7UP became a major brand of soft drink in 1967 after it was marketed with the tag “the uncola” to differentiate it from Coke. Adverts used a Beatles-esque Yellow Submarine-look, to suggest that 7UP was fun, quirky, psychedelic, and in tune with the era. The campaign also suggested that the slightly wild experience was a natural one. The bright, clean colors were, notably, a striking contrast to Coke’s dark brown-black. I mean, would you want to steer a submarine through water that color? Nor would we. It’s unspoken, but the advert suggested that 7UP’s major rival was out of date and unhealthy.
The Dr Pepper Snapple Group tells us that 7UP was rebranded in 1982, emphasizing that it was caffeine-free. Like other soft drinks, it has been rebranded several times. A decade ago soft drinks seemed to be on their way out. Producers introduced “flavored water” as a (supposedly) healthy alternative. Sales were initially massive, but these bottled water products die an almost instant death when it became known that they were no healthier, calorie- or sugar-free than regular fizzy drinks (which are, when you think about it, flavored water).
Soft drinks are back in vogue, and sales are strong. Nichols Plc just announced that its sales were up 12.5 percent on the previous year, with sales also strong in the Middle East and Africa. 7UP is rebranding once again. Why now, if sales are promising? 7UP needs to compete with an increasingly wide array of soft drinks. Coke remains a challenger because it responded to the loss of sales by repackaging, and, particularly, by introducing Coke Zero (a chic looking diet Coke, with black label). 7UP has jumped on Coke’s retro-turn (it reintroduced its old “real sugar” recipe for a limited period, with a retro Coke label).
But, 7UP goes further, tapping into the retro chic that turns up in youth fashion and rap music. The tag is “undeniably retro.” The zebra skin and mirror ball-look packaging are clearly drawing on a lifestyle of music, nightclubs, dating, and fun. The rebranding targets two market segments: (1) cool, young people, and (2) older people that are nostalgic for the 1970s and 80s.
Is retro really a selling point for a soft drink? In this case, yes. 7Up gets its branding right by using one set of graphics, one look, that can appeal to a very large and very diverse target audience.