When it comes to most products, developing a loyal consumer base can take years of carefully coordinated marketing plans and well-funded advertising budgets. Yet in a world dominated by the growth of social media and, in particular, Facebook, the makers of the relaxation beverage Purple Stuff have embraced the digital medium as a means of advertising and communication and, in just over a year, have cultivated a following of 150,000 “fans.”
Entrepreneurial beverage companies also look to it as a way to reach their consumers where they are – a result of the generational shift to social media.
“Facebook was and remains cost effective in comparison to traditional media,” said Tim Lucas, the Chief Marketing Officer of Funktional Beverages, Inc. “Our key consumers spend 78 percent of their time online versus watching television with the majority of that time spent on social media sites with Facebook being the dominate social site.”
In a recent promotional article discussing the benefits of marketing on the site, Facebook touted Purple Stuff as an example of how participating in the Facebook Ads program could quickly raise awareness and exposure for a product. From March 2010, when Purple Stuff first began placing ads on Facebook, to April 2011, Purple Stuff had gained more than 145,000 fans.
Sometimes, Facebook serves as a way to reach consumers in a different way – by offering an incentive to connect with other people or organizations via the brand, instead of just a consumer-to-brand connection. R.W. Knudsen recently launched a charitable campaign on Facebook to spread awareness of Operation Gratitude, a non-profit association that supports active military personnel. The company has initially donated 100,000 sticks of its Recharge Natural Sports Drink Mix to the group and has pledged to donate an additional 100,000, though only if the Recharge Facebook page receives 15,000 new “likes” by May 31.
However, Lucas noted that while Facebook ads have created a great deal of interest in Purple Stuff, it is the ability to interact and socialize with consumers that is most effective in generating long term sales.
“The ads [initially] allow consumers to engage us with curiosity about the product,” Lucas said. “We answer their questions and inform them about where they can purchase our brand. [Many] act upon this information, buy the product, become fans, and eventually, regular consumers of Purple Stuff.”
Lucas also believes Purple Stuff’s advertising campaign on Facebook had a direct correlation to the dramatic growth in distribution of the beverage. He claimed that it was in large part due to fans who, by continuously pushing local retailers to stock the product, caused Purple Stuff from being sold in only a handful of stores in Texas to more than 5,000 locations throughout the Southwest.
Yet while enthusiastic about the impact that Facebook has had on sales and awareness of Purple Stuff, Lucas noted that it was unlikely that social marketing would translate to certain success in finding new distribution to other regions of the country.
“Some distributors are taking note of the impact that social media has had on our product,” Lucas said. “But there are people in the beverage industry who have been in the business their whole lives and for many of them, social media is still very new and met with a lot of skepticism.”
Nevertheless, Lucas said that it was the company’s ability to attract a powerful block of consumers that gives Purple Stuff “the icing on the cake” when showcasing the product to potential distributors.
“What gives us an edge is that we have an authentic relationship with our fans. We socialize and interact with them in the same way that we do with personal friends and, when we do this well, it ends up being the best form of advertising.”