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Sometimes, things just come together for a brand. At the same time that people began really looking for alternatives to heavily sweetened, calorie-laden colas, National Beverage, which owns and markets the La Croix brand of sparkling water, hit on a social media campaign that would appeal effectively to Millennial consumers. The result has been a massive expansion of the brand’s sales, profits, and popularity.

In objective terms, though National Beverage does not separate its accounting by brands, overall sales for the company have increased from $646 million to $827 million in the past couple of years. In the same span, it profits have more than doubled, from $49 million to $107 million.

Such financial success stems largely from success in other marketing measures, such as brand awareness. La Croix in particular is virtually everywhere these days, and especially on people’s social media feeds. For its Instagram-related marketing efforts, the brand targets “micro-influencers,” which it defines as users who have thousands of followers, rather than going after famous names with millions of followers. With this approach, it creates a more organic feeling to promotional posts, in that these micro-influencers can be more convincing when they include pictures of themselves drinking La Croix at their summer picnic or during their work break.

Furthermore, it encourages consumers to tag La Croix in relation to their experiences and to post recipes for drinks containing the lightly flavored, carbonated water. These experiences often reference the health-related claims that La Croix can make, namely, that it has no calories, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Such experience-oriented marketing makes it seem as if virtually everyone is drinking La Croix, and doing so without negative effects on their health or wellness.

The attractive packaging of the cans and sophisticated names of the flavors (e.g., pamplemousse, peach-pear) further enhance the brand image, and its price point reiterates and reinforces this positioning. That is, at about $6 per 12 pack, the brand is more expensive and thus more exclusive than colas, but still affordable enough that Millennials can enjoy it as a regular luxury.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much of La Croix’s success is due to external factors, and how much is due to its marketing efforts?
  2. Can other beverage companies copy this recipe for success?

Source: Laura Entis, “Here’s Why It Feels Like You’re the Only Millennial Not Drinking La Croix,” Fortune, July 21, 2017