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Seven-Up, And The Uncool Mistake Of Brand Indecision

Seven-Up, and the Uncool Mistake of Brand Indecision

Let’s look at a case that is somewhat the opposite of the last one – 7Up Bottling Company in Nigeria. But to get the message across, we have to look at the 7Up brand first. In the next post, we will look at Rite Foods and their part in the whole saga.

Two things come to mind when one remembers 7Up – their legendary “The Difference is Clear” campaign, and the Fido Dido mascot that graced their ad campaigns for quite a while.

The Uncola brand reached its peak in the early 1970s, falling just short of Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the soft drink industry, and becoming the third best-selling soda brand. Then a lot of marketing campaigns happened, other things happened in-between, and the brand started losing market share.

By 2000, the brand’s market share had dropped to 2%, making it the eighth best-selling soda brand around. The brand’s market share further dropped to 1% around 2013, and 7 years later, it’s hard to find the drink in any store.

What happened to 7Up?
  1. PepsiCo bought the company’s international bottling rights in 1986 and gave their own drinks a little bit of an upper hand in the market.
  2. There was just too much competition from every side, and the brand couldn’t keep up.
  3. The demand for the drink was getting lesser with each passing day.

You could argue that no 3 was the chief reason why nos 1 and 2 happened. One might also be tempted to conclude that people just don’t like lemon-lime soda drinks, but as at the time of writing this, the second generation Limca (owned by Coca-Cola) is still selling out there. That leads to a very undeniable conclusion – 7Up got their branding wrong.

Let’s throw it way back to the very beginning.

The original formula contained Lithium Citrate, which was known to be a mood stabilizer, and gave the drink it’s “feel good” attribute even without caffeine. In fact, at their peak, the company marketed itself as the UNCOLA brand, pitting itself favourably against the rest of the market. (It was the only soda drink at the time that didn’t have caffeine. Then, teenagers considered the drink uncool, so the uncola brand was an excellent move.) One would think they would probably exploit it until the very end or at least until they can’t, but they constantly changed advertising themes/campaigns.

When their market share started dropping, they bought the rights to Fido Dido, the mascot. The mascot portrayed a message that roughly translates to “you are cool the way you are” and this resonated well with 7Up’s branding as at the time. The mascot was accepted generally amongst teenagers, and the brand’s market share soared again in the 1990s. “The Difference is Clear” campaign which Cool Spot (the brand’s official (and current) mascot in the US) and Fido Dido helped to sell was birthed around this time too.

Granted that they had really cool ads (their edgy wordplay is still unrivaled), 7Up couldn’t decide on what they wanted. First, they kept changing formula, and drinkers couldn’t exactly keep up with the changing taste.

Then, unlike the other brands, one can’t simply say, this is 7Up’s brand message – no one is 100% sure of who the brand is (their use of two mascots seems to say the same thing too). They also couldn’t decide on who the drink was for. They were so desperate to sell to teenagers and youngsters that they ended up ignoring the older folks that stayed true to them for most of the time.

Can 7Up come back up again?

Honestly, I’m not sure of that. But if they have a chance of coming back up, that would be with a new form of the renowned UNCOLA brand. They need to also decide on who they are and who they are selling to too.

[Part 1 of 2]

What do you think? Did you enjoy 7Up back in the days? Do you still think they have a chance?

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