The soft drink 7UP was developed by Charles Leiper Grigg in 1929 at the Howdy Co., St. Louis. The fizzy beverage that came to be known as the "uncola" originally went by the unwieldy moniker Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime soda.
By 1936, when Howdy Co. changed its name to Seven-Up Co., Hamblett Charles Grigg, son of the founder, had joined the company as a marketer and designer. H.C. Grigg, who had studied art, produced the product's first logo, the number seven with wings.
Early advertising efforts
Three ad campaigns were developed in the 1930s: "7UP?You like it. It likes you," "7UP for 7 hangovers" and "Fresh up with 7UP." In 1943, J. Walter Thompson Co. developed a national advertising effort that linked the drinking of 7UP with support of the Allied war effort. That campaign marked the beginning of a long-term partnership; JWT continued to work on the 7UP account for 46 years.
In 1950, Seven-Up Co. emerged from a six-year battle with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service when the IRS released the company from any obligation to pay taxes on income from bottlers for advertising. The company began advertising on TV, radio and in magazines during the 1950s, and bottlers supported a significant portion of the ad budget.
Also in 1950, Seven-Up Co. initiated "7UP Floats," a summer promotion that featured 7UP served with ice cream in a tall glass; the promotion became an annual event for the company. In 1961, the company spent $1 million on an ad campaign to support the "Floats" promotion in newspapers, billboards, TV, radio and magazines.
That same year, Seven-Up won a trademark infringement lawsuit against Fizz Up, which marketed one of several carbonated lemon-lime beverages that used the word Up as part of their product names. In 1963, the company developed a new product, Like, a diet lemon-lime soft drink that took its name from the company's 1930s theme, created in-house, "You like it. It likes you."
The drink was featured in a national print campaign that focused on those watching their weight (1965) and promoted via TV and radio spots (1967). Like was reformulated in 1969 and renamed Diet 7UP, with the theme, "At last, a diet drink that doesn't taste funny." Within months, the account changed agencies twice: JWT's Chicago office lost the Like account to Grey Advertising, New York, which in turn lost it to Gardner Advertising Co., St. Louis. JWT continued on the 7UP account.
By the mid-1960s, the company was also firmly entrenched in a number of other countries, an expansion it started in 1935. By 1967, it had franchises in Angola, Mexico, France, Japan, Pakistan, Cyprus, Argentina, British Honduras, Iran and British Guiana. Foote, Cone & Belding won the company's accounts in Mexico and Argentina in 1967; that year, JWT's offices in Madrid and Barcelona collaborated on a campaign for Spain, with the theme "7UP changes your thirst for a smile." Also in 1967, Vickers & Benson, Montreal, began to handle advertising for Montreal's Dominion Seven-Up Co.
Meanwhile, in 1967, JWT replaced 7UP's "Wet and wild" ads with what was perhaps the soft drink's most memorable campaign?"The Uncola"?which positioned 7UP directly against rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. The "Uncola" campaign ran through the 1970s, with heavy emphasis in TV spots (75% of the media budget in 1968) followed by radio and billboards. In the TV spots, a curvy soda-fountain drink glass was filled with the clear beverage, then turned upside down and sipped from. In its first year, the campaign doubled sales of the soft drink.
But the "Uncola" effort, so successful in the U.S., did not translate well in other countries. In its place, David McIntyre, advertising manager of Seven-Up International, worked with JWT to create a commercial showing gloved hands that popped out of a little green box demonstrating their preference for 7UP by dismissing an off-camera antagonist who tried to steal the drink by substituting a cola. Voice-over was kept simple for easy translation into several languages.
Ranked the No. 3 soda marketer in 1972, behind Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, Seven-Up Co. that year acquired several bottling companies. The company had long-range plans to diversify, but in 1977, H.C. Grigg died and the family-run business was sold the following year to Philip Morris Cos. N.W. Ayer ABH International succeeded JWT in 1979.
In 1982, Ayer's Dominick Rossi and Patrick Cunningham created spots touting the fact that 7UP contained no caffeine. The ads featured the Calypso-accented voice of actor Geoffrey Holder saying, "Never had it. Never will." The campaign alienated 7UP bottlers, which also handled caffeinated drinks, leading Philip Morris to sell the international portion of Seven-Up to PepsiCo in 1986 and the U.S. division to Hicks & Haas Investment Group, Dallas, which also owned Dr Pepper Co. The U.S. company was later renamed Dr Pepper/Seven Up.
Hicks & Haas introduced new products, Cherry 7UP and Diet Cherry 7UP, marketed to people ages 13 to 24 with the ad theme "Isn't it cool in pink?" from Leo Burnett Co. The campaign sold more than 40 million cases of Cherry 7UP in the first year. At the same time, Burnett's animated red "Spot" character began to jump off 7UP bottles and perform antics in TV spots; the popular "Spot" lasted until 1995, when Cadbury Schweppes, London, acquired Dr Pepper/Seven-Up.
In 1999, new agency Young & Rubicam featured actor Orlando Jones in a comic role in the "Make 7UP Yours" campaign; Mr. Jones was succeeded by the comedian Godfrey. In 2003, Y&R Cadbury Schweppes introduced a new Y&R effort for 7UP on the Grammy Awards telecast in an effort to retain bottlers that were threatened to switch from 7UP to PepsiCo's Sprite or its offshoot Sierra Mist.
7UP's market share dropped by more than 27% in 2004 after PepsiCo pushed bottlers to favor its Sierra Mist lemon-lime soft drink over the Uncola. Under a new marketing structure at Cadbury?s North American beverage unit, 7UP invited additional agencies to pitch ideas for advertising.