Novelty beverages — there has to be a point

One thing that has always boggled my mind are companies whose product portfolio consists entirely of novelty products. I’m talking about sexually explicit labels/names, glow in the dark packaging, licensed products, gimmick flavors, etc.

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but making a successful beverage business relies on repeat sales. Making a REALLY successful beverage business, like a Hansen or Glaceau, requires making a LOT of repeat sales. It needs to be available for purchase by the case at places like club stores.

Novelty products are generally not available in mainstream retail channels (cstores, grocery, etc) and are instead left with non-traditional retail channels….like, say, Spencer Gifts. Novelty products are often purchased once and, in many cases, are not consumed but rather placed on someone’s desk or in the window of their dorm room. (We have a pretty nice collection of energy drinks and Skeleteens Sodas in our office)

For example, consider “Sum Poosie Energy Drink“. This is a product that in my opinion is initially purchased due to shock value or humor. Consumers do not make repeat purchases or buy it by the case. The best chance for success for this brand is in on-premise venues, but given this brand’s sexually oriented branding, Sum Poosie will struggle to translate this into higher volume channels. Furthermore, if the product were to actually spread due to shock value, it would eventually get the point where the shock value wears off. This is the very definition of “novelty”. Everyone has covered it and it’s no longer to cool to have a bottle in your dorm window. Then what?

Using a novelty product to launch a company is OK, assuming it’s just your “foot in the door”. Novelty products like Sum Poosie often get free PR that cannot be bought with the resources of a small company….But unless your only goal is to produce a short-lived punch line, the trick is figuring out how to build the free PR into something that is commercially viable and has staying power.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of an example where a company has actually done this :( Probably the closest example is Jones Soda, which used novelty to try and bolster its existing brand. It’s still my opinion that the “Jones Soda” name was lost in much of the PR.

So, my question for the bevblogosphere is, are all novelty products one-trick ponies? If Jones can’t create a major upswing from its PR line, can anyone? Your comments are appreciated….