strategy was involved, with a new way to create dialogue and to stand out.

The first course of action in the direction of innovation is to define where to explore, how to conduct this exploration, and the set of lenses to be used for generating understanding. In the case of H2OH!, the exploration stage was built on three pillars: brand understanding, consumer understanding and product understanding. Several activities of diverse natures took place along this stage, such as workshops with corporate players, consume diaries, street interviews and co-creation activities. It was a process in which more than 100 consumers were approached from different viewpoints.

Since this was a project that involved the creation of a new brand language, the exploratory optics included a thorough inquiry into meaning which consisted of a converging scenario of denotations and connotations that the brand could assume within a given cultural context. This survey of signification comprised: H2OH! as conceived by brand mentors; the perception formed of H2OH! by everyday people; the expressiveness of H2OH! when considering the product itself and its representativeness at its space of inscription.


Experience, memory and imagery are, from VRD’s perspective, the three dimensions in which human reasoning responds depending on the gradation of involvement with the product and its brand. As a consequence, perceptions and opinions may vary, revealing new brand indicators. In this sense, digging up the most common words used by company players and consumers to refer to the brand, valuable insights into the perception of signification showed out. Metaphorical concepts that revealed surprising and positive associations of H2OH! with the everyday life, as well as the significance assigned to product’s physical and visual manifestations. All these meaning codes became of great value in later phases of the design process.


A semiotic analysis of the expressive qualities of the packaging of H2OH! was conducted in order to understand its communicative behavior in consumer decision settings. This procedure also took into account the competitors found in the same consumer decision settings. Physical contiguity establishes relationships that influence the perception of meaning; therefore, the co-presence and the confrontation of products through packaging is a key element in the analysis. Based on theoretical grounding found in Groupe (Mu)’s Traité du Signe Visuel, we constructed a graphic tool capable of identifying the expressive codes of different segments of soft beverages. This tool used in the semiotic mapping was constructed within a metrics of conceptual opposites. This technique is capable of identifying the global properties of a given visual field, and to make tangible, on a visual axis, precise codes responsible for the production of meaning found at different levels: shape, layout, typography, written information, composition, illustrations, color scheme and themes, materials, finishes, textures. This tailor-made framework succeeded in creating a precise diagnostic not only of the discursive identity of individual products (and especially that of H2OH!), but also of the language that structured this physical and conceptual setting. This mapping, besides showing almost an x-ray of the territory and of the discursive character of the brand today, allowed us to visualize the the points that should be fine-tuned in the construction of the new identity.


A beverage that is neither water nor just another soda, but a kind of guilt-free drink that gives you permission to indulge in flavor – as described by a consumer, “It’s like a salad with mayonnaise dressing: it’s balanced, healthy and tasty”. Conceptual metaphors such as this brought us to the idea of emphasizing the joyful and fun side of the brand.

The new identity starts with a new logo, subtler and yet stronger: the absence of outlines and complementary elements lightens the image structure, making simplicity the pathway to strengthen H2OH! visual name effect. This new concept pursues a more contemporary and youthful look by reshaping the brand name composition into a bloc of two lines that increases expressivity and visual impact.


The name itself – H2OH! – was a breakthrough idea in 2006: not a fancy name with a popular sound, but one with personality, an expressive formula. It was a very uncommon composition at that time, and still today H2OH! carries a value of uniqueness. Born as a light lemon soda, while enhancing its portfolio with new flavors and projecting new launches, H2OH! has found in its new identity a way to be playful with flavor without losing heritage. This is about a dynamic new brand logo that varies according to flavor.


One of the moves towards a more contemporary language also involved questioning the presence of images of fruit – their purpose on the label, the meaning of these symbols in the product’s commercial context, and, above all, their practical and symbolic values. Observing the behavior of these images in products of different kinds, it was possible to notice that fruit images carry today a more practical function – they indicate flavor rather than transmitting  a product’s promise regarding natural source. To support this idea, it may be pointed out that various juice brands whose promises are directly related to fruit, have had to opt for the inclusion of new elements as further certification of the fruit source – stamps, certifications, perceptual numbers –, and in some cases, to the point of dispensing with all fruit images. We may say, then, that the symbolic character of fruit dropped into a “cliché”, a residual figure that is not self-sufficient, with a uniquely evocative and indicative function.

Accepting the idea of taking the label beyond fruit images, finding communicative mechanisms capable of indicating effectively the flavor of the drink, in addition to manifesting its natural source, represented the greatest challenge to encountering the ideal label solution. Expanding the communicative dimension beyond the label itself to the whole product, made us understand that the solution wasn’t only about the graphics for “dressing” the product, but about a communicative dimension within a system, a dialogue involving liquid, body and image, with a message resulting from the convergence of these three levels.



“The work experience we are having with VRD has been very constructive and renovating. It has brought assertive results related to innovation values. All started by a thorough mapping based analysis of habits and the identification of relevant brand values – values that we saw reflected at each process stage. I believe this value-based work is what brought us to encouraging results during consumer testing. It was really a rich experience of team working and ideas renovation”

Nora Mirazon – Consumer Engagement & Innovation Director, PepsiCo Beverages, Brazil

Photo Gallery