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7Up Turns to Electronic Dance Music to Lift Spirits -- and Sales

Soda Brand Plans Yearlong Effort Supporting DJs, Music Events

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7Up is setting its sights on a new, millennial target.

The lemon-lime soda had long looked to appeal to a customer that was older than 35 and, more often than not, a mom. Its marketing messages emphasized its natural flavoring and lack of caffeine. Past campaigns have featured burping bunnies, an improbably happy Brad Garrett -- with the tagline "Ridiculously Bubbly" -- and a baby Cee-lo Green -- with the tagline "Be Yourself. Be Refreshing."

But with the soda category struggling -- it's declined each of the last nine years -- it's prime time to shake things up. 7Up controls just 1% of the market, ranking as the 15th largest soda brand, compared to Sprite's 6th place ranking, according to Beverage Digest.

"We find with 7Up we do best when we break with convention, when we move into a new space and make some changes. We really wanted to evolve our customer base," said Eric Blackwood, director-marketing at 7Up, which is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group. "Millennials have a lot of buying power -- they're really coming into their own. We're looking to who are future buyers are going to be."

After digging into the types of things that may appeal to millennials, as well as Hispanics, a group that 7Up is already popular with, the brand opted to embrace electronic dance music, or EDM. "We talked to some experts in the industry and at our agency, and [we discovered] it's the fastest-growing genre in music today. It's really weaving itself more into the mainstream," said Mr. Blackwood.

7Up has partnered with seven DJs and seven events as part of its yearlong #7x7Up program. A TV spot featuring DJ Tiesto playing a party in Chile is supporting the effort. Deutsch, Los Angeles, leads creative for the brand, while Initiative handles media. Code and Theory is responsible for digital and social efforts.

Mr. Blackwood declined to comment on specific spending plans but said that the company is investing more in 7Up. The brand spent $37 million on measured media last year, up 12% from the year prior, according to Kantar Media.

"The entire [carbonated soft drink] category is struggling with marketing and figuring out paths to growth," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. "It's challenging in this day and age to figure out how to market these lemon-lime products."

7Up believes electronic dance music will help it to grow and to stand apart. "It doesn't just set us apart from Sprite, it really sets us apart from the flavor segment overall. We see a white space opportunity in EDM," said Mr. Blackwood. "EDM is just starting to add brands to their events. And Sprite has other things they're focused on."

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