News that Coca-Cola is paying Dr. Pepper $715 million to distribute Snapple isn’t the biggest business story of the day (we’re all waiting for Apple’s unveiling of the new iPhone), but it did get me thinking: What happened to Snapple?
In the 90s, Snapple was a hot item in the bottled drink world, known as a hip version of specialty tea, and therein lied its problem: It was trendy.
“Trendy” always loses steam because it’s not built on rock-solid branding that says who the customer is when they use it. If it’s trendy, then the brand face of the consumer is the one only looking for “new.” Meaning, once they tire of the brand, they move on to something else.
Once Snapple tried to expand into “Whipper Snapple” and sodas, such as cherry lime and cream soda (and let’s not forget Orange Ice Tea), it was a brand looking for an identity. Soon, it was selling itself off to the highest bidder, eventually being acquired by Dr. Pepper.
More than a year ago, it re-branded itself…sorta. It refreshed the look, updating the font and changing the size of the bottle so it would fit into cup holders. But those were superficial changes because those kinds of “refreshments” should only be visual representations of the brand itself. The brand is the consumer.
Today, Snapple finds itself competing with more competitors, most of them building on a health theme, along with the same ineffective themes of refreshment and natural. (Even Snapple does that: “Made from the best stuff on Earth.”)
Snapple also needs to consider that its competition goes well beyond other specialty teas in a bottle. It’s any kind of drink the health-conscious consumer may consider: Bottled water, vitamin water, Gatorade, etc.
With this new distribution agreement, you’ll see more of Snapple in stores, but until the brand taps into stronger self-identification systems of the consumer, it will continue to struggle in an increasingly competitive market that may have passed it by.