Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Grow your brand fast for cheap

From the late 70s into the 80s, the soft drink giants Pepsi and Cola were putting on a show with their fight for supremacy. No other fizzy drink could even dream of being as popular as Cola and Pepsi.

Except 7 Up.

7 Up has been around since the late 20s and was largely used to sweeten up alcoholic beverages or to soothe an upset stomach. Hardly anyone drank the pop for its flavour.

The people behind 7 Up wanted to change that in the 70s by shedding its reputation as ‘just a mixer’ and launched one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns of the 20th century.

At the time, the lemony soda was advertised as an all family drink similar to Cola. 

To have a chance in the spotlight, 7 Up had to do something to come out of Coca-Cola’s shadow:

The Uncola campaign.

Instead of fighting for the role as a family drink, 7 Up decided to cater to a huge group that wasn’t yet catered to.

The rebels.

Thanks to its failing role in the Vietnam war and the success of the civil rights movement, America’s counter culture was rapidly growing. 

Although 7 Up didn’t necessarily reject war and racial prejudice, the drink was quickly embraced by American alternatives because it rejected the mainstream.

Uncola was an instant hit.

The best part?

7 Up’s marketing costs in the 70s were miniscule compared to Coca-Cola’s, even though the bubbly transparent beverage was just as popular.

The reason 7 Up could spend so little on advertising was because it didn’t need to say what it was. Everyone understood 7 Up’s new identity as soon as they saw the ad, after all, it was linked to the most famous soft drink of all. 

And you can do the same.

By repositioning against the market leader, you’re doing marketing jiu jitsu to get your idea into everyone’s head.

The alternative is to build your reputation from scratch. Which works. It just takes longer and costs a lot of money.

So if you want your project or product to travel fast for cheap, attach it to something we all know. I’m the poor person’s Seth Godin, what are you?

P.S. If you’re going to position yourself next to your competitor, be sure to do it in a way that makes you a seductive alternative. Don’t be like me and trade your reputation for a few laughs.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach