Selling a lifestyle, not a product

Jan 16, 2024

Last week I was invited to a call to hear a talk by the President of Athletic Greens, also known as AG1.

Athletic Greens, the maker of a nutrient-dense green drink, has skyrocketed its sales in recent years and become a leader in its niche.

I decided to check out their website to see what they were doing with their marketing. To be honest, now that I’ve done so I will likely order the product (yes, that means I think they’re doing a lot of things right, as I’ll share with you).

But first, a quick backstory. I remember when greens drinks first came out in the 1990s and were mainly a blend of various freeze-dried green juice ingredients like barley grass, wheat grass, alfalfa grass, oat grass, and dandelion.

They’d arrive in a white plastic container. And if you were brave enough, you’d mix a scoop of the green powder inside with water and drink it. Let me tell you: they tasted horrible — like you went outside and ate grass off your front lawn.

When I was running the Healthy Directions business, we added another company’s green drink to our offerings since our spokesperson, Dr. Julian Whitaker, had recommended it. People returned it for a refund in droves due to the taste.

Over the years, I wrote or reviewed different copywriters’ copy for green drinks. They were always a hard sell–in part due to the fear of drinking something that tasted bad.

Plus there were so many ingredients in them, it was hard to focus on how to sell it in a niche where supplement formulas with one hot “star” nutrient were grabbing all the attention and sales.

So these green drinks were mostly relegated to the health nuts and fringe-type buyers, versus becoming more mainstream.

Then 10 years ago, I worked with an innovative entrepreneur from London to help her launch a super high-end greens drink. The formula contained superfoods, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, raw food enzymes, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

But what really made this super high-end greens drink stand out was the packaging and the “lifestyle” concept behind it. The woman I worked with planned to package it in 30 daily packets or “sachets”, along with a vortex mixer.

She envisioned the target customer being a busy executive or office worker with minimal time in the morning to take care of their wellness.

So she made it easy to use: just grab the mixer, pour in the packet, fill it with water, let the vortex mixer work its magic to activate the enzymes and the ingredients, and take it with them on the Tube on their way to work.

In short, she was selling a lifestyle, not a product — or just another supplement.

I wrote all the copy for her packaging, and it was beautiful…

I worked with her London design team on the packaging design, according to her vision. I also wrote a point-of-sale brochure and inside-the-box flyer, working with top graphic artist Lori Haller on the design.

The client achieved her goal of getting her green superfood product into Harrods, London’s premier department store, and expanded her business from there.

But this was a very niche product, costing 300 pounds per one-month supply (about $380 US). Outside of wealthy executives — and the Dubai sheik who’d send his private airplane to London every few months to load up on it (she thought maybe they were giving it to his racehorses) — her high-end drink was never going to become mainstream.

Plus — I hate to admit: it tasted bad.

Fast forward to Athletic Greens today. Over the years, I’ve seen how their copy and marketing have evolved. If you study what they’re doing (first step: Google them and go visit their website), you’ll see they’re focusing on selling a lifestyle, not a product — just like my visionary client was doing 10 years ago.

However, they’re offering a formula with 79 high-end (though not organic like my London client’s) superfoods, mushrooms, probiotics, and other “hot” nutrients at the relatively affordable price of $99 a month ($79 if you do autoship).

To overcome objections and increased skepticism of supplements — especially with younger generations than the traditional “senior” supplement audience — they’ve put a lot of emphasis on quality and ensuring safety.

And their packaging makes it easy for the customer to fit the product into their daily lifestyle… just like my London client did with hers. In fact, Lori Haller worked on the packaging design, and it’s brilliant…

So let’s take a quick look at some of the key elements that popped out at me on their website, so you can see how they’re not selling this like a traditional supplement.

It’s a more educated market now when it comes to the need for daily supplementation and support from now-mainstream ingredients like superfoods, probiotics, and mushrooms.

But unlike the traditional senior market, people are looking for alternative ways to get their daily nutrition rather than swallowing handfuls of pills.

Just like the rushed executive my past client envisioned grabbing their vortex mixer as they ran to catch the Tube, the busy Millennials in the midst of balancing career and family are looking to save time and hassle when it comes to achieving optimal nutrition.

But, like any great ad, you can’t just tell people that your product can do this for them. You have to show them. That’s what I like about what happens when you land on the Athletic Greens’ home page (note: it’s a running video in the background… this is just a screenshot)…

The desired end benefits in the headline rotate through a list: “strong”, “healthy”, “energized”, “balanced”, and “focused”. Man, if only I could have used all 5 main benefit words I wanted to use in a printed magalog headline back in the day. But now, thanks to the web, we don’t have to choose just one (-;

The video shows a variety of people shots, mainly using the product but while juggling a toddler or otherwise seamlessly working the product into their lives… or demonstrating the benefits of feeling stronger and more energized (a swimmer).

After some testimonial snippets, when you scroll down (at least on the version of the page I landed on — they did seem to vary depending on the browser used) you see this copy and graphic that I really like. It overcomes a common objection or pain point the target market has when it comes to taking supplements…

While I think “More-in-one nutrition” is a bit clunky and unclear, I love the use of demonstration here. It shows the beautiful simplicity of the product (the glass bottle with the drink swishing inside it) alongside the list of supplements it takes the place of: a multivitamin, probiotics, superfoods, etc.

Not only does this play of the idea of finally making it fast and easy for you to get the benefit of all these different supplements in one solution, it also helps the prospect mentally calculate the value of what it’d cost to take all of this on their own… or perhaps, what they’re already spending. So it helps justify their pricing.

And they drive home that promise with this tagline on their packaging…

I invite you to click any of the photos above and check out the Athletic Greens website I visited… or you can Google them yourself. You’ll see how they’re strategically overcoming objections and playing up the science and quality behind their ingredients.

They get into the health benefits, but they’re not making any disease claims or other big promises that would either sound unbelievable to their prospect or land them in FDA/FTC trouble.

They’re doing a lot of things right. And having just heard the company President speak about their obsession with offering the best-quality product AND making it taste good naturally (that “refreshing taste of pineapple and vanilla” they promise is sounding pretty good), I’m probably going to give Athletic Greens a try.

I could definitely use more space in my vitamin cabinet (-;

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. Athletic Greens’ marketing approach is also a great example of not following what everyone else is doing, and instead finding the right strategy that fits your product and, most important of all, your market.

They know their target customer and it shows in their sales copy, packaging, and desired user experience. Be sure to check out their website here (no, I’m not getting a commission, I swear!)

P.P.S. In case you missed it yesterday, I did a talk for the upcoming Copywriting Summit on avoiding clients from “hell” that you won’t want to miss.

Plus there are some very big names you’ll want to hear from, including actor Tim Allen on storytelling, plus top copywriters like Marcella Allison, David Deutsch, Kevin Rogers, David Garfinkel, Brian Kurtz, Justin Blackman, Doberman Dan, and many others.

The summit kicks off on February 8th, but you should register now and grab your free seat. If you take advantage of the VIP option, you can start listening now.