His vision was a carbonated beverage unlike any other. His would have fanciful flavors and be distributed in off-beat places like piercing parlors. The bottles would feature actual consumers-or photos of them-on bottles.
Thus did Jones Soda embark on the path toward cult stardom in 1995.
Last year, the company received 22,000 photos from consumers and featured 636 on its soda bottles. Consumers whose photos turn up on bottles have created a publicity machine by generating local press coverage throughout North America. Teacher-sanctioned "Jones Soda" school clubs submit group photos and consumers from as far as New Mexico drop by Urban Juice & Soda Co. headquarters to visit.
The bizarre marketing mix created by Mr. van Stolk, 35, also includes retail displays featuring non-sequiturs submitted by customers as marketing slogans, such as "Processed cheese food may cause constipation."
The schtick works. Jones Soda doubled sales to $7 million in 1998 and is on pace to triple that this year. The brand's cachet with Generation X has had such major marketers as BMG Music, Armani and Nike beat a path to Mr. van Stolk's door with marketing tie-ins. Empty bottles fetch up to $10 on Internet auctioneer eBay.
"We're interactive, and there's no other interactive soda out there," Mr. van Stolk says, adding: "It doesn't work if the soda inside the bottle isn't