Marketing 50

Sierra Mist

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In three years, Sierra Mist has become the No. 3 national lemon-lime carbonated soft-drink brand behind Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite and Cadbury Schweppes' 7UP.

In 2003, Cie Nicholson, marketing VP-flavors, and her team at Pepsi-Cola North America put No. 2 within reach by giving bottlers a Pepsi Challenge of sorts.

First sold in late 2000, Sierra Mist was Pepsi's entry into the lemon-lime segment. To make it a true national brand, Pepsi needed to get retailers behind the soft drink; Pepsi needed to convert another 30% of its bottlers to switch from 7UP to Sierra Mist.

Without bottler help, "we wouldn't get [promoted in grocery store circulars] because of our patchy distribution at that time," recalls Ms. Nicholson, a 39-year-old Pepsi veteran who took on Sierra Mist 18 months ago after leading the Mountain Dew team.

In January, Pepsi launched its largest-ever sampling day in Times Square, Penn Station, Wall Street and other locations that reached between 5 million and 6 million potential customers.

Later that month, the beverage giant broke a trio of ads during the Super Bowl via Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, using a "Shockingly refreshing" position and heavy media spending. Through June, Pepsi spent $30.5 million on the brand, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. "It's never easy to switch from a brand like 7UP, but Pepsi made it a rational and sensible decision for its bottlers," says John Sicher, editor-publisher of Beverage Digest. This year, volume is up in supermarkets by more than 100%, he says.

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