Michele Martin reports on how Snapple resisted the chance to run with
the big agencies once its brand had been established
It could have been any sociable New York gathering - except that the
setting was an ad agency and in the corner stood two life-size cut-outs
of Oprah Winfrey and Rosanne Barr.
On one side of the table sat Arnie Greenburg, Hymie Golden and Lennie
Marsh, the sixtysomething founders of the Snapple Beverage Corporation.
Facing them were Richard Kirshenbaum and Jon Bond, the thirtysomething
founders of the hotshop, Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners.
‘When we presented Wendy [a rotund, real-life Snapple employee as the
star of the campaign] they almost fell off their chairs. She wasn’t your
average 5ft 10 inch supermodel,’ Kirshenbaum admits. ‘But we just said
‘these are the two most popular women in the US and they’re also
overweight’. And after a bit of research, the ads ran. Basically, the
founders let us do our own thing.’
But that was back in 1992 and much has happened since then to change the
relationship between client and agency. Snapple’s latest campaign,
launched on 1 April, took six months of creative development and
research to get on air and, although retaining a dollop of Snapple
quirkiness, has the stamp of a more considered approach.
The difference comes down to two factors. First, Snapple’s acquisition
in 1994 by the conservative, mid-American corporation Quaker, which blew
away the Jewish, Long Island culture that bonded client and agency like
‘father and son’.
Second, the so-called ‘new age’ drinks market found itself swelled by
competitors such as Coca-Cola’s Fruitopia and PepsiCo’s Liptonice,
helping to drive down Snapple’s 1994 US sales of dollars 650 million by
9 per cent last year.
But Snapple’s marketing history is not a simple tale of entrepreneurial
spark suffocated by corporate thinking. If anything, it reveals one
client trying to deal intelligently with the problem of rapid expansion.
Quaker may have overhauled Snapple’s management, distribution, packaging
and marketing, but it has tried hard to keep its independent spirit.
Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the new work, retaining
Kirshenbaum and Bond as brand guardians was an act of faith by a large
client more used to big, roster agencies. ‘We had the agency help us
every step of the way to make sure we didn’t break the consumer pact
established with Snapple,’ Donald Uzzi, president of Quaker Oats
Snapple started life in the 70s as a small Brooklyn-based fruit-juice
business, but grew rapidly across New York and the East coast through
word of mouth.
In the US, Kirshenbaum and Bond was hired to launch the ‘Wendy’ campaign
based on Snapple’s postbag of real fan mail. Wendy introduced more than
30 spots, including one young drinker who was given a lie detector test
after writing: ‘I love Snapple so much - I’m not lying.’
US success also led to the company exporting the brand to markets that
requested it. Agencies and PR companies were chosen on a country-by-
country basis with the help of Kirshenbaum and Bond and strategy
followed the US lead, making stars of consumers. In a campaign for the
Middle East by Saatchi and Saatchi Dubai, drinkers were asked which
Snapple flavour their friends most resembled. In Japan, consumers were
asked to showcase unusual skills at roadshows. One woman became an
overnight star by drinking Snapple and belching tunes.
Andrew Lippman, worldwide market development manager for Snapple, says:
‘The brand has had a very good effect on Quaker in terms of creativity.
It has persuaded people here to talk to the consumer more and experiment
How well the new campaign will succeed in broadening the brand’s appeal
while keeping Snapple’s individual new-age credentials has yet to be
seen. Its aim is to make Snapple the third-largest soft drink in the US
behind Coke and Pepsi (hence the ‘threedom’ campaign), from its current
‘fifth or sixth’ rank, Uzzi claims.
The home-spun charms of the original campaign have been upended by a
strategy that is humorous yet studded with a strong corporate mission
statement. Wendy has been replaced by a full marching band declaring
‘Threedom is freedom’ under the celebrity direction of Spike Lee, with
only touches of kitsch keeping the manifesto quirky. Other ads show
giant dancing Snapple bottles extolling their love of cola in
celebration of ‘threedom’ while another shows glove puppet astronauts
looking for the ‘ultimate frontier’ of Snapple’s diet range.
For now, the jury is still out on the work. John Sicher, the editor and
publisher of the US drinks bible, Beverage Digest, comments: ‘Snapple
had a very difficult year in 1995 and we won’t begin to know if it has
regained its old pattern of growth until the end of the year.’