Major soda brands continue to pump up marketing investment as they vie for share within the still-soft carbonated soft drinks category.
The latest moves include Pepsi's announcement that it will expand the scope of its buzz-generating Pepsi Refresh Project next year, and new "Ridiculously Bubbly" TV spots, featuring David Spade, from Dr Pepper Snapple Group's 7Up, timed to support the brand's new reformulation and packaging.
The Pepsi Refresh Project grants awards to underwrite community-improvement projects submitted by consumers, with the winners determined by online popular votes on the project's site. PepsiCo launched the project in 2010 in the U.S. and Canada, and will have awarded more than $20 million by the end of this year for projects spanning a wide variety of charitable causes.
As of Sept. 1, 42 million votes had been cast for more than 7,500 project ideas, and the 256 projects awarded to date are estimated to have reached more than 200,000 people, according to PepsiCo. For Pepsi, however, the positive buzz factor has far exceeded those numbers. The project's site drew more than 2.5 million visitors in the first month of voting alone (February) and undisclosed millions of visitors since. Pepsi's Facebook fans (currently numbering more than 1 million) rapidly doubled after the Refresh Project launch, tweets and news coverage have been plentiful, and the brand earned a #5 ranking within Forbes's most recent "most reputable brands" study.
Little surprise, then (although it's unclear how much the buzz has helped sales), that PepsiCo has announced that Refresh will be expanded next year to include funding for projects in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Funding amounts to be dedicated to the international markets have not yet been announced, but PepsiCo said that decisions will be made on a by-market basis, and that efforts will be tailored to "ensure relevance to local communities."
Meanwhile, Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) is airing new 15- and 30-second spots that feature sardonic comedian David Spade and continue the brand's "Ridiculously Bubbly" campaign, launched to coincide with the retail debut of the brand's reformulated/redesigned products.
7Up's formula "UPgrade," featuring more "100% natural" lemon/lime flavor to give it a "crisper" taste, is being called out with new graphics within its packaging redesigns, which span all of the brand's flavors and pack sizes.
The "Bubbly" campaign, premised on the concept that drinking 7Up can transform even the grumpiest people into "effervescent free spirits," debuted last fall with a commercial featuring Brad Garrett, the sad sack-countenanced actor from TV's "'Til Death" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."
DPS has confirmed that it has upped its advertising spending plan for 7Up (along with spending for Snapple, Dr Pepper and Sunkist) substantially during 2010, and also will be supporting the 7Up reformulation with an ambitious in-store sampling program.
DPS's beefed-up focus on 7Up parallels similar advertising/product refreshing moves by the lemon/lime category's leaders, Coca-Cola's #1 Sprite and PepsiCo's #2 Sierra Mist (which is being replaced by Sierra Mist Natural, using sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup).
Overall carbonated soft drink (CSD) beverage sales declined 2.1% last year, according to Beverage Digest (although that was an improvement over 2008's nearly 3% decline). Sales for lemon/lime CSDs have been declining for nearly a decade; however, lemon/lime remains the second-largest CSD category, and research points to consumers being increasingly attracted to lemon/lime and other flavored CSD's, as their interest in cola varieties declines.
DPS -- with a portfolio that includes Sunkist, Crush Orange, Canada Dry and Schweppes, as well as Dr Pepper and 7Up -- is pushing to leverage that flavored positioning to the max.
7Up's sales volume declined 8% in 2008 -- in part due to a distribution crisis, as well as a long spell of little marketing investment (which was also true of other lemon/lime brands). And while DPS brand executives have said that 7Up's sales improved last year, it still has just a 1% share of the total CSD market, according to BrandChannel.com.