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PepsiCo India: A twist of lime

Sayantani Kar  |  Mumbai 

With an alternative to carbonated cola drinks in lemon-flavoured beverages, is not cutting any slack. Its non-carbonated lemon juice-based already on the shelves, the company has started sprucing up the parent brand, 7-Up, with a simpler and single-minded positioning. A new campaign and new packaging would take the brand closer to India’s small towns.

Executive Vice-president (flavours) says of the new positioning, “In 2009, we turned our focus on the ‘lemon refreshment’ that 7-Up, a lime and lemon drink, offers and that resonated with our consumers. In 2010, we are making its lemony quotient more visual through packaging and imagery.”

While the packaging has pronounced green and lemon shades to drive home the message of 7-Up’s refreshment, still images for the brand will show water splashes in the form of lemon wedges, developed painstakingly for over a month. The TV commercial, created by and slated for launch in February, depicts the “mosaic of refreshing emotions that 7-Up brings about”, according to Titus. With the lemon flavour starting a new war among beverage companies, PepsiCo plans to invest more than it did in 2009 to break the clutter for 7-Up.

But refreshment from lemon drinks is not uncharted. Competitors such as Coca-Cola’s Limca and Parle Agro’s LMN too talk about refreshment. So, why did PepsiCo let go of its familiar cartoon, Fido Dido, which conveyed the attitude of the brand and start talking about product attributes? “We had stopped using Fido a couple of years ago when consumer research told us that it was seen as childish. Now, there is a natural momentum in the lemon drink category and 7-Up’s lemon refreshment has become more relevant,” says Titus.

Unlike colas, lemon drinks have always had a large unorganised and unpackaged market in India, with high consumption of home-made concoctions. This accounts for their popularity in lower-tier towns as well. South India (followed by the east and west), apart from the metros, is the largest market for lemon-flavoured beverages. To tap the non-metro markets, 7-Up aligned with Chennai Super Kings to organise local matches of seven overs, seven balls and seven players, apart from organising a “Lemon Pattalam” gang. It has also tailored communication based on an Andhra dance form.

Lemon carbonated soft drinks have been contributing 30 per cent to overall soft-drink sales, while lemon makes up 49 per cent of the total juice-based drink market, according to estimates. 7-Up, says Titus, saw volume growth more than that of the carbonated soft drink market in 2009.

PepsiCo will now have to balance its lemon drinks so they complement and not cannibalise each other.

Titus has it figured out: “7-Up and Nimbooz are for consumption at different points in time. 7-Up is more of instant refreshment with a lemon flavour, while Nimbooz is an authentic lemon drink.”

Distribution and upping the noise around these brands may now get it a larger slice of the market. But will consumers understand the difference between Nimbooz and 7-Up? Or will pricing be the decider, with 7-Up for smaller markets and Nimbooz for metros?

First Published: Tue, February 09 2010. 00:10 IST