• Dusty Weis

Lead Balloon Ep. 31 - Snapple: Pitching the Best Catchphrase On Earth

With Jane Cavalier and Richard Kirshenbaum - A world-class slogan crashes and burns, and then an iconic brand burns all its bridges.

The strategy at the heart of the Snapple brand's precipitous rise... and its cataclysmic fall... is simple.

"Embrace your roots. Celebrate authenticity."


It's a lesson that's been served up again and again in the brands and marketing ecosystem. But it never seems to sink in.


So in this episode, we'll pop the top on a Snapple double feature.


First, Jane Cavalier tells us about pitching Snapple's iconic slogan, "Made From the Best Stuff on Earth," and watching it flop with the company's original owners.


And then, Richard Kirshenbaum outlines the genesis of the iconic "Snapple Lady" ad campaign, which catapulted Snapple into a multi-billion dollar brand--that is, until new owners changed course and sunk $1.4 billion in mismanaged brand value.


Together, Jane and Richard will parse lessons hard-earned in the hustle of Madison Avenue and retell a tale as old as the Golden Goose itself: "If you've got a good thing going, but you don't understand how it works, for the love of God don't tinker with it."

While you're here:


Transcript:


Dusty Weis:

There's a reason that VH1's I Love the 90s series features regular appearances by the Snapple Lady, aka Wendy Kaufman.


Wendy Kaufman:

I'm sick at the thought of going back to those receipts.


Dusty Weis:

Kaufman's portrayal of the beverage brand's blue collar receptionist was iconic.


Wendy Kaufman:

Hello from Snapple. Today's letter is from Nancy Lambert. Her dog, Shane can be asleep in the back bedroom, but if you open a Snapple, she comes running.


Dusty Weis:

And in the span of half a decade, the smalltime Long Island juice operation and its slogan...


Wendy Kaufman:

Made from the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

Became a sort of cultural touchstone.


Commercial:

New Yorkers love it. You're going to love it too. Snapple made from of the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

But what a lot of folks don't realize is that that iconic slogan almost wound up in the dust bin of history, and marketer Jane Cavalier's pitch was originally spurned by the company's owners for being two blue collar.


Jane Cavalier:

He said, "We like this. We really like this work, but that tagline's terrible."


Dusty Weis:

And then after Snapple's meteoric rise, fueled by the pre viral era success of Richard Kirshenbaum's Snapple Lady ad campaign, the brand would hemorrhage hundreds of millions of dollars in value when new owners would again try to hide from Snapple's blue collar roots.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

If you're going to purchase a brand, or if you're going to create a brand, authenticity and integrity is everything.


Dusty Weis:

I'm Dusty Weis. From Podcamp Media, this is Lead Balloon, a podcast about PR marketing and branding disasters and the well-meaning communications professionals who lived them.


Dusty Weis:

Thanks for tuning in. Please make sure you're following or subscribing to this podcast on your favorite app and check out Podcamp Media on every social platform that exists. Just all of them. Find us, follow us. We're out there.


Dusty Weis:

Snapple's early nineties advertising was on point. I was seven or eight at the time that these ads were airing, and it's actually some of the first advertising that I remember really resonating with me. I don't know what that says about me, but it was big. It was fun. It was authentic. It was not pretentious. And it wasn't afraid to laugh at itself. That's why it succeeded, and ultimately the turn away from that approach contributed to Snapple's epic downfall.


Dusty Weis:

And so today we're talking to two brand strategists who had hands shaping that success. And the first of these is Jane Cavalier who joins us now. Jane is the founder and CEO of BrightMark Consulting in Westport, Connecticut. She's a former Madison Avenue marketer who previously drove strategic planning as an executive vice president at McCann Erickson, one of the world's largest advertising agencies. And these days, on top of her work at BrightMark, she's also the author of The Enchanted Brand, Strengthening the Human Side of Business in the Age of New Essentialism. So, Jane Cavalier, thank you for joining us on the Lead Balloon Podcast.


Jane Cavalier:

Oh, thanks. Dusty. I'm so happy to be here.


Dusty Weis:

So, Jane, can you tell me briefly about your background? You have had a very rich and storied career in the field of advertising. What path has that career taken and what are some of the brands that you've had a hand in shaping?


Jane Cavalier:

Well, it's interesting, Dusty, I think I probably started at the end of the Madmen era on Madison Avenue. I started at a, at that time was a great creative agency called Doyle Dane Bernbach, which really had transformed Madison Avenue by pairing the copywriter with the art director and creating that team for the first time. So I worked in large agencies and then I went with two partners from a place called Chiat/Day. We formed a creative boutique, which in its first year, won more creative awards in advertising than any other agency in its history. And then I returned back to a large agency, as you mentioned, at McCann Erickson, where I was EVP of Strategic Planning. And I fell in love with branding and brand strategy there. And I opened up the first brand strategy boutique for McCann, and then left with ExxonMobil as a founding partner client worldwide and had my own brand consulting company with ex-chairman of McCann, Peter Kim. It was called Brightsun. And then from there, I moved into my own brand consulting company called BrightMark. I've been doing that for the last 20 years.


Dusty Weis:

One of the things that I love about talking to Jane for this episode is that she brings a perspective of having worked with all of these huge brands in both the big agency world and the boutique agency world. But of course, the brand that we're discussing today is Snapple. The company was founded 50 years ago on Long Island by a trio of blue collar fellows who's approached to juice making was as unsophisticated as their approach to marketing. And I'm not talking down here. I'm just saying that the brand was originally launched under the moniker, Unadulterated Food Products, which not only violates the "Yummy Buffet Axiom," which we discussed in the last episode of the show, but it doesn't exactly make me want to run out and crack open a bottle.


Jane Cavalier:

And the three owners, Lenny, Hymie and Arnie. Lenny and Hymie were brother-in-laws. Arnie is the one who owned the natural health food store. The other two were in the window washing business. So I would say that like a lot of entrepreneurs, they intuitively think they know branding or they know marketing. And then, as they get into it's not as easy as they thought. By the way, even when I was working with them, that official name of the company, the name on the check that my agency received was The Unadulterated Beverage Company. But they did know enough not to call the product that. They called the product Snapple.


Dusty Weis:

How did that name come about?


Jane Cavalier:

Honestly, it's so funny because they were just sitting around and Arnie said, "You know, it's like snappy, snappy." I think that's literally how they did it. They were snapping their fingers. They thought it was a cute name. And they said, "Let's call a Snapple. We never heard of that before."


Dusty Weis:

And these were colorful fellas too, but it's interesting to me because health food is almost a $1 trillion industry in today's world, and that's driven largely by marketing and consumer demand. But back in the eighties, that wasn't necessarily the case.


Jane Cavalier:

It was getting its roots in the eighties. I think the early adopters were getting into it, but the problem was that the products weren't there. People wanted them, but if something was healthy, it tasted terrible. They were diametrically opposed. So the minute you heard that this was a healthy food, you expected the taste to pretty much be unacceptable. So there was a dichotomy that was settling in and at least in people's minds between taste and healthy. That you don't have today because healthy foods actually do what we said Snapple did, was they actually taste better.


Dusty Weis:

So up to the point where you got involved with the company, what had the management of Snapple done to market itself and grow the business?


Jane Cavalier:

Well, what's really interesting is, they focused on the natural juice products, 100% juices, and they were small, like six ounce. And juice is not even today really considered a mainstream beverage. It's not like we go and crack open some apple juice when we're getting together socially, or pineapple juice. But because the juices were the healthiest products, they were focusing on the healthiest product. They were trying to get that mainstream. And they were doing a lot of tactical things just by... A lot of entrepreneurs make this mistake, pounding their chest, saying, "We're great." They actually took a big beverage truck and they parked it in front of the Coca-Cola headquarters and it said, Snapple, The Realer Thing.


Jane Cavalier:

And they were very disappointed that didn't get some giant amount of press and sort of put them on the map. So by the time I met them, they really had been at it for about 10 years and struggling with they felt they had the right product. They felt they were in the right places and they had the right packaging and pricing, and they'd been trying lots of marketing tactics, but it still was not a mainstream beverage.


Dusty Weis:

So your involvement with the Snapple brand started right around 1990, 1991, right after you and two partners founded the boutique agency Buckley DeCerchio and Cavalier. How did that conversation begin with the Snapple company?


Jane Cavalier:

Let me to tell you, the first thing is that we reached out to them. They weren't looking for us. We were looking for them. We reached out to them, and I kid you not, I wrote them a three-page letter telling them how interested we were in their company and how very much we would like to work with them. And they got back to us and said, "We never heard anyone get so excited about our business, more excited than we are about our business. Why don't you come in and talk to us?" That's actually how we got the meeting. And then when we got to the meeting, the letter, which was a paper letter, because back then, what we liked to do as an agency is we liked to send out things, tactile things that people could hold onto. The letter was there. And I loved it because it had hamburger grease stains on the letter. Clearly, they were eating with the letter and they had it there.


Jane Cavalier:

And so what they were looking for, I think, and willing to take a meeting with us was, was it possible that these people could have a solution to getting us mainstream that we haven't explored? Oh, by the way, we hardly have any money. Relative to a Coke and a Pepsi, they had a total media budget of a million dollars, which was fractional.


Dusty Weis:

They were again, mostly a local company, as I understand it. To this point, they had distribution throughout the New York area, but they hadn't really taken off as a regional or a national thing yet.


Jane Cavalier:

They hadn't, no. And it was interesting, their distribution strategy, which also was very novel, I think, was a focus on single serve, 100% glass. That's not easy in beverage. Nobody wanted glass, but people told them and they had the wide mouth bottle, which is an innovation in packaging. These are all ideas as entrepreneurs and how entrepreneurs are. This is who we are, this is the way we want to do it. And they had many places that wouldn't accept them because the product was in glass. And Lenny, who was in charge of the product taste said, "The purest taste comes with glass. We have to stay with glass. We don't care."


Dusty Weis:

Lenny, Hymie and Arnie were ahead of their time in a lot of these tactics. The choice of glass over plastic, the wide mouth bottles, but like a lot of small business owners, they had fixated on one facet of the operation, the all natural health first fruit juices to the detriment of their grasp on the bigger picture. And during the discovery phase of Jane's work for Snapple, they uncovered some revelations in a meeting at Snapple HQ that would change the course of the company forever.


Jane Cavalier:

They had all their juice products out, we're tasting the juice products to see which ones we like. We're looking at the packaging. And I kid you not in the corner stacked with a case of a different product. And we're like, "Well, what's that?" They said, "Lenny made some of these iced teas. We think they taste pretty good, but nobody drinks iced tea. No one's going to want iced tea." And we said, "Well, can we try one of those? Which one does Lenny like the best?" And they said, "Well, Lenny likes the peach." We said, "Okay, well bring out the peach iced tea." So we pull it up. And it's also bigger, much bigger than the juices. The juices are six ounce. So it's bigger. We sip it and we go, "Oh my God, this is the best tasting beverage we've ever had."


Dusty Weis:

I'll be honest, I had a pretty serious Snapple lemon iced tea addiction from about your 2000 to 2005 or so right in there before I finally kicked it. So I empathize with that.


Jane Cavalier:

That was a big moment for us, because we knew that what we needed to do was just get people to try the product one time and it would sell itself. So every time you're working on a brand or marketing, there's all different things that we know we had to. But we knew all we had to do was drive people to take one sip. And that would be it. Challenge number one is we had had to get Lenny, Hymie and Arnie to agree to put the juices aside and to focus on the iced tea.


Jane Cavalier:

Why was that a problem? The only iced teas in the market were terrible, Lipton and Nestea products and cans, and nobody was buying them and the taste was awful. So they were very skeptical. In their minds, like a lot of entrepreneurs, were all about the juices. This is the healthiest product. And we're like, "Juices aren't really going to catch on. They're not as thirst quenching. There's much more product in this. And this is by far a revolutionary tasting beverage." So the first thing is they were willing to give us the leap of faith to focus on the iced teas.


Jane Cavalier:

I'll tell you another really interesting thing. When they had the original label for the peach iced tea, it was like typical Snapple guys, Boston Tea Party, 1776 kind of boat on there. And literally the word Bettmann Archive, the stock photo company's name was on the label because they thought it was a good deal that they were getting that image for free.


Dusty Weis:

Oh my gosh. All right. All right. So they've got the product, now you've convinced them to move forward with these teas. But now, the ask is still one of going mainstream, getting people's attention.


Jane Cavalier:

We have to get Coke and Pepsi to blink. And what's the first thing we know. There's two things we know. One, it's all about taste. Beverage is all about taste. One of the problems that they were making, they were putting way too much focus on natural, natural, natural, not realizing that in those days when you said natural, it means, oh, this doesn't taste good.


Dusty Weis:

It was a black mark. Yeah.


Jane Cavalier:

Yeah. So basically underselling themselves by focusing too much on that. So job number one is, and they got it right away, that they had to focus on taste and they did believe they had taste superiority with the peach iced tea. And so we thought, "Okay, we're going to focus on taste, but we're not going to throw away natural. We're going to use it as a reason why this tastes great. And so we want to go out with a strategy of taste superiority." Now, again, this is not like Procter and Gamble, superior taste.


Jane Cavalier:

That's not the way beverages work, but we knew that we wanted to get people to believe that this might be an amazing tasting product and the reason why was because it was made with all natural ingredients. Second part of it was, our commitment then with the brand to use wit and humor, because we knew that we had to get people to smile. Coke and Pepsi had these people locked up, never would change. And people had patterns where I get my sandwich and I get my Coke. I get my sandwich and my Coke. And it's like, "How are we going to break that pattern?" So a commitment to using humor, which lets people let down their guards, smile and go, "Oh, maybe I'll give that a try."


Dusty Weis:

So armed with their new knowledge of Snapple's product line and a better appreciation of her client's blue collar sense of humor, Jane and her colleagues set to work, trying to craft a catchphrase for the brand. But Jane says she doesn't really remember any of the other options they considered, because once they spitballed this iconic slogan...


Wendy:

Made from the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

They knew they had a timeless classic.


Jane Cavalier:

It was just like, "That's a good line. That's a really good line. Let's bring that to them." So we just didn't bring the line by itself. We brought campaigns, we saw it TV essential, particularly in beverage. It means you're real. So that was also, they've never done television before. We had to convince them, we'll find an affordable way to do it, super funny commercials, they're laughing. And then they saw the line, made from the best stuff on earth, and they kind of looked at it and they said, "You know, We like this. We really like this work, but that tagline's terrible."


Jane Cavalier:

I was like, "What do you mean? It works. Made from the best stuff on earth, it suggests really great taste because it's made from the greatest things without having to say great taste. It lets people come to the decision in their own mind." "No, stuff. Lenny who says stuff in their tagline? Nobody says the word stuff in their tagline. You think we're stupid? You think we're going to use the word stuff. We're not going to use stuff." We hadn't thought about them being offended by using the word stuff.


Dusty Weis:

Obviously you never fall in love with a pitch as a marketer but still it has to be disheartening in that moment.


Jane Cavalier:

And Remember the decibel level was like yelling, like very high. Listen, we were very confident in the work. We knew it was a great line. All of us had been in advertising a long time and you have good lines, you have okay, but we knew this was a great line. And so it was disheartening. But these guys were also the kind of guys like, "How many times did you say the word Snapple? I only counted three. Can you add five?" They were all over in terms of us having to deal and help them understand the creative decisions that were being made. So we didn't say much. We just listened. We didn't fight. We didn't argue. We just said, "Okay, we're hearing what you're saying." "Can you come up with some other lines?" And we said, "We don't know, we think this one's pretty good, but... " And so we just let it sit for a little while.


Jane Cavalier:

And we, over time, had conversations with them. We didn't try to make some big push and point to other tag lines. We felt that they would get comfortable with it over time. And they did. It took three months. So what does that tell you? Sometimes you have to have patience. And we went ahead. We were still working on the TV campaign. We were working on the outdoor campaigns, we wanted to make the product the star. It was the teas. Focused in the New York market. New York is a great media city. And our strategy was local TV, the bigness of TV. We had a couple of commercials. Buses and kiosks because the outdoor really gets New Yorkers talking. So we're getting our Snapple into the culture, right? We're getting into the culture with the outdoor. We're getting into the culture with television. We're getting the radio DJ.


Howard Stern:

Hey, it's time to talk about Snapple. Let me tell you something. I love Snapple more than anything, ladies. I really do.


Bikini Model:

Anything?


Howard Stern:

Even more than... Yes, anything.


Jane Cavalier:

And they loved Howard Stern. They were using Stern. He wasn't really pumped about the juices. So now we had the iced teas. He and Robin loved the iced teas. And we made sure that we were on three days a week, not one day week, because when you're on three days a week, it sounds like you're on five days a week, but you're really on three.


Howard Stern:

Snapple also makes all natural juices, drinks, real brewed iced teas, seltzers and Snap Up, the first all natural sports drink.


Jane Cavalier:

So those media tactics were great. So as we're going on and getting the work done, they started to warm up to the line. We didn't hardsell it. We just spoke to them. We kept it in. We didn't come back with alternative lines. We said we didn't think we had any that would work. [inaudible 00:17:58] said, "We're still thinking about it." And then we knew. And then over time, it was like three months, they came back and they said, "You know, you're right. We love this line. And stuff is a great word because it's the real world. That's the way people talk. That's the way we talk. Snapple is a real product. Right?"


Dusty Weis:

They saw the wisdom in it. And it's funny because to me at harkens back. I spent some time working at Milwaukee City Hall in a public relations role and I was representing 15 different members of the Milwaukee city council. And I could always tell who was going to give me pushback, because it's always been my practice that you want to talk like people talk. Whether you're doing a news release, whether you're doing a podcast or a radio broadcast or something like that, you want to talk like people talk. And I would always get the most pushback from the people who were most insecure about their own level of sophistication. And so we talked before about how this was sort of an unsophisticated group here, obviously good at their jobs, but not Madison Avenue. Do you think that was part of the pushback that they had against this, was this sort of insecurity in, "Oh, we don't want to be seen as rubes."


Jane Cavalier:

Yeah, I think you're spot on with that. Even though these were very, very humble and self effacing guys, literally, they would always start a meeting with, "We don't know nothing about the beverage business." Those were the words. We don't know nothing. Okay. And they loved to put that out there because they liked people to think that they really didn't know anything, when they actually knew quite a bit. But I do think that they were worried that their window washer roots and that they weren't as sophisticated as the companies that they were going up against, maybe they thought this was just a reflection on that.


Dusty Weis:

So, with the new slogan firmly affixed to every ad and every glass bottle of Snapple, Jane and her partners continued the New York centric ad blitz. It's started testing the waters in the national market.


Jane Cavalier:

And the product sales immediately started going up and it started catching on because people what? They were drinking the iced tea and exactly what I told you, "Oh my God, I love this. Joe, you have to buy this." So literally, sales were going like crazy. Just unbelievable. It's what everybody dreams about as an entrepreneur and then Stern was also drinking it on the show going, "This is the best tasting thing I ever had. Why? Because it's made from the best stuff on earth."


Howard Stern:

Made from the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

That's got to feel good as a marketer, hearing your line come out of the mouth of somebody like Howard Stern.


Jane Cavalier:

It feels really good. Sometimes when I see my partners, we talk about, "Oh my God, the line is still around." It's one of the longest lasting taglines ever. Imagine if we'd gotten a penny for every time that line had been used.


Dusty Weis:

Right. Right. No, more than 30 years, that slogan has been going strong. And this might squeak you out a little bit when I say it out loud, but Jane I've grown up, I'm a 37-year-old man, I've never known a world in which Snapple was not made from the best stuff on earth. That tagline has been around as long as I have memories. So why do you think that slogan has just resonated and stuck so long?


Jane Cavalier:

It's sort of like even like a piece of poetry too, right? I think there's a lot of parts to it. I think there's a cadence to the way the words roll. I think best stuff on earth is a cool notion. Just the word earth, it sounds better than saying it's the best in the world. That's kind of cliche and flat. So I think there's some magic literally in the words. And I like the made, it's a very proactive and it's not braggy or boastful, but it has a lot of positive swagger to it, if you will.


Dusty Weis:

But, like her agency, Buckley DeCerchio and Cavalier, Jane's time with the Snapple brand was sun setting, paving the way for a new creative force in Snapple's brand history.


Jane Cavalier:

I ended up winding down because we ended up closed the agency partially because my two partners wrote a screenplay and went to Hollywood, and we decided we didn't want to try to do the agency while pursuing Hollywood dreams. So that's why we passed it on then to Kirshenbaum and Bond, but we wanted to pass it on to one of our brethren who we thought would continue in the vein with the witty humorous ads and keeping the brand alive and the line. And Kirshenbaum took that over and then introduced the Wendy Kaufman campaign.


Dusty Weis:

And so coming up after the break, Richard Kirshenbaum, Jane Cavalier's creative brethren himself, joins us to discuss the rise and fall of the Snapple Lady campaign he orchestrated and the corporate mismanagement that would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in deflated brand value for Snapple.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

He started at one point, I think calling the brand Crapple. And that was really when it went from, this is a brand I love to, this is a brand I don't like anymore.


Dusty Weis:

That's coming up in a minute here on Lead Balloon.


Dusty Weis:

This is Lead Balloon and I'm Dusty Weis. It was the early nineties and the Snapple brand was on the rise. Coke and Pepsi's stranglehold had finally slipped. Snapple bottles were flying out of deli coolers, and Howard Stern was feeding Snapple to monkeys while comedian Sam Kinison and exercise guru, Richard Simmons cackled in the corner.


Howard Stern:

Snapple. No way. The monkey loves it.


Robin:

What an endorsement!


Dusty Weis:

It was going to be that clip or the one where Stern drinks Snapple out of a bikini model's belly button. But whether it was wise marketing by today's standards is irrelevant because 30 years ago, Howard Stern had tremendous influence and Snapple was going gangbusters, thanks in no small part to its new slogan, Made From the Best Stuff on Earth.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

The tagline is memorable. It's snappy, it's imbued with a great message. And I think that it was able to deliver on a promise.


Dusty Weis:

Richard Kirshenbaum was the co-founder of Kirshenbaum and Bond, the agency that landed Snapple's advertising account after Jane Cavalier and her partners shuttered their operation. Founded in 1987, Kirshenbaum and Bond would grow to become the largest independent advertising agency in the US when Richard sold it years later. Serving clients, including BMW, Hennessy and Coach. These days, Richard is the CEO and Founder of SWAT by Kirshenbaum and SWAT Equity. He's lectured at the Harvard Business School, was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in the year 2000, he's written a handful of books and was voted one of the 25 most stylish New Yorkers by US Weekly. That's a heck of a resume right there. But Richard says, when his agency signed Snapple as a client, the brand was already primed with that memorable slogan and all it needed now was a memorable spokesperson.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Our agency has always been noted for either coming up with great lines or actually even bringing them back. When we were handling BMW, we actually brought back for some marketing, The Ultimate Driving Machine, at the time. There are times where you just have to respect the integrity of what a brand has done and that there are some iconic aspects to branding. And I think what was even more interesting is that Wendy, the Snapple Lady even became more iconic than anything and still maintains a great level of memorability years after the campaign has run.


Dusty Weis:

So when your engagement with the brand began, what, in your opinion, did the brand need from an ad campaign to grow and mature as a brand? And what was your team's process for approaching the problem there? And then certainly the discovery of Wendy Kaufman, the Snapple Lady that became a part of that process as well. But how did your involvement with the brand begin and where did you take it?


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Well, I think, at the time, our agency was one of the first planning agencies in the US. And planning is really about strategy, so we always look to find a unique strategy for the brand. And you used the word discovery. That's what we did. So there's a discovery. We went out to the facility in Valley Stream to look at where the brand was made. We got to know the founders. We started to do consumer research. We did some competitive research, obviously.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

But as we started to really understand more about the brand, we started to discover some really unusual things and that were that consumers were really passionate about the brand, that they were very protective of the brand. And so one day, members of our team were out in Valley Stream and they came across a box of letters. And when we started to read the consumer letters, we were really shocked by how passionate they were. There were people that tattooed Snapple onto their body, named their son's middle name Snapple. Stuff that we hadn't seen before. But what was really interesting was that the person who was answering those letters was Wendy Kaufman, who is still in my opinion, one of the funniest, warmest people. I know. I adore her.


Wendy Kaufman:

Hi from Snapple. Today, I got a letter from a young guy who writes, "I love your all natural beverages. Do you allow people to tour your plant?" Okay.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

And she was working there in consumer relations in the office.


Dusty Weis:

The apocryphal story goes that Wendy Kaufman took a paper pushing job at Snapple's Long Island headquarters after she was fired from her job as a truck dispatcher. In her appearance on Oprah Winfrey's TV network, she says she quickly found ways to take initiative.


Wendy Kaufman:

I went to Snapple. I was not there for a very long time when I realized that people were writing these extraordinary love letters to Snapple. And I took all the letters that nobody else wanted to handle and really started to handle the public relations.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

And when we started to really formulate the campaign and come up with the strategy, the strategy ended up being a hundred percent natural advertising. It was one of the first campaigns that were really about authenticity.


Wendy Kaufman:

Snapple wanted to really make it into a national brand. So what happened was, my boss told the ad agency, "This girl is crazy. You just got to watch what she's doing with these letters."


Richard Kirshenbaum:

In fact, I remember having the discussion when I pitched the idea of Wendy to the founders. I think they were somewhat perplexed as to why we would want to use Wendy. They thought we were thinking of someone like Pamela Anderson. They were sort of steeped in the traditional idea of beauty and healthfulness, and Wendy who herself has always joked about being somewhat heavy set, although she looks great now.


Wendy Kaufman:

And it was definitely controversial. There were fights in the main office. "How are you going to take the fat girl from the order department and put her on national TV?"


Richard Kirshenbaum:

It was just an unusual choice. And I remember saying that she's the real person. And so at the time, and this was what was great about the founders, I remember the conversation I had with Arnie Greenberg and he said to me, "You know what, Richard, we hired you guys because we think you guys are the best. And we wanted someone to take risks." And he said, "If you really believe in this..." He said, "We are not as comfortable as you are, but we'll let you do it. But if it doesn't work, obviously, you'll get fired." So I said, "Of course, that's the way it should work."


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Those are the kind of decisions that I thought were really important for the brand and that we made and that really stood out. And I think consumers really hadn't seen anything like that. And they certainly hadn't seen anyone look or talk or act like Wendy.


Dusty Weis:

So in that vein of all natural advertising, Richard's team conceived of an ad campaign that put Wendy Kaufman front and center as the Snapple Lady, If you're about 35 or older, you will undoubtedly remember these delightfully quirky, low fi spots. In each, Wendy opens by reading a real letter, painstakingly curated by the team at Kishenbaum and Bond, of course, from the Snapple mail bag.


Wendy Kaufman:

Hello from Snapple. Today's letter is from Nancy Lambert. Her dog, Shane, can be asleep in the back bedroom, but if you open a Snapple, she comes running. This I got to see.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

So the crew, we all went out there to wherever she lives in the Midwest. And she sat there and we were filming and it was documentary style. We actually hired a documentarian to shoot the campaign.


Commercial:

Shany, would you like some Snapple?


Richard Kirshenbaum:

She opened the thing.


Commercial:

Shane, look at the Snapple. You decided you want to sleep while everybody's watching you.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Shane didn't come running. Shane just sat there.


Commercial:

Pink lemonade.


Wendy Kaufman:

Made from the best stuff on earth.


Commercial:

Forget it.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

We had gone all this way to see Shane come running when they opened a Snapple cap. And Shane was, as we like to say in New York, laying there like a lox. But we loved the humor in it and we ran the commercial with Shane not running.


Dusty Weis:

See, and that's what I think is brilliant about it because, when someone is appointed as the director of a commercial like that, they're sent out into the field on assignment like that, and they're told, bring us back video of this dog that comes running when you pop the cap. And a lot of directors, a lot of creatives put in that position will essentially try to over-direct the spot. You gave your people the creative freedom to come back with something that was completely not what you expected and you ran with it. And I think that that sort of authenticity resonated with people.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Well, it certainly did. And I think that's where executive creative direction really comes into play. I think that we were always, we wanted to be authentic and truthful to the brand. We wanted to be a hundred percent natural. So if the person answering the letters was Wendy, then she was the one reading the letters on TV and setting up the commercial.


Wendy Kaufman:

Snapple made from the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

And as dozens of Snapple ads poured out over the airwaves, America's love affair with the Snapple Lady really started to heat up. From 1992 to 1994, as the spots aired, Snapple sales jumped by about 300%. The company was moving $500 million worth of product annually. And for company founders, Lenny, Hymie and Arnie, Wendy Kaufman's iconic chuckle was music to their ears.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

What was amazing was, it was sort of one big happy family, and Wendy was part of the family, and we were part of the family. And it was a really wonderful time in the agency's life and the brand we were growing. And we had this huge success on our hands, and it was wonderful.


Dusty Weis:

But Richard says that doesn't mean they relaxed in their attentive defense of the brand that they had built.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

When they looked at the work, I remember one scene and they were sitting there and they were going like this, and they took their fingers and they went, "Snapple, Snapple, Snapple, Snapple." I said, "What are you doing?" And then I realized that they were counting the numbers of Snapples in the commercial. If it was five, they would approve the campaign, the commercial.


Dusty Weis:

Anything less, not good enough.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Because they understood that it was about branding. They were smart enough to understand.


Dusty Weis:

Still, Richard says the success of the Snapple Lady campaign earned them the founder's trust to branch out and pioneer other unconventional approaches to marketing.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

We definitely did take risks. And at the time, we did things that other agencies wouldn't have done and other brands wouldn't have done. We threw one of the first great Snapple reunion events in Long Island, where we had a huge event for Snapple loyalists to come and participate and meet Wendy. And we had an actual room set up of all artwork made from people with their Snapple bottles and caps. And people flew in from all over the country, even internationally to be part of the Snapple community. It was an incredible time. And again, you have to understand this was pre-social, and the campaign really functioned as a social campaign in many ways. And the idea that people were really involved with the brand.


Dusty Weis:

Right. And you talk about it as a joyful experience and you talk about having a conversation with Arnie in which he said, "All right, we're going to need results, otherwise you're fired." Which again, is standard operating procedure in the business, but from about 1992 to 1994, Snapple saw a 300% growth in sales. How did you and the clients feel about those pretty impressive numbers?


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Well, it was a joyful time for them. It was a joyful time for us. We were growing, we were adding to our team, we kept growing the agency and the work was really lauded as one of the most breakthrough campaigns of the nineties. And so we really rode that wave. And what was really nice about all the founders was that they're very warm, everyone. They really did look at it like family. And so I think the more we did, the more the success was, the more they trusted us.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

It was almost in a certain sense like a writer's room for a TV show. We'd sit around, we had great writers on the business and writers of my dear friend, Risa Mickenberg, who I have to say is one of the most talented writers I know. And we'd sit around and we'd all just come up with new ideas for the brand. And I remember they were launching a new flavor, Mango Madness. So instead of a commercial, we came back with the idea of, it was one of the first gorilla marketing ideas, we decided to sticker thousands and thousands of mangoes. You know how Chiquita banana has little stickers?


Dusty Weis:

Right. Right.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

And we did that on mangoes and it said, "Now available in Snapple." And so we brought that. And then it was our job to figure out how to do we sticker mangoes and how do we get it into the field? All of the meetings were, isn't that great and isn't that wonderful, and sure, will do it. And success breed success. So it was a really fun time for us. There were so many things we did, putting little Snapple messages under the Snapple cap. We always tried to get back to organic branding and a level of authenticity and have a certain level of fun and inclusivity. And that was what we did.


Dusty Weis:

It almost, it harkens back to me. And, and you mentioned that it felt like a writer's room. To me, it sounds almost like an improv troupe where the imperative is always yes and. You never say no. If an idea comes up, you threw out a yes and and just continue to play with it. And it does, it sounds playful. It sounds joyful. And, and sounds like a writer's room that I would want to be a part of as a creative person.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

Well, thank you. That really was like that. You nailed it. And I think what's interesting though, I've had these wonderful experiences with clients over the years where you start to work on a brand like Target as an example, with the first fashion housewares campaign that we created. All of a sudden, you do something really unusual, and success breeds success, and then the clients trust you more and they say, "Sure, sure, sure. You want to do something different? That's great." And so I'd say, we always try to do something that is different, but at the same time, I always felt that it should be heavily branded. Do you know what I'm saying? Because we didn't have Coke and Pepsi's budgets. And so we had to break through even more.


Dusty Weis:

With the revenue piling up, it was inevitable that Snapple would become a big business. Kirshenbaum and Bond's work on behalf the brand kept get rooted in its small business heritage to the delight of its fans. But that kind of success draws all sorts of big business attention. In this case, not sporting a suit and tie, but an old time-y ascot and a wide-brimmed Quakers hat.


Commercial:

With a nourishing hot breakfast of Quaker Oats with that wonderful oatmeal protein.


Dusty Weis:

Quaker Oats, which had also absorbed the Gatorade brand, snapped up Snapple for a cool 1.7 B billion dollars and in the process became the third largest non-alcoholic beverage producer in the world. Founders, Lenny, Hymie and Arnie got to ride off into the sunset as millionaires. And Richard Kirshenbaum says it was apparent from day one that the company's blue collar roots rode off with them.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

I just think in my experience, and this is my opinion, I just don't know if they really understood or really liked the brand that they bought, or they wanted to change it. So it's really hard when you're working on something. So Valley Stream, their Long Island operation was a place where consumers really knew that they were really from Long Island and it was a New York brand and they moved it to the headquarters there. And I remember the time I knew that they really wanted to massify the brand a little bit more was when, we always thought of Snapple as a quirky brand. It was quirky. The labels were quirky. If we changed the labels, consumers would say, "You changed." They almost viewed Snapple as my little baby Snapple. "What did you guys do to my little baby Snapple label?"


Dusty Weis:

Right. They felt ownership of it.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

They felt ownership.


Dusty Weis:

Which is something that you want as a brander for your audience to feel ownership.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

That's right. So when they started to take some of the character out of the brand, they said to us, I remember, "You're not allowed to use the word quirky anymore. Don't refer to the brand as quirky." And so, at that moment I knew that change was afoot.


Dusty Weis:

Along with that edict, there shortly followed marching orders that were even more direct. After Howard Stern made some, let's call them, patently offensive remarks following the singer Selena's death in 1995, Snapple pulled its sponsorship of the show without warning, prompting a public feud with the Shock Jock.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

The relationship with Howard Stern was terminated I think because of a lack of understanding about how Howard had really built the brand. And you have to be grateful to people in brand building who do things for you. He started at one point, I think calling the brand Crapple. And that was really when the brand, it went from, this is a brand I love to this is a brand I don't like anymore.


Dusty Weis:

Jane Cavalier notes that Quaker also retooled Snapple's retail strategy, leveraging its clout to try and strong arm Gatorade products into the cold display cases and end caps that used to belong to Snapple.


Jane Cavalier:

They looked at their Gatorade business and they wanted to sell it like Gatorade, distribute it like Gatorade, produce it like Gatorade. Started coming out in plastic. I remember when I first saw that, it was like, "Oh boy, Lenny, Hymie and Arnie are going to turn in their graves." Wide mouth bottle, the whole Snapple experience, they diluted it. And it just became... Anybody can make an iced tea. It sort of became an iced tea. It really lost the essence of the brand and of the product. And they were killing the business.


Dusty Weis:

But lastly, and I'm going to say most damningly, Quaker fired Wendy Kaufman shortly after its Snapple acquisition, declaring their intent to take the brand in a new direction.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

They spoke to me about it, which I thought was a little odd. She was too New York. It's like everything you always hear about in TV sitcoms. And so in the end, the numbers speak for themselves.


Dusty Weis:

Whether the Snapple Lady got the ax because she didn't fit some executive's idea of what a spokesperson should look like, or they worried that she was getting too big for her britches, the fact of the matter is this, Quaker bought Snapple for 1.7 billion in 1994 and yanked the reins hard. Three years later, hemorrhaging revenue and firing their own corporate chairman, Quaker sold Snapple for a paltry 300 million, a 1.4 B billion loss. That is an expensive lesson in branding identity.


Jane Cavalier:

They thought Snapple was becoming a mature beverage brand, that it was becoming a big business. And now we're going to probably... We don't want this kind of boutique-y advertising approach, creative boutique approach anymore. They wanted get more mainstream Madison Avenue, what I call blanding advertising. And they probably tested it. This is always the curse. If you want to have a really bland campaign, test it, and they'll let the testing tell you what works. I can hear it. This is where the business is today. We need to evolve the campaign to really fight Coke. And so now, they adopted the same kind of marketing tactics and strategies that Coke and Pepsi use to win, and now you're using the same ones. You're going to lose.


Dusty Weis:

Right. You're going to wander in as the lightweight and try to fight them at the game that they invented.


Jane Cavalier:

Right. Stay as the David. Don't try to be, want to be Goliath.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

I think it's a great lesson in, if you're going to purchase a brand or if you're going to create a brand, authenticity and integrity is everything. It was definitely a eye opening experience for me as a young entrepreneur to see new owners come in and treat the brand differently, which is their choice, and certainly it's their choice to do that. And I think at the time, the management thought they were probably doing the right thing. We'll make this a more mass brand, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that consumers adopt brands for a reason and they love brands for a reason. And so there are always brand cycles. You have to understand who your consumer is and the loyalty that they have to those brands. And when they start to see changes in brands, they may not like it.


Richard Kirshenbaum:

I use migration strategy a lot now in my discussion with clients, because what SWAT by Kirshenbaum does is we invent brands with clients or we reinvent brands with clients. And when you're reinventing a brand with a client, I think it's always important to have what I call a migration strategy. You don't want to stun consumers or have them think that the consumer brand that they love has been changed so much they don't recognize it anymore. And so, we try to take them along the journey and do that in an interesting way. I think Snapple is an American success story. It showed me that you can, if you, through hard work and vision and never stopping, trying, you can create a great American brand and see it become a universal beloved brand. And so it was really an honor for me to work on the brand and get to know the original founders. I thought they were amazing men and you know what? They were very generous in spirit. So, I think Snapple is the best of America, really, and made from the best stuff on earth.


Dusty Weis:

Both the Snapple brand and the slogan endure to this day. The brand has had its ups and downs, reunited and then again parted ways with Wendy Kaufman, the Snapple Lady, and changed owners a few more times. Currently, it lives under the Keurig Dr. Pepper corporate umbrella, which goes to prove that just because you can mash two brands into the same trademark, doesn't mean that you should. And while it's safe to say that the brand has come a long way from unadulterated food product, it seems unlikely that it'll ever again be as ubiquitous or as endeared to its fans, as it was during its mid-nineties blue collar heyday.


Wendy Kaufman:

We'll see about that.


Dusty Weis:

So that'll do it for this episode of Lead Balloon. Thanks to our guests, Richard Kirshenbaum and Jane Cavalier. Jane, by the way, has a new book out, The Enchanted Brand. And she'll tell us about it after the credits roll here. So stick around for that. Thanks as well to Henry Devries, whose tale of public relations and corporate infidelity riveted listeners in episode 22 of this podcast. Henry made the introduction to Jane Cavalier, who, as he assured me, did in fact, have a great story to share. This month on the Lead Balloon comms gripe line, it's Abby, a fellow podcaster from Arizona bringing the heat.


Abby Herman:

Hey there, this is Abby Herman from the Content Experiment. One of my biggest marketing pet peeves is including the letters re at the beginning of a subject line. The re makes it look like someone is replying to an email that you sent when in reality, it's the first time they are emailing you. This is a tactic that business owners use to get you to open up the email and it feels super scammy. And the first few times I saw it, I totally fell for it too. My suggestion is, just come up with an engaging subject line and you won't have to rely on questionable tactics that leave subscribers feeling duped because no one wants to get duped. And your subscribers don't want that to be an interaction with you.


Dusty Weis:

Oh my God, Abby. Yes, absolutely. Nothing makes me want to establish business relations with a salesperson like them trying to trick me into engaging with them right off the bat. Does anybody have data? Has that tactic ever worked? Because I still get those emails and I got to figure it's working somewhere if people keep trying it, right?Abby Herman, as she mentioned is the host the Content Experiment Podcast where she's regularly dropping more great insights like that. And you can drop your gripe, whatever's driving you nuts in the world of PR and marketing. Get it off your chest. Leave me a message on the Lead Balloon comms gripe line. The link is in the episode description.


Dusty Weis:

Don't forget to follow this show on your favorite podcast app. And thanks to everyone who voted for us in the Webbys contest. No, we didn't win. We'll get them next year. But it was actually an honor just to be nominated when you're a little guy like us. Lead Balloon is produced by Podcamp media, where we provide branded podcast production solutions for businesses. Our podcast studios are located in the heart of beautiful downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but we work with brands all over North America. Check out our website, podcampmedia.com. Larry Kilgour III with some dialogue editing for this episode. Until the next time folks I'm...


Wendy Kaufman:

An eligible Snapple fan from Wisconsin.


Dusty Weis:

Dusty Weis.



30 views0 comments