Olipop Founder On 'Threading Emotion Into Your Brand DNA'


Olipop is something of an anomaly: a functional beverage that boasts of scientific support for the potential health benefits of its product, but doesn’t want to be seen as a health and wellness brand. There’s a reason for that.

In a presentation on “Threading Emotion Into Your Brand’s DNA at  MediaPost’s Brand Insider Summit: CPG last week, Olipop Co-Founder and CEO Ben Goodwin said the brand aims to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Goodwin is critical of both the “unfounded elitism” of the wellness industry -- noting that less than 1% of brands actually support their health claims with data -- and the traditional soda brands whose products reach 98% of households but, he contends, are “addictive” and contribute to health issues.

It’s a category deeply tied to American identity, which bridges ever-present modern political and sociocultural divides, he explained --  and gives the brand a unique ability to make an impact.



The history of the beverage helped drive insights around how the category has become so ingrained. Soda’s roots, Goodwin said, date back to drinks made during the colonial era which found their fizz through natural fermentation.

Health connections continued as carbonated beverages concocted at pharmacy counters, and soda fountains later became an important cultural hub during temperance movements and prohibition -- a cultural institution that remained central to American identity in the ensuing years.

“What Olipop is doing is the most classic American story -- bringing soda back to what it was, which is a health product, but doing it with a modern flavor palette,” Goodwin contended.

It’s also a category to which many consumers have surprisingly strong emotional connections. From consumer research, Olipop discovered that consumers used highly emotional language for soda, speaking of “cravings” for a product they felt “nostalgia” for, but which many knew to be unhealthy -- contributing to further stress after drinking it. 

Marketing, of course, is a key driver of these emotional attachments. “The fact that soda is part of everybody's childhood memories isn't something that just happened,” Goodwin explained, with major brands investing heavily in marketing messaging to build memories and “create identity bridges for a product that would create lifelong health issues.”

Those issues also suggested a path forward for Olipop, Goodwin explained, and drove a central focus of its marketing identity.

“It’s soda’s somewhat insidious pathway into people’s childhoods and homes and attachment systems which is our solution,” he said, adding that being a soda brand gave Olipop a “unique invitation” to “occupy this space, because of the resolution it facilities for [consumers].”

In consumer research, consumers told the brand that while they liked that the product was healthy, “that emotional driver is much more compelling to them,” Goodwin siad.

In other words, the brand’s emotional appeal was in providing what consumers were looking for in a soda, while resolving the negative feelings they felt from continuing to consume traditional sodas. The brand’s marketing tapped into this, stoking nostalgia and “emotionally healthy attachment,” resting on a message centered around a “Real Love Makes Us” tagline.

Goodwin explained how the brand found the perfect partner in singer-songwriter Camila Cabello, who brought in her real family for an Olipop ad that signifies the type of content the brand will release in coming years.

So what can brands outside the category learn from Olipop’s success?

“Working toward solving a real human problem should be the cornerstone of your objective,” Goodwin explained while “locating the human insight behind your vertical” and “pursuing research creatively, wherever it goes” to understand how best to connect with consumers.

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