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Jul 13, 2001
Case Study

SoBe Beverages Wins Rabid Fans' Hearts By Canning Its Stagnant Old Site

SUMMARY: SoBe's Beverages Web site was pretty cool when it launched back in 1997. But by 2001, it looked like stale, old-fashioned brochure-ware. Learn how Director of Advertising Michael Joyce revamped the site with an ongoing schedule so it would never go stale again, and how he integrated the new site into all of his offline advertising campaigns. Plus, read some of the comments SoBe's customers are posting online (Yes, somebody actually posted "DEATH TO SNAPPLE!").

As SoBe's Director of Advertising Michael Joyce describes it, "We're more of a lifestyle than just a beverage."

SoBe makes herbally "enhanced" juices and teas. Rather than naming them after flavors, the company gives each product a benefit-derived name, such as "Wisdom", "Energy", "Power" and the new chocolate "Love Bus Brew." Each bottle is also branded with the SoBe Lizard King icon. And an insider joke from the Lizard King can be found under each bottle cap.

Early on SoBe realized its own customers -- who are often rabid fans of the drinks -- could be its best form of advertising. Joyce says, "We're all about evangelizing customers." The company started a toll-free "Lizard Line" at 800.588.0548, so customers can call in and share their thoughts about the products.

The line, answered by a fun recorded message from the Lizard King himself, is astonishingly successful. Joyce says, "We get thousands and thousands of calls. We get calls from people at 3am after being out all night, going on and on about the experience and attributing it to SoBe Energy."

Joyce uses the recorded call logs to learn more about his customers, plus he picks up the best testimonials and uses them as live quotes in his print and radio ads.

The success of the phone line made him more and more eager to push on to the Web. Joyce says, "With the Web you can interactively talk to millions and millions of consumers and keep a consistent message at the same time. We want to be as interactive as possible."

Only problem, SoBe's Web site was pretty cool when it launched back in 1997. But by 2001, it looked like stale, old-fashioned brochure-ware.


First Joyce hired Web development firm Vizy Interactive to revamp the site completely. But he was careful not to budget the project as a one-time, or even annual revamp. Joyce wanted to make the Web the center of all marketing and advertising communications going forward, and he was well aware of the dangers of having a stagnant site.

So instead, Joyce and the Vizy team came up with an ongoing plan for fresh content and general site enhancements. Rather than being a set-in-stone Web site, is now more like a monthly magazine, with completely new home page art, new feature stories, and updated events calendars every month. (Note: the navigation, of course, remains the same.) Plus the site adds to or improves its interactive elements every 60 days or so. For example wallpaper downloads were added in April and message boards were added in June.

Naturally the new site has a section, called 'The Cooler' designed to be the online counterpart of the toll free Lizard Line. Visitors can type in messages to the Lizard about their own experiences with SoBe products. Plus, they can scroll through other visitors' comments. This helps reinforce the brand message far better than any advertising could as visitors post and read each other's brand experiences!

Joyce's main focus now is to build a customer database through the site, so his monthly email newsletters will reach more and more customers. The site runs monthly sweepstakes for fun prizes such as mountain bikes, skateboards and kayaks, to get more visitors to register.

Now that he's got site to be proud of, Joyce has also tied in all offline marketing efforts to push site traffic. For example, the SoBe Bus, which tours throughout America, now hands out coded Webcards. Joyce says, "You go to the Web site to use your code to see if you win." Print and radio ads also reinforce the URL as a destination.

RESULTS's site traffic, which had been pretty stagnant for years, is currently rising at an average of 50% per month with average visitors returning three times a month. Each time Joyce sends his monthly email newsletter to opt-in registrants he gets about a 25% click-though rate from the links in it.

Plus,'s "The Cooler" section where customers can post messages for the Lizard King about their SoBe experiences, has been deluged with enthusiastic postings. Joyce notes the demographic of the online message poster is a bit younger than his average 800-line caller. Here's a brief sample of the type of messages site visitors post:

"Hey wassup I had a basketball tournament, and i needed some major energy so i bought a SoBe energy. I made 26 pnts. and we won the game. From the man"

"I began drinking Sobe about 2 years ago and I haven't stopped since! My humble space in cubeville is fraught with well-placed sobeisms.... on a flower pot-Sobe or get off the pot...amidst the M & M characters-As seen on TV.... If I have to be in the office, then SoBe it."

"I've been drinking Cranberry Grapefruit for two years and I must say that SoBe is the best stuff on earth. DEATH TO SNAPPLE!"

What's next? When doing their initial research for the new site, Joyce and Vizy Interactive learned there were "close to 400 fan sites" for SoBe online already. Joyce says, "There are tons of them. It's such untapped territory." Joyce plans to offer SoBe fan sites official e-stickers, links from his site and other types of support. He says, "They might only be 50 kids, but they're hard core kids within thousands. We're going to cultivate that passion."

Note: generally changes its home page and features around the 15th of every month. So we recommend you visit just before and just after the 15th to get an idea for the amount of content changes they make to keep the site fresh.
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