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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 well-regarded "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 Brandchannel.com, "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).
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.
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...