INTERNATIONAL: THE WORLD’S TOP CLIENTS; Snapple keeps faith with its quirky agency

Michele Martin reports on how Snapple resisted the chance to run with the big agencies once its brand had been established

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

Beverages, says.

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

with ideas.’

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.’