Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Friday, April 18, 2008


In the 1990s Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages’ subsidiary Snapple Beverage Corporation, long known for its quirky advertising, underwent a series of ownership changes that led to the brand losing its focus. In 2002 the company and its advertising agency, Deutsch New York, attempted to recapture the amateurish feel of the television commercials that had made Snapple a major success story of the early 1990s. Deutsch created the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ television spots, in which Snapple bottles wearing wigs, clothes, and accessories were animated using the crudest of puppetry techniques. The campaign, reported to be budgeted at $40 million, was introduced with six spots, including the wellregarded ‘‘House Party,’’ in which a teenage Snapple-bottle daughter throwing a wild party was caught by her parents. Customers became involved by submitting their ideas for future commercials in the ‘‘What’s Your Story’’ contest. The campaign was also supported by a mobile barbershop that gave out free haircuts in the styles worn by the Snapple-bottle stars. New TV spots, which featured Snapple employees introducing the animated bottles, followed in 2004.
The ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign was popular enough to run for more than two years, but it never registered with the younger demographic to the extent that the marketers had hoped. Snapple underwent a marketing shakeup; different leadership was brought in, and Deutsch was replaced by a new ad agency in May 2004, at which point the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign came to an end.

Snapple, which essentially invented the alternative-beverage category, enjoyed explosive growth in the early 1990s, when it was the fastest-growing beverage company in the world. Much of its success was attributed to its quirky, almost amateurish advertising, which consumers found endearing. Beginning in 1991 Snapple commercials featured the spokesperson Wendy the Snapple Lady, a straight-talking native New Yorker. In 1994 Quaker Oats bought the brand for $1.7 billion, but it struggled under corporate ownership, and Snapple lost its edge. After three years Quaker Oats gave up on Snapple and unloaded it for just $300 million. The new owner, Triarc, reestablished the zaniness of the brand, bringing back the Snapple Lady in commercials. In three years Triarc was able to regain lost sales and cashed in by selling Snapple to Cadbury Schweppes for $1.45 billion. Snapple’s new corporate parent continued to fund the ‘‘Little Fruits’’ advertising campaign begun under Triarc. In these television spots Snapple bottles were dressed in fruit costumes. Their activities moved from innocent high jinks to more adult themes such as parent fruits trying to tell teen fruits about sex. According to Vivian Manning-Schaffel writing for, ‘‘Snapple’s research showed that the earlier ‘Little Fruits’ ads appealed to kids and folks in their 40s, but those in the in-between ages were more interested in the newer, racier spots. Taking this into consideration, the brand came up with an idea to raise the cool quotient of Snapple to teenagers through 34-year-olds by vamping up the brand image.’’ The result was the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign, developed by ad agency Deutsch New York.

While Snapple wanted to appeal to all potential customers, especially its core 25- to 44-year-old market, the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign was especially geared toward ‘‘Generation Y,’’ 18- to 24-year-olds who were not as familiar with Snapple’s reputation as a pioneer of alternative beverages. It was also an important demographic because on a per-capita basis young people consumed more beverages than any other age group. Moreover, they could be persuaded to try a new product. Maura Mottolese, Snapple’s vice president of marketing, told Kate MacArthur of Advertising Age, ‘‘Young beverage consumers tend to be flavor explorers, so they’re not as loyal as older consumers.’’ In order to make the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign more appealing to this demographic, many of the television spots played on the theme of teenage rebellion. Snapple also partnered with Viacom, a media company that enjoyed a strong presence with the target age group. Viacom’s MTV unit produced the first wave of spots, which were subsequently shown on Viacom television channels, including the UPN network and the cable channels MTX, MTV2, BET, VH1, Nick at Nite, CMT, and TNN. According to Steve Jarmon, Snapple’s vice president of corporate communications, the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign engaged ‘‘younger viewers without alienating our loyal customers. It seems to appeal to both older and younger Snapple drinkers.’’

Snapple had to contend with a crowded beverage category, with scores of companies spending millions to advertise their products. In the carbonated category the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi regularly introduced new products, such as Vanilla Coke and Pepsi Twist. Not only did Coke and Pepsi have hefty advertising budgets to support their products, but they also enjoyed the benefits of a far-flung distribution network to make their products ubiquitous in the marketplace. They were also able to leverage these advantages in noncarbonated beverages. In the water category Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola’s Dasani occupied two of the top three spots. They also offered direct competition to Snapple, in particular in the form of Coke’s Nestea product and Pepsi’s Lipton Brisk, the latter the category leader in the iced-tea segment. Snapple battled with AriZona Beverages for second place among teas and vied for sales with a multitude of private-label iced-tea brands. Snapple’s fruit drinks also faced competition from juice makers such as Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and Minute Maid (which was owned by Coca-Cola).

Explaining the genesis of the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign (also referred to as ‘‘Real Experiences’’ in the early days of the campaign, ‘‘Snapple was looking to go back to [the brand’s original] quirky, homemade feeling,’’ David Rosen, a Deutsch assistant creative director, told Sarah Woodward of Shoot, ‘‘We wanted to make advertising that looked as if two guys who worked at Snapple had to create the campaign, and did it by cutting wigs off Barbie dolls and gluing them on the bottles.’’ The six spots in the initial wave of the campaign were shot in three days at Occidental Studios, Hollywood, and edited into 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-second versions, which the marketers hoped would help the spots stand out in a television landscape dominated by 30-second spots. In addition, they hoped that, by giving viewers less, they would make viewers eager to see more of the animated bottles. While the brevity of the spots made editing somewhat difficult, the use of the Snapple bottles as actors allowed the directors to focus on the story. Codirector Jonathan Dayton explained to Woodward, ‘‘Every shot was a product shot. So we could just concentrate on the story and not worry about the gratuitous product placement.’’ To enhance the amateur feel, the commercials were shot on digital video rather than film. The first six spots were ‘‘Skateboard,’’ ‘‘Boy Band,’’ ‘‘Shower,’’ ‘‘UFO,’’ ‘‘Breakdance,’’ and ‘‘House Party.’’ Versions were also developed for print advertising. The spots began airing on April 15, 2002. Especially well received was ‘‘House Party.’’ In this commercial Snapple bottles that were dressed like parents—Dad wore a necktie, Mom a string of beads—returned home to find that their house had been trashed by their daughter’s friends. The pigtail-wearing daughter was caught kissing a Snapple bottle outfitted as a punk. Crude puppetry made her appear to be quaking with fear when she saw her parents. Instead of Snapple’s usual tagline, ‘‘Made from the best stuff on earth,’’ ‘‘House Party’’ and the other spots simply closed with the pop of a vacuum-sealed bottle being opened. Examples of other spots were ‘‘Shower,’’ in which a bottle dressed as a female gym teacher caught boy bottles peeping into the girls’ shower, and ‘‘Skateboard,’’ which showed a Snapple-bottle skateboarder wiping out on a trick and ending up in the hospital.
Building on the successful launch of the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign, Snapple conducted the twomonth, 13-city ‘‘Dye Hard Snapple Tour,’’ which was developed to reach the 18- to 24-year-old target audience. A mobile barbershop offered free alternative hairstyles, similar to the Mohawks and mullets adorning the Snapple bottles in the television spots. Dye jobs inspired by Snapple flavors were also available. Free bottles of Snapple’s newest flavors were handed out along with T-shirts and bandanas. The tour was not only well received by consumers but also garnered a good deal of media attention, appearing on some 30 television programs and accounting for more than two hours of coverage.
Another supporting element of the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign was the ‘‘What’s Your Story?’’ contest, which allowed customers to submit their ideas for a new commercial. Of the more than 1,400 entries, the one chosen, by UCLA freshman C.J. Yu, depicted a smoky concert venue where a Snapple bottle dove off the stage for some crowd surfing, only to land on the floor with a thud. The contest was held again throughout 2002, resulting in more than 25,000 entries. In April 2003, a year after the campaign broke, Snapple offered six more television spots, including the grand prize winner of the ‘‘What’s Your Story’’ promotion, ‘‘Bouncing Car,’’ which featured a hydraulic car that ejected the Snapple-bottle driver instead of impressing the Snapple girls on the sidewalk; ‘‘Pamplona,’’ in which Snapple bottles ran with the legendary bulls—really guinea pigs with horns; and ‘‘Yard Sale,’’ in which a Snapple bottle got in trouble with his mother when he tried to buy a stereo. The last spot also served as a springboard for a ‘‘Yard Sale’’ promotion, in which customers could exchange bottle caps for prizes at yard-salethemed promotional events held in major cities. Other elements added to the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign included fortune-cookie messages, air banners flown over beaches and other summer spots, and advertisements on pizza boxes and deli bags.
The ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign continued in 2004 with four 30-second television spots and two 15-second spots. In this execution, however, the dressed-up bottles were joined by employee costars who narrated the bottles’ ‘‘epics.’’ For example, one spot supported the introduction of a new flavor, Super Sour Lemonade, with a bottle dressed up like a superhero. A part of this final phase of the campaign was a 12-week summer sweepstakes called Snaffle. During this time trivia was printed on the Snapple caps, and each week four winning caps were announced; holders of all four caps won a weekly grand prize.

The Snapple brand was developed by Unadulterated Food Products, Inc., a company founded in Brooklyn in the early 1970s to sell pure fruit juices to area health-food stores. The company introduced a carbonated apple juice in 1978, calling it ‘‘Snapple,’’ after buying the rights to the name for $500. The product got off to a surprising start, with a number of distributors calling up to request the product. Only when tops started to pop off the bottles in the warehouse did the company realize that the juice had been fermenting and that it had been unintentionally selling hard cider.

While Snapple rolled out the final spots in the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign, the company’s marketing team was being restructured by Cadbury. Overall the commercials were well received. In April 2002 the influential advertising magazine Adweek named ‘‘House Party’’ one of its ‘‘Best Spots.’’ Often difficult to please, Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield called the spots ‘‘delightful’’ and ‘‘hilarious.’’ Snapple also saw sales improve in 2002, but a year later, at a time when noncarbonated beverages enjoyed a boom, Snapple experienced a 4 percent drop in sales. In 2004 Snapple’s vice president of marketing, Maura Mottolese, admitted to Kate MacArthur of Advertising Age that the ‘‘Bottles Personified’’ campaign had done a good job connecting with its core 25- to 44-year-old consumers but that Snapple was still ‘‘trying to increase [its] relevance with 18- to 24-year-olds.’’ Deutsch would run out of chances to address that problem, however.
In May 2004 Cadbury replaced the agency, giving the Snapple account to Cliff Freeman and Partners. The newly appointed agency had previously worked with Randy Gier, the new chief marketing officer for Cadbury’s American Beverages division, which included Snapple. A new campaign was soon developed that ditched the animated bottles for a reprise of Snapple’s ‘‘real people’’ approach that had worked so well in the early 1990s, including the return of the popular spokesperson Wendy. Writing for Adweek, Kathleen Sampey and Kenneth Hein quoted one Snapple bottler who liked the new spots that were unveiled at a bottlers’ meeting in October 2005. The writers added, ‘‘The bottler was appreciative of the changes, saying the personified bottles work from Deutsch was expected to be ‘our Budweiser frogs. They weren’t.’’’

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