The ultimate nightcap? Name Review of Driftwell, Pepsi’s sleep aid drink

With two ingredients proven to promote relaxation and reduce stress, this functional water is designed to get you far more than 40 winks. But is the name "Driftwell" a dream-come-true, or simply a snoozefest?

With Covid-19 upending our day-to-day, anxiety is on the rise and serious shut-eye in-demand. It’s no surprise then that Pepsi has decided to enter both the multibillion-dollar sleep aid and functional drink markets (respectively, $78.7B and $128.7B worldwide in 2019) with a product that combines the two in a 7.5 ounce can.

Driftwell is Pepsi’s enhanced blackberry and lavender-flavored water drink that boasts L-theanine and magnesium. With two ingredients proven to promote relaxation and reduce stress, this functional water is designed to get you far more than 40 winks. But does this drink’s name work as well in the marketplace as the product does for your nighttime routine? Let’s take a closer look.

Easy to pronounce and spell, Driftwell is a compound name that emphasizes function. Drift evokes the idiom “drift off,” suggesting gently and gradually falling asleep, and recalls the pleasant sensation of drifting, being carried slowly by a current of air or water. For most consumers, drift suggests peace, tranquility, even calm. Drift lightly recalls drink and dream (two five-letter “dr” words ), which subtly gives the name context. By pairing drift with well, the type of drifting this drink promotes is obvious. Doing double duty, well suggests drifting to sleep in a good way, as well as well-being.

Taking a cue from growing brands Health-ade (a kombucha beverage line that has expanded from a few natural food shops in 2012 to 26,000 stores nationwide and a $20M investment from The Coca-Cola Company) and Care/of (a customized subscription vitamin service that’s disrupted CPG marketing), Driftwell chose a name that squarely positions it in the health and wellness category. That’s a smart, strategic play given the great expansion of that market in recent years.

It’s worth noting what the name does not express—refreshment—given that most beverage brands focus on it. Unlike Mountain Dew, Dunkin’ Coolatta, or Bubly, the name Driftwell was not designed to seduce the senses. Nor does it over-index on fun and whimsy (think: Olipop or Sprite). However, this choice makes perfect sense with a brand story of healthful sleep.

The name’s primary weaknesses are its use of two common words and potential unpleasant cultural associations with drift. Many existing consumer brand names use drift and well, which could easily confuse consumers or color their experiences. Fashion brand Madewell and sparkling beverage Spindrift immediately come to mind—with Spindrift a popular canned water already lining supermarket shelves. And though drifting off to sleep is a very pleasant notion, the word drift inevitably also takes us to some less-happy places: illegal drift nets threatening ocean life, cars drifting between lanes and endangering everyone on the road, and suspicious drifters lurking about. Then, of course, there’s the name’s similarity to driftwood, which brings to mind purposeless flotsam and suggests fibrous blandness or salty sand. (The idea of log-flavored water is more than enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth!)

So is Driftwell a dream-come-true, or simply a snoozefest? It’s definitely better than average, but as on many a morning when it’s time to get up, we’re craving just a little bit more. Drift plus well definitely do the job but aren’t a dream ticket.


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