QUIRKY SNAPPLE FAILS TO MAKE A SPLASH IN ASIA:SMALL BUDGET, ITEM CONFUSION SHIFT QUAKER SELLING PLANS

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Snapple beverage Corp. was wildly successful in the U.S. with exotic-flavored, New Age-style drinks supported by a shoestring marketing budget that focused on consumer involvement with the brand.

With Asians, however, both the products and the strategy are struggling.

Snapple flavors such as kiwi-strawberry appealed to Americans who were turning to more natural beverages. But in Japan, where Snapple parent Quaker Oats withdrew the brand this year after less than two years' shelf-life, consumers were turned off by its sugary sweetness and cloudy look.

LITTLE SPENT IN JAPAN

Quaker's meager Japanese ad spend on the brand, believed to be under $2 million, was grossly inadequate in a market where food, beverages and tobacco are the biggest spending ad category-totaling $7.2 billion in 1995, according to Dentsu.

Snapple is now focusing on Singapore and Hong Kong.

Marketing techniques that helped build Snapple's quirky brand personality in the U.S. have not had as much impact in Asian markets.

In Hong Kong, for example, Snapple ran a contest inviting consumers to send in ideas for a future Snapple TV commercial. Fifty entries were received, in response to an ad that ran once in April in the English-language South China Morning Post and Chinese newsweekly Next. The creative department at Grey Advertising's Hong Kong office chose three winners and a backup. One of the winners is a story about a dinosaur rampaging after Snapple.

SIMPLE BACKGROUNDS

"We have not the access to the Jurassic Park crew, so we have backdrops designed by the person whose idea it was," said Chris Kyme, Grey exec creative director. Spots will air this month.

"They are charming insights that you wouldn't get from agency people, disarming and innocent. The idea came out of Snapple's worldwide culture, because it's a quirky and endearing product close to a consumer's heart," Mr. Kyme said.

Snapple's previous effort in Hong Kong was less successful. A print ad last year invited consumers to submit opinions and questions about the brand, to which Marketing Manager Tracey Ip responded individually. The object, she said, was to start communication with the consumers because people didn't know the brand.

Most of them still don't. Ms. Ip said the 50-letter response, mostly asking where the brand could be found and in what flavors, was somewhat disappointing.

RADIO SPOTS IN SINGAPORE

In Singapore, Snapple turned to radio. Instead of broadcasting commercials, the company armed disc jockeys with an electronic keyboard and some Snapple anecdotes from the U.S. and urged them to ad lib about the brand. Similar radio tactics worked well in the U.S.

Listeners were invited to fax in reasons why they should be eligible for one of 200 Snapple samples delivered daily around the island in a "Snapple A Day" contest, said Jeff Kimble, Quaker's Singapore-based marketing director for Southeast Asia. The campaign garnered 100 responses a week over two months. A sample: "My colleague has stomach worms so we need 200 bottles of Snapple to drown them."

VENDING MACHINE MARKETING

Currently, Snapple's marketing effort in Singapore is limited to a handful of vending machines.

Mr. Kimble admitted Snapple's Asian rollout has not been smooth. Last summer, distribution wasn't good enough to take advantage of the key sales season. "But there is a large, young population that is becoming increasingly health conscious, and the weather is hot," he said.

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