To connect with stressed millennials, challenger sparkling water brand bubly partnered with celebrities to create silly, playful content. Talk show segments, TV commercials, and branded GIFs featuring brand ambassadors Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Bublé helped bubly earn share of mind among consumers.
Objective and Context:
The sparkling water category experienced a 20 percent sales increase in 2017 and became an estimated $2 billion U.S. industry by 2018. With millennials seeking out a brand that felt as fun, colorful, and playful as soda, PepsiCo launched bubly. bubly is a sparkling water drink offered in a variety of natural fruit flavors with no calories or sweeteners. As a new player, bubly had zero brand awareness. It was up against market leader La Croix, so bubly needed to devise a standout challenger strategy. With its target audience of millennials in mind, bubly's objectives were to:
Successfully meeting these objectives would mean bubly earning a place in the cultural zeitgeist, effectively driving social buzz and sales for an unknown brand.
bubly identified its target as millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 who needed a break from the stressors of everyday life. bubly acknowledged that the grind of daily responsibilities, also known as "adulting," is tough and can get in the way of fun. With 58 percent of millennials stating their lives are more stressful than ever before, bubly saw an opportunity to make everyday life more playful for an audience it affectionately deemed as "Generation Play." bubly broke through to this audience by focusing on three consumption habits:
Knowing the power of celebrity and this audience's penchant for social and mobile-first content, bubly leveraged "viral" voices to embody its slightly mischievous brand personality and to get "Generation Play" to remember the brand's name.
The brand selected Neil Patrick Harris, an actor, singer, and comedian, as its first brand ambassador. Harris and bubly were featured on talk shows to build up the brand's persona. Harris was also featured on the world's largest GIF platform. Another celebrity, singer Michael Bublé, was featured in its Super Bowl commercial where bubly was positioned as a playful instigator.
Overall Campaign Execution:
To infuse moments of play into the lives and newsfeeds of the target audience, bubly developed a cross-screen strategy that relied on linear, social, and mobile platforms. The strategy connected with millennials on every platform where they consumed content.
During launch week in February 2018, bubly paired Harris with The Ellen DeGeneres Show, launching the brand during one of her most popular segments, "Ellen in Your Ear." Harris was challenged to visit Target, a key retailer, and buy some bubly. The catch was that he could only do and say whatever DeGeneres fed him through an earpiece. Harris found himself in wacky situations and the bubly brand was featured prominently. The power of The Ellen DeGeneres Show's massive following helped get bubly in front of more people than ever. In the months following, bubly and Harris were featured in funny segments on James Corden's late-night talk show.
bubly (pronounced "BUHB-lee") made its name part of the social lexicon during one of the biggest cultural moments of the year, the Super Bowl. New creative sparked an unexpected rivalry with singer Michael Bublé (pronounced "boo-BLAY"), who was convinced the brand shared his name. The idea was so engaging that other brands (like Oil of "Oláy" and Avocados From Mexico's "Guacamolé") "Bublé-ed" their own names in playful solidarity across social media. Bublé followed in Harris's footsteps and also made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which threw him into his own "Ellen in Your Ear" bit, where a surprise celebrity run-in with Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet resulted in unexpected moments.
Following millennials' consumption patterns and propensity towards mobile, the brand doubled down on mobile platforms. For example, bubly worked with GIPHY's paid mobile and digital platform to create more than 1,000 custom-branded GIFs all about "adulting." Harris and Bublé were also integrated into the GIFs to help bubly stand out and become part of the millennial lexicon.
Despite zero name recognition at launch, bubly increased brand awareness across every media touchpoint:
The brand became part of the cultural zeitgeist, driving social buzz and surpassing competitive benchmarks:
bubly nearly tripled its market share by 2019 and became a $100 million sparkling water brand in its inaugural year.