The Struggle To Make Seltzer Sexier

How do you market a bland product that consumers not only take for granted, but where they see little difference between multiple brands on the market? Selling a combination of bubbles and water that’s mostly flavorless isn’t the sexiest job for a brand strategist, but someone has to do it. And for the next year, the new marketing department of Vintage Seltzer is focused on making the Vintage brand stand out on the grocery store shelf by developing a unique digital identity from scratch.

Vintage isn’t a product of the digital age by any means. Since an acquisition in 2000, it’s been owned by beverage company Cott, which was founded in the 1950s and primarily produces private-label beverages for large retailers. And Vintage’s online metrics – 1,400 Twitter followers and 1,200 Facebook likes – won’t impress anyone. Scanning through the sparse social profiles, one gets the impression Vintage has used Facebook and Twitter on a preliminary basis at best. The Twitter account launched last summer and averages about two tweets per day, mostly engagement with current fans who have tweeted at it.

The new Vintage Seltzer bottles

Bringing in new customers in the digital space will require more creative thinking. It started with a packaging overhaul last year that brought its bottles a newer, more retro-cool look and emphasized the Vintage logo more. The next step in the process is a social and content strategy.

“Being new to the digital arena, we want to create a digital personality that matches the brand in the minds of the fanbase,” said Keith Mohler, marketing manager of Vintage. Supermarket shoppers may recognize the minimalist polka-dot design on the brand’s bottles, and Vintage has begun to translate that classic aesthetic to the Internet with seltzer-themed recipes. Their Pinterest profile includes repins to cocktails like the Sumo Collins, which mixes gin with seltzer, lemon, and an orange wheel. There’s even a recipe for seltzer cupcakes.

Despite the recent strides, Vintage is fighting an uphill battle, especially in an ultra-competitive carbonated beverage market that has seen profits shrink in the last decade. New companies offer everything from acai water to odd bottle shapes like “Dasani Drops” to various creative forms of caffeination, making it even tougher for a basic brand like Vintage to stand out. Simultaneously marketing the brand’s utility as a sugarless thirst-quencher and a cocktail-mixer could help consumers take notice quickly.

Mohler also mentioned “using the space as a conduit to have a conversation sharing big news on the brand at regular intervals to keep it relevant and anticipated.” Building off of its name, Vintage has started a “Vintage Moments” history facts series on Twitter, most recently on June 6 in remembrance of D-Day.

While Mohler and Vintage hope to use their new content to fuel increased sales, they can always look to one of their main competitors, Polar Seltzer, for a digital blueprint — as well as a reminder to not simply copy their strategy. Polar has connected all of its social accounts to a comprehensive website that lets consumers explore limited-edition flavors and 25 original cocktail recipes. Users can also subscribe to a newsletter that offers seasonal recipes and exclusive discounts.

Polar has established a significant following – over 10,000 Facebook likes and nearly 600 Instagram followers – with a strong commitment to colorful visuals that help overshadow the monotony of clear bubbles. The brand is also posting more than ten pieces of content each day on Twitter, compared to one or two posts from Vintage.

Mohler says that Vintage will use the next few months to “learn which [approaches] work best for the brand and tweak accordingly for maximum impact.”

Yet, when leaping this late into the digital arena, tweaking may not be enough to avoid fizzing out, a fact Mohler and his six social media staffers are aware of as they look to spark online consumer interaction moving forward.

Image by Peter Morley
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