Even if stirring controversy is an old trick, Daniel Birnbaum doesn’t seem to mind. Whether or not you’d call the marketing of SodaStream controversial, the company’s strategies have skyrocketed its resonance in the minds of consumers.
Birnbaum, the CEO of SodaStream, which makes a carbonation system for your kitchen, penned a brief history of his time with the company in the January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review. In the article, Birnbaum shares the story of why he left his position as the president of Nike’s business in Israel for the promise of a miniscule, waning industry — home carbonation. He also recounts SodaStream’s first foray into advertising during the Super Bowl. Despite showing a diluted version of the original ad during the game’s fourth quarter (that’s post-blackout, for all you keeping score at home), Birnbaum writes that the investment was easily worth the cost.
Marketing wiz Alex Bogusky served as the mastermind behind the original ad, which depicts goofy Coke and Pepsi drivers, a dueling banjo score and bursting bottles. When CBS rejected the ad, Bogusky had something like a hissy fit. The media paid attention. While the ad that aired received positive feedback, the rejected ad went viral, notching more than 5 million views.
“According to our research,” Birnbaum writes, “this was the first time an American broadcast network had rejected an ad for commercial reasons, as opposed to language or indecency.”
According to my own research, here’s another first: a health-nut knocking kale.
In a story for The New York Times, Jennifer Berman writes that she once adored kale, a long-time friend to green juice makers and vegetarians everywhere. Yet, when her doctor told her that she had hypothyroidism, she discovered that kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens can all contribute to this ailment. Other foods she needs to avoid: flax seeds, almonds, strawberries, soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.
Berman was also thrown off by her dentist, who implied that chocolate and cola causes less decay to teeth than the natural sugars of fruit and vegetable juices. He also told her that lemon had eroded the enamel that protected her teeth. After she confessed her use of non-fluoride toothpaste brands from a health food store, the doctor strongly recommended changing toothpastes and opting for an extra-strength fluoride type.
As one might expect, this bundle of news inverted the previous knowledge of Berman, who said that she was into health food before it was cool. Such madness drove her to drastic decisions.
“I remembered the box of Twinkies my husband had bought — not to eat, but because they were being discontinued and might be valuable one day,” she writes. “It was on a shelf in the hall closet, behind the old typewriter, the dial phone and his stamp collection. Carefully, with a kitchen knife, I removed the top and admired the perfect cakes of my childhood, side by side in their individual cellophane covers, like little sleeping bags. I tore the first one open.”
In case Berman’s warnings aren’t enough, it turns out that water should be avoided too. At least, that’s the case made by a Gatorade-sponsored mobile game, which instead advocates its own product in an Orwellian kind of fashion.
Nancy Huehnergarth writes in The Huffington Post that the intention of the game, titled “Bolt!,” is to maneuver Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt through a course in the fastest time possible. Gatorade speeds him up, drops of water slow him down.
For its target audience of 13 to 24 year olds, the game has been a huge success so far, Huehnergarth writes. Gatorade has attracted four million online fans and celebrities such as Bolt, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and noise-child Justin Bieber to generate buzz around the game, which has been downloaded 2.3 million times and has been played 87 million times.
“That’s a pretty clear message PepsiCo is sending to kids and teens — drink ‘hero’ Gatorade if you want to perform at your peak as an athlete, like Olympian Usain Bolt,” she writes. “But drink the ‘enemy’ water and your performance will suffer.”
It seems that Seth Goldman, founder and CEO of Honest Tea, won’t be getting in the middle of this one. No, he’s all smiles in a field of tea leaves with friends.
Goldman spoke about his company’s gradual, 15-year climb in an interview with Eric T. Wagner, a contributor to Forbes.
“Surprisingly, our biggest overall mistake wasn’t forecasting production or people. It was distraction,” Goldman said in the interview.
Goldman said that Honest originally built its own bottling plant to ensure greater control and access to the manufacturing of their product. However, this ended up diverting the company from what he said should have been the original goal: brand-building.
“You have to think about what you’re really building in the very big picture,” Goldman said in the interview. “What are you building that’s ultimately going to be valuable?”
Following this realization, the results have affirmed the philosophy. According to the article, here’s a look at the company’s growth curve in regards to gross revenue. (Keep in mind that The Coca-Cola Co., Inc. acquired 40 percent of the company in March 2008 and became the full owner in 2011.)
First five years: $16. 3 million
Next five years: $90 million
Past five years: $392 million
Pay heed, entrepreneurs. That’s a bunch of ricotta.