In the past year, SodaStream has hit the shelves in a big way: It went from 2,500 stores in the fourth quarter of 2010 to nearly 9,500 today.
That sort of growth is nothing short of explosive for any brand, but especially for one that until a few years ago had awareness levels in America of , well, zilch.
Although the concept of home soda-making has long been popular in Europe, convincing Americans to invest in a machine to transform tap water into sparkling water wasn't a simple sell. SodaStream's challenge was to introduce not only a new product, but an entirely new category.
"We had a lot of consumer education to do in trying to establish that you can make soda, it's easy, and it's not going to cost a fortune," said Kristin Harp, SodaStream's U.S. marketing manager. "When we first came to the U.S. it was primarily an e-commerce business. Then and now, we've had very little budget for traditional media spend. We've built this business, and an entire category in fact, on the back of word of mouth and PR."
Sodastream doesn't work with any advertising agencies, but it does work with SS PR and Fenton Communications for consumer PR and green marketing, respectively. Norm Marshall Associates deals with the company on product placements, and it has recently hired Eventive Marketing to handle experiential work.
Rather than TV spots and billboards, Sodastream has opted to build its brand via friend-referral programs and in-store demonstration sessions. In the fourth quarter alone, it has 25,000 demos scheduled nationwide.
Initially the marketer struck deals with high-end retailers such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. But in July 2010, SodaStream began its more mainstream expansion, embarking on a test with Bed Bath & Beyond that was hugely successful. That marked the start of a broad national rollout in other big-box stores such as Sears, Kohl's, JCPenney, Costco and Staples. This month marks its launch in Target stores.
Along with its retail expansion, SodaStream unveiled several new models. Its machines now come in a variety of colors with different bells and whistles such as stainless steel finishes or electronic monitors that tell you if your carbonator is low on gas. The price point is between $79 and $200.