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Jun 7, 2019

Insights from the New Brand Builders, Part 3

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In this series, we’ve been discussing how a new generation of brand builders has taken advantage of new market and consumer dynamics and unconventional promotion to grow and thrive in an ultra-competitive retail environment. Part 1 and Part 2 focused on two niche brands developed by well-established CPG manufacturers – Chilly Cow from Wells and Love Beauty and Planet from Unilever.

In the final article of our Brand Builders series, we’ll look at how PepsiCo’s Bubly brand has ridden the wave of growth in the sparkling water category and used an effective brand-building approach to become the category’s fastest-growing brand.

Meet Bubly

Forget about going mainstream. The sparkling water category has fizzed past mainstream as sales continue to soar. And no other brand has been surging as quickly as Bubly. 

Already the fastest-growing brand in a high-growth category, Bubly has been purchased by 10.4% of households in America, according to Numerator Insights data. Sparkling water sales increased by $364 million in 2018, and Bubly was responsible for a whopping 37% of that growth, far ahead of LaCroix (24%).

Launched in early 2018, Bubly promises “no calories, no sweeteners, all smiles” and a number of cleverly named flavors, variety packs and samplers, all with a personality that matches the brand name. 

Bubly Is Popping

During Q1 2019, Bubly jumped into the top three for sparkling water sales, quickly gaining ground on market leaders LaCroix, Sparkling Ice and private label sparkling waters. Like brands Chilly Cow and Love Beauty and Planet in their own respective categories, Bubly’s buyers’ purchase frequency and buy rate for sparkling water are tracking well above the category average.

You’ll also notice that 80% of Bubly sales came through traditional Food and Mass channels. Innovation is important, but you don’t necessarily have to change your distribution method if you connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

Bubly Promotion Tactics

Interestingly, market leader LaCroix seems to be behaving like a startup, while Bubly is behaving more like a traditional brand. Bubly has spurned LaCroix’s community-driven approach by investing $38.5 million in traditional paid media – almost all on TV ads, including Super Bowl and Oscar commercials.

However, Bubly has pushed the marketing envelope with strong results in the area of price promotion. Bubly is the number one sparkling water brand in web promotions with 19% share of voice and number two behind LaCroix in overall share of promotional voice at 12.3%. 

Like Chilly Cow and Love Beauty and Planet, Bubly seems more focused on differentiation and relevance than the category market leaders. For example, Love Beauty and Planet talks more about sustainability, ethically sourced ingredients, and social initiatives than product features and benefits. Similarly, Chilly Cow positions its brand as healthy ice cream that tastes like real ice cream, not “light” ice cream.

Bubly Commands Attention at the Shelf

Bubly’s lighthearted branding and whimsical persona played a key role in winning sales at the shelf. It’s no accident that the “u” in Bubly looks like a big smile.

Numerator survey data tells us that Bubly was as effective gaining attention at the shelf as it was through traditional media. LaCroix buyers were more likely to shop with a specific category and brand in mind, while Bubly, as a newer brand, realized it would need to be more persuasive at the first moment of truth, making promotions and special displays more important.

Final Takeaways

First, it probably takes a new brand for major CPG manufacturers to connect with audiences that their existing brands are missing. Now more than ever, it’s not easy to play a new game with an old brand. For example, a newer, lighter version of Blue Bunny probably wouldn’t resonate like Chilly Cow, and a more environmentally friendly version of TRESemme likely wouldn’t have the same impact as Love Beauty and Planet.

Second, brands must explore strategies that connect with audiences on a higher level, beyond simple product functionality. For Chilly Cow, it’s about enjoying ice cream without the guilt of unhealthy ingredients. For Love Beauty and Planet, it’s about caring for the environment. For Bubly, it’s about having fun, being happy, and perhaps connecting with your inner child.

This leads to the third takeaway, which is the need for brands to be different – not just in why you connect, but how. Branding, advertising, promotions and channel strategy need to focus on the right audience and creating a perception of uniqueness.

How are your new and existing brands performing? Which strategies are working and which strategies are not? What audiences represent the biggest opportunities for growth in your categories? Contact us to see how Numerator Insights and survey data can guide your brand-building strategies.