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Customers drink in the SoBe message

A strong customer community has helped the fruit and energy drink company build loyal customers and strong brand awareness.

With such products as Adrenaline Rush and Long John Lizard's Grape Grog, SoBe Beverages pushes the boundaries of...

its industry. So it's no wonder that the company also works hard to push traditional marketing boundaries with a strong Internet strategy focused on building and learning from its customer community.

"[Our Web site] gives SoBe a unique opportunity to visually and interactively demonstrate the company's innovative, creative approach to marketing," said Dave Spinato, manager of new media for SoBe, a separate operating unit of Pepsi-Cola North America. Its branding strategy is designed to engage consumers to create a community that identifies with SoBe products as extensions of themselves. And its Web site plays an integral role in the community-building plan.

In addition to product information about its different fruit and energy drinks, Web site visitors can find health resources and articles about topics like diet and exercise, music, and extreme sports, as well as interactive features like music downloads and video game tips.

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Not all SoBe customers are alike, so different product lines get their own branded sites, reflecting the personalities of the brands and their distinct customer groups. The site for low-calorie SoBe Lean, for instance, features health-related articles and nutritional information, while SoBe Adrenaline Rush's site is all about high energy, with links to sponsored DJs and samples of their latest songs.

Like most consumer packaged goods firms, SoBe does not sell directly to consumers. So the Web is a vital tool to learn about their needs. Spinato said the company has 250,000 registered users, who provide individual information and rank their favorite drink flavors.

Of the registered users, 50,000 are designated Very Important Lizards (VILs). They provide a username and password because they continually visit the site to gain access to features like exclusive message boards, special promotions, and free shipping from its e-commerce section, Spinato said, adding that they are engaged community members who are willing to provide feedback. On the back end, the VIL database allows SoBe to categorize VIL data for marketing initiatives, he said.

VILs have a great opportunity to voice their opinions, Spinato said, adding that the process has been a very valuable tool for us to get individual feedback on ways to keep customers happy. Customer feedback led SoBe to introduce a new "Under the Cap" area on its site highlighting the best phrases found under its bottle caps.

"We love working at SoBe, and that passion, sincere interest in the consumers, and our unique sense of humor is reflected in our sites," Spinato said. It's also paying off with customers. Without revealing details, Spinato said that "our brand awareness and net profits get stronger every year."


Copyright © 2005 Carlson Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Peppers & Rogers Group, a division of Carlson Marketing Group.

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