Lowdown: Soda Swap -- Dr Pepper Passes Mtn Dew in Sales

Soda Category Continues to Shrink, but Bright Spots Include Fanta in New Rankings

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The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.

Dr Pepper - College Football Campaign
Dr Pepper - College Football Campaign

There has been a shake-up in the soda category: Dr Pepper has surpassed Mtn Dew for fourth place, according to Beverage Digest, which this week published 2015 sales rankings. Dr Pepper was the only soda brand among the top five that grew volume last year -- it eked out a gain of 0.1%. PepsiCo's Mtn Dew lost 2.8%. When looking at megabrands, Mtn Dew, which includes Diet Mtn Dew and Kickstart, ranked third behind Coke and Pepsi. Coke continues to have strong command of No. 1, although its volume fell by 1%, while No. 2 Pepsi lost 3.2%. Third-ranked Diet Coke fell by 5.6%. The big winner was Coke-owned Fanta, whose volume surged by 8.3%, putting it in eighth place. Overall, the soda category continues to shrink, losing 1.5 billion cases since it peaked in volume in 2004 at 10.2 billion cases, according to Beverage-Digest.

Now, onto some more heartwarming soda news …

For the past several years, the Twitter handle @DietDrPepper was not controlled by the soda brand. It was owned by Michigan resident Diana Hussein, who randomly chose the moniker seven years ago. But as the Detroit Free Press reported this week, Ms. Hussein recently struck a deal with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. In exchange for the handle, the marketer sent $5,000 worth of bottled water from its DeJa Blue brand to residents in Flint, Mich., which has been dealing with a contaminated water crisis, the newspaper reported. Ms. Hussein saw that as a better deal than the marketer's first offer, which was to hand over the handle in exchange for some swag. Good for her.

A Dr Pepper spokesman said the deal followed a separate "sizeable contribution of water" the company made in early January through its Flint sales and distribution branch to a number of community organizations. As for the Twitter handle, Diet Dr. Pepper has only used it for three tweets, using the voice of its mascot -- Lil' Sweet. But the spokesman said "more Lil' Sweet is coming very soon."

Sure, there are increasingly exhaustive statistics measuring almost everything athletes do. But what about the fans? Unilever's Degree will start unraveling their movement mysteries this week as part of its partnership with the NCAA and to remind folks that it's the first deodorant activated by movement. Degree will conduct a series of real-time fan movement studies during the Final Four April 2-4 in Houston, employing bioanalytics partner Lightwave to measure such things as the crowd reaction to any buzzer beaters that occur, or what happens when the crowd moves in unison during "the wave," according to a release. We at the Lowdown have never seen the wave at a basketball game. But if it occurs, Lightwave can maybe document eye rolls among the snobbishly wave-averse, having deployed sensors throughout NRG stadium and equipped some fans with wearable devices. We may soon have an estimate of the collective calorie burn from watching a Final Four game.

Degree's Unilever sibling Axe is also taking a cerebral approach to basketball in a new video campaign for its Axe Black body wash celebrating "shower thoughts." Given the brand's heritage, there's only one thing this guy would be thinking about in the shower, right? Yep. Basketball. And Muggsy Bogues. Seriously. The idea is that men do some of their best thinking in the shower, and that body wash with great fragrance can't hurt. Defy Media's Generate digital content studio created the ad, along with Mindshare Entertainment.

It takes a brave brand to commission Onion Labs to do native content. The Onion is, after all, pretty good at skewering brands with entirely uncompensated parody. But Scotts, on a mission to shake millennials out of their collective apathy over lawn care, has added a pinch of Onion to its new campaign, sponsoring a Lawn and Garden native content patch. It includes tips, such as replacing your lawn blade by blade with all-weather fibers, and a video promoting Lawnbnb, which allows people, like the featured turtle-fighting miscreant, to rent (or "share") lawns of strangers to sleep on.

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It's spring so the home renovation paint wars are heating up. This month, Montvale, N.J.-based Benjamin Moore debuted an integrated marketing campaign highlighting its unique paint offerings on TV, print and digital. The brand uses the tagline "Is it still paint?" Similarly, Masco Coatings Group-owned Behr Paint, which sells exclusively at Home Depot, is airing four 30-second TV spots created by Minneapolis-based agency Peterson Milla Hooks. The color-centric ads are the second iteration of Behr's "True to Hue" campaign, which began last year.

Honda's HT3 Driving Shoe
Honda's HT3 Driving Shoe Credit: Honda

Honda is getting into the shoe business, if only temporarily. The automaker has teamed with Thrillist and JackThreads to create a limited-edition "HT3 Driving Shoe" that goes on sale today for a suggested price of $100. The shoe is sold exclusively on JackThreads.com and is inspired by the 2016 Honda Civic. The shoe, which is made from "sleek suede with metallic hints and a quilted leather pattern," is meant to pay tribute to "the three core aspects of Honda design that influenced its sporty and dynamic styling -- high touch, high tension and high tech," Honda stated.

Beefy Crunch Burrito by Taco Bell
Beefy Crunch Burrito by Taco Bell Credit: Taco Bell

Taco Bell is tying together fan favorites and value in its latest marketing campaign. The chain is bringing back the Beefy Crunch Burrito and Cheesy Double Beef Burrito on April 21. Each of the items, which have been off its menu for a few years, will be priced at $1. Campaign plans include telling the stories of Taco Bell super fans including Richard Axton, who created the Beefy Crunch Movement for those longing for the burrito after it first left the menu five years ago. News of its return was shared on the group's Facebook page before Taco Bell's announcement Wednesday. Other items will be added to the "Fan Favorite" menu based on consumer feedback. Deutsch is lead creative on the project, with Edelman on PR.

Ethelbert Williams, recently a Kimberly-Clark Corp. marketer who most recently led the Kleenex brand's foray into facial cleansing, has joined InstaNatural, an online maker and distributor of nature-inspired beauty, cosmetics, home care and baby products, as chief marketing officer. Mr. Williams, who began his career at Procter & Gamble Co., is perhaps the only marketer to ever have worked at each of personal care's big three, having later been a marketer at L'Oreal and Unilever. But he's going the small, startup route at Orlando-based InstaNatural, which he said in a statement is "a brilliant e-commerce business" with "limitless potential."

Cohen's Credit: Cohen's

With its first chief marketing officer, Sheila Haile, Cohen's Fashion Optical is refreshing its 130-store brand to target more digital-focused millennials. The 89-year-old New York-based eyewear company is marketing, through new TV, digital and in-store advertising, its new lower-priced private label collection aimed at younger consumers. The bulk of the brand's new creative work was done by Loewy, which was recently acquired by HedgeHog.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jessica Wohl

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