The company chose to diverge from its usual heavy media spending tactics after watching competitors such as SoBe Beverage Co. build unknown names into major forces in the $2.2 billion single-serve fruit beverage category via grass-roots efforts.
Pepsi likely will use strategically placed TV ads to reach teens and young adults as early as this spring, a spokesman for the company said. But an ad agency has yet to be named for FruitWorks, and initial efforts will focus on sampling and the Web site (fruit
works.com). Pepsi's lead agency, BBDO Worldwide, New York, isn't handling the account.
"With this demographic, what gives them a personal [product] connection is that they discover it themselves vs. us putting it in their face," said Angelique Bellmer, senior marketing manager, FruitWorks.
Pepsi will use the theme,"FruitWorks lets you make your mark." The tag is meant to convey the unique personality for the five-flavor line of fruit drinks, positioned as lighter and less sweet than competitor Fruitopia and simpler than the often herbal-fortified remedies SoBe offers.
SoBe has relied almost exclusively on event marketing and sampling, outside of a smattering of outdoor and radio ads. Its wholesale revenue growth more than doubled in 1999 to $133 million, compared to Coca-Cola Co.'s Fruitopia, which grew 44% to $118 million and Triarc Beverage Co.'s Snapple, up 4% to $250 million, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.
Sampling events will kick off this spring with FruitWorks vehicles in Panama City, Fla., and South Padre Island, Texas. The vehicles will offer spring breakers free rides around the cities as well as product samples. Events in other cities will follow.
The Web site will be launched later this month and then will be expanded to include personalized features, videogames and music.
While grass-roots techniques worked initially for Snapple, and continue to work for SoBe, industry observers question whether they can work for a behemoth mainstream marketer such as Pepsi.
"There's an inherent contradiction in using guerrilla tactics if you're a mainstream marketer," said Richard Leonard, VP at youth trend researcher Zandl Group. "Some marketers are operating under the misconception that teens don't like advertising and so attempt things they believe are below the board. But teens and young people have fairly keen radar detection, and they know it's all being paid for by the manufacturer."
According to Competitive Media Reporting, Coke spent $7.7 million on Fruitopia in the first 10 months of 1999, while Triarc spent $6.6 million on Snapple.