SodaStream CEO on why marketing is key as it aims for ‘cult’ brand status

The drinks company spends four times more on advertising than research and development and believes its marketing approach has “hit a nerve” at competitors Coca-Cola and Nestlé.

SodaStream is putting its brand purpose to “make a difference to the world” at the heart of its marketing, taking on the giants of the soft drinks space with an aggressive move to cut sales of bottled water.

The drinks brand started its transition from soft drinks to fizzy water back in 2014 in response to changing habits, as consumers started to cut sugar from their diets.

That shift comes on the back of growing sales of bottled water. Water overtook carbonated drinks as the most popular soft drink in 2015, according to Canadean, and the sparkling water market is expected to see annual growth of 3% through 2020.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum claims it is the largest sparkling water brand in the world, ahead of Perrier and San Pellegrino – both of which are owned by Nestlé.

Its machines allow consumers to make their own fizzy or flavoured water, and Birnbaum says this means buying plastic bottles of water redundant. He adds this has led to “some concern” among its biggest competitor, but he is determined “not to shut up”.

If anything, the brand seems eager to upset its competitors and appears to be using its advertising to do just that. The company has used brand ambassadors from popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory to drive home the message that water bottles are bad for the environment.

“We tell the truth, we don’t want to mislead. It’s not about money or making our shareholders rich; these are all incidental. Our purpose is to make a world a better place by eliminating plastic bottles and allowing people to lead healthier lives,” he tells Marketing Week.

One ad, entitled ‘Shame or Glory’, shows a man being followed around by a woman with a large bell who repeatedly shouts ‘shame’ at him for buying bottled water – a scene inspired by Game of Thrones.

Another of its most recent ads also used the phrase “fuck plastic bottles”. That led the Natural Hydration Council to complain to the ASA, and it banned the ad for being offensive. But Birnbaum claims that decision only brought more media attention, and helped to boost views of the ad by an extra three million.

“It definitely hit a nerve,” he says.

Marketing, Birnbaum adds, is considered the “key driver” behind the business, with the brand investing four times more money in advertising and communications than research and development.

“We don’t need to create an image that associates our beverage with sex, love or life. We need to educate consumers on there being a way of the future and a way of the past. Plastic bottles as we know them belong to the past,” he says.

If you’re lazy, selfish and not mindful about how you contribute to the planet, keep on buying those bottles. If you want to be a leader, embrace SodaStream.

Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream

SodaStream also wants to use its marketing campaigns to become a “cult” brand that is loved among consumers and spoken about in popular culture. At the same time, Birnbaum recognises that the brand “won’t be for everybody”.

“If you’re lazy, selfish and not mindful about how you contribute to the planet, keep on buying those bottles. If you want to be a leader and a change agent, you should embrace SodaStream.”

Moving into beer

SodaStream is also tapping into new markets, and is now looking to break into the alcohol sector. 

Last year, it tested a beer concentrate that can be added to the water in Germany and has since sold out. It is set to launch in the UK later this year.

Birnbaum adds, however, that mixers for spirits such as whiskey and vodka are also able to be carbonated and can be used to make alcoholic drinks. There are also plans to launch tea products in the UK.

When asked if this could confuse consumers in terms of what the brand is about, he agrees that this could “potentially” happen. He adds, however, that the brand wants to “respect” the consumer and allow them to make their own decisions.

He concludes: “This is the people’s brand. We want to empower the consumer to do whatever they want simply by giving them the tools.”

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Comments
  • Cary Heyer 20 Jul 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Let me get this straight: SodaStream’s CEO says, “Our purpose is to make a world a better place by eliminating plastic bottles and allowing people to lead healthier lives.” Then the company sells plastic bottles anyway, acknowledging on every one they are unsafe for use after a certain date or placed in the dishwasher. Does anyone else see a disconnect here?

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