The New Gatorade, Consumer Confusion, and Why It Is Rational to Be Irrational

An article in the WSJ yesterday discussed the new Gatorade for endurance athletes. The marketing campaign is right on target. For instance, one ad says something about using the words "only" and "10K" in the same sentence. That is definitely a minority group. I love to run (alone and without headphones). It releases stress and gives me time to think. I usually run 6-10 miles at a time, and when I do I take along a sports drink. I also go to the park and play basketball for several hours at a time. You would think that I'm thrilled that Gatorade has finally made a drink targeted towards people like me. But I'm not. I'm… ambivalent.

You see, I don't prefer Gatorade or Powerade. I usually decide between the two based on the flavors and bottle sizes offered by the local grocer. I don't know which one is better at hydration. I can't tell a difference. And that's why I don't like this move by Gatorade. I am worried that this will lead to a proliferation of hydration drinks that will do nothing but confuse me. And I hate when that happens.

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I think one major problem with sports drinks, healthcare, fitness, and any other industry that involves the human body is that it is very difficult for the average consumer to make an educated distinction between products. What that means is that the best advertising, not the best product/service, usually wins. And that means consumers lose because they may not get what is best for them.

Is this new Gatorade really better for me? Or is this just a move to make choosing a sports drink as complicated as choosing a cell phone plan? Maybe I should choose the new drink to fulfill the mental image of myself as an endurance athlete. Or maybe I should revolt and just drink tap water. We often wonder why people make irrational decisions (like the fact that I pick a sports drink based on flavor and bottle size instead of superior functionality). But in this day and age, irrationality may be a rational strategy – it frees up your brain power for more important tasks.