All the Bubbles! Polar Seltzer’s Rebranding

A theme I am writing about all semester is how businesses use social media to enhance their marketing strategy. I am now going to focus on how companies use social media to maximize a rebranding effort. One of the common complexities of our generation is brand loyalty. When Googling “Generation Y and Brand Loyalty” (Gen Y and Millennial are synonymous), some studies show that we are brand agnostic and completely different in our purchasing patterns than generations before us. However, more recent studies indicate we are, in fact, quite brand loyal when we are engaged in conversation with the brands we want to know about. As the article in Forbes mentioned, “understanding how Millennials engage through social media is one of the major challenges brands face.”  After taking this class, I believe as we continue to move forward with an increasingly connected world, a company’s social media strategy will make or break their future success.

In another study by Concentric Marketing, 40% of Millennial respondents said they buy brands recommended by family and friends. One brand that has been in my family for years and I want to particularly focus on is Polar Beverages. Polar Beverages is a family-owned brand that was founded in 1882 and is based in Worcester, MA. They make seltzers, mixers, soda, and have recently expanded the brand into a new line called Polar Frost. One of their original products was seltzer water, and their innovation and creativity over the past few years, in conjunction with a fun and youthful social media strategy, has catapulted them to new heights.

Polar Seltzer - Refreshingly Natural

I met with one of Polar Beverage’s brand mangers, Suev Pierri, earlier this year to learn more about the strategy behind the Polar Seltzer brand. A few years ago Polar struggled with sales to the Millennials because their brand perception indicated they felt Polar represented “my grandmother’s tonic water.” Yet with Millennials increasingly concerned about the negative health implications of soda, combined with their desire not to drink plain old water all the time, Polar recognized an opportunity. They decided to completely change their branding strategy to increase appeal to Gen Y.

One way to alter Millennial’s  brand perception was to revamp the packaging.

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Another way Polar improved their strategy was to create product extensions, particularly seasonal ones. This past summer, they offered products such as Cucumber Melon, Pomegranate Sangria, and Mint Mojito.

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For the holidays, they released flavors such as Champagne Strawberry, Fudge Cheesecake, and Toasted Coconut. All of these seltzers are sugar and calorie free. Apparently they have some mad scientist over there that creates all these delicious products, because as someone who hates anything that tastes “fake,” these are all amazing.

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The last part of Polar’s rebranding effort was to completely relaunch their website (I wish you could have seen the previous one – it was pretty basic), create a website solely dedicated to Polar Seltzer, and engage with their customers through Facebook and Twitter. Polar understands the power of replying, retweeting, and liking comments to further promote their brand.

With all their unique seltzer flavors, they reinvigorated the brand to be more youthful. They are constantly posting or promoting their customer’s posts on drink recipes (including alcoholic drinks), and many customers are just so excited by their seasonal options that they tweet their joy to Polar Seltzer.

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Since Polar Seltzer is also calorie free, sodium free, and naturally flavored (there are no fake sweeteners), they also try and promote that it’s a healthier option. Most of their featured cocktail recipes tout the lower calories by substituting juice or soda with flavored seltzer water, and they even feature nutritionists consuming their products. It’s tough to read, but the caption says “The best endorsement you can probably get is when someone serves your product to their family.”

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The most exciting aspect of Polar’s rebranding strategy is their geographical growth. For many years, Polar products were only available in New England. After living in DC for many years, Polar products were extremely difficult to find. Yet through Twitter and Facebook, people are able to continually express their desire to have Polar products sold in their local stores. As a result, Polar continues to expand down the east coast and hopes to further their growth strategy.

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Polar Beverages and Polar Seltzer is an excellent model of how to use social media to promote rebranding and build brand loyalty. They understand that success among the Millennials requires constant contact, innovative products, and a brand centered on fun and enjoying life.

Do you have any brands that you are particularly loyal to? Would you say your brand loyalty increased after following a particular brand on social media?

If you have not gone out and tried any Polar Seltzers, I know you can find them at CVS, including the holiday flavors. They’re life changing!

10 comments

  1. Hey Kathryn- I really liked this post. As someone who has never drank Seltzer water… I’m suddenly in the mood for a cucumber melon drink to quench my thirst, haha. I think Polar Seltzer’s re-branding approach is really fascinating, as they have picked a particular target market, millennials, to reach out to. As you’re focusing on companies’ re-branding efforts I thought you might enjoy this article I found called: The Sweet, Funny, Listy Ways of Getting Millennials to Love You. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/sweet-funny-listy-ways-getting-millennials-love-you-152651 The article discusses how millennials are open to all kinds of content as long as it resonates with their worldview, uplifts them, and informs them. The Vitamin Water ad in the article #makeboringbrillant is really touching, I highly recommend watching!
    Back to Polar Seltzer though, I really like their website as the homepage incorporates both Facebook and Twitter into the discussion. I particular like their approach with Facebook, with the link “What’s Your Polar Seltzer Story” tell us on Facebook, and then they provide the link directly to their Facebook page. I think this was a very strategic approach for Polar.
    To answer your questions, I would say I am loyal to particular brands and I am influenced to use these brands by the peers around me, rather than family exposure. I think a big factor for millennials is fitting in with the crowd around you, which I think companies should really take into consideration. However, I do have to say there are very few brands I actually follow on social media, so I can’t say I am at all influenced by brands’ social media attempts just quiet yet but could be persuaded in the future. However, I’m always a sucker for a free coupon, and I think companies that incorporate promotions and coupons into their social media accounts really create a connection with their followers.

  2. Hi Kathryn- as someone who LOVES seltzer water, I’m so glad you posted about this! Although I am from the North East, I never had Polar products until I came to Boston College. I grew up drinking seltzer water in my household, my mom buying it as a healthier alternative to soda.

    I had no idea that they recently did all of these rebranding strategies to revamp their brand. I helped with the outdoor marketing campaign of Sparkling Ice over the summer, and it just goes to show how much more competitive the flavored sparkling water industry has gotten over such a short time! Polar definitely did the right thing in order to maintain its position in the market place- I hope they continue to have success across the North East!

    All of their new products sound amazing- I will definitely be looking for them next time I go grocery shopping!

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    In conjunction with what Margo said above, I too, really liked Polar’s website! Although I never saw the old one, the current one seems very up to date and easy to navigate at the same time. I am someone who grew up on Klarbrunn seltzer water, as that is the leading brand in the midwest. I had never heard of Polar until coming to college at BC. At first I was a little thrown off, because I was like how can they possibly not have Klarbrunn out here?! But over the years Polar has definitely grown on me.
    I really like how you talk about their strategy of marketing to millennials. This is true of many companies in today’s day and age. For example, Coca Cola does a really great job of marketing to millennials, and I thought you might enjoy reading this article about their strategies:

    http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/marketing-to-millennials-5-ways-coca-cola-is-embracing-creativity-and-innovation

    Similar to Polar, packaging is a key component of Coca Cola’s strategy. They really know how to catch the eyes of the millennials. They also use technology and social media, as does Polar. I think it is fascinating how much these two companies have in common in terms of their marketing strategies.

    To answer your question – one brand I am very loyal to (not necessarily a food brand, but a clothing brand) is lulu lemon, and although I do not follow them on social media I do look forward to their email every Tuesday with new arrivals. It definitely is a marketing strategy that keeps millennials on their toes and anxious to purchase new products.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Polar! I think they really know what they’re doing!

    1. Klarbrunn you say? Are they in Chicago? If so, I’ll have to look for them the next time I’m there. I have occasionally sampled other brands but I am admittedly a Polar fanatic (clearly). I just checked out their website and they seem to have really appealing packaging as well.

      I follow Lululemon too, but admittedly I stopped following their posts on Instagram because the frequency started to annoy me. Brands need to find that balance between being active but not excessive.

  4. Great post Kathryn! I totally agree with you on the fact that using social media to rebrand your company can impact businesses in a tremendous way. Since Polar Seltzer created the Facebook and Twitter accounts, the company is able to interaction with its customers to determine what things they like and dislike. These channels can also allow people to learn about the company if they had not heard of the brand beforehand. I think it could be an interesting idea for Polar Seltzer to let its loyal customers choose the next special flavor drink. It could use these social platforms to create a voting system. In regards to your questions, there are definitely brands that I am loyal to. It is even to the point that I’m loyal to a specific type of a product. I would say my brand loyalty has increased by following them on social media because it allows me to see a greater selection of items on sale without going to the store. It creates a convenience aspect that shoppers look for.

    1. Great idea Stanton – one tweeter even said “if you make Black Cherry Vanilla I’ll marry you.” Now that is serious!

  5. Interesting topic. Since I am not originally from New England, I had never heard of Polar before, but I do recall seeing their logo when I go grocery shopping. Their strategy of marketing to Millennials is an interesting one, since they have been around for so long. They probably risked alienating their older fan base by changing the labels and offering unique flavors, but it seems to have paid off for them. I asked my roommate who is from New England if he has ever had Polar seltzer water and he said they were a pretty big part of his childhood. He said a lot of kids would get a small can of Polar with their lunch instead of a juice box or soda. This, and the fact that you missed it when you were in DC, made me think that there is probably a sentimental value and nostalgia attached to the product, making the risk for alienation even higher with their new plan. I agree with you, Caroline, and Margaret that changing the packaging is important to catch people’s eyes. I remember Vitamin Water, which Margaret mentioned, attributed a lot of its success to its graphic designer, whose two-color labels were noticeable from far away.

  6. As someone who grew up in Worcester, Mass., where Polar is produced, I LOVE this post. Polar seltzer has turned into a comfort food of sorts for me while I’m at school– my roommates can always tell when I’m starting to get homesick because I start carrying around the liter bottles of seltzer with me. Despite my love for all things Polar, I definitely remember a time when I too thought of Polar as “my grandmother’s tonic water.”

    My Dad used to drink plain seltzer (yuck) when I was growing up, so I was used to thinking of all Seltzer water like this. But then they started coming out with products like Black Cherry and Pomegranate, and all of the sudden everyone in Worcester was drinking seltzer again! It’s cool that this was a calculated strategy on Polar’s behalf, because looking back I completely took the evolution of the brand for granted. Thanks for finally pointing it out to me!

    Also, just a tip. The best flavor of Polar BY FAR is the blueberry one that they came out with this summer. I drove around to five different grocery stores and bought all of it in August before they switched over to the winter flavors. Although, I have to admit champagne strawberry is insanely good too (:

    1. I’ve never tried Blueberry – I will definitely look for it though! Also, I may or may not sometimes carry the 2 liter bottles around for personal consumption….they don’t offer the same wide variety of flavors though.

  7. I always love to hear stories about brands I use. Pretty convincing case of how they’re using social media to extend their brand. Never tried the half and half, but might have to give it a shot.

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