Cheerwine 'restaging' with new look, campaign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Cheerwine, the soft drink born 91 years ago in Salisbury, is preparing to unveil a new branding, packaging and marketing campaign as it expands into additional Mid-Atlantic and West Coast markets toward the end of this year.
“Those who know and love Cheerwine have always connected the brand to simple and relaxed times, hanging out, eating Southern barbecue and being laid back,” President and Chief Executive Officer Cliff Ritchie said in a press release.
“The new branding communicates this feeling of relaxation and is designed to appeal to new consumers without alienating those who have grown up loving the soft drink.”
Tom Barbitta, vice president of marketing for Cheerwine, said Wednesday the “restaging” of the brand is like a 91-year-old startup.
Most brands build their marketing around a function, he said. Cheerwine will be building its brand around function and emotion.
“The emotional part is how it makes you feel and where it takes you,” he said.
Barbitta said Cheerwine has always been about “chilling,” enjoying life’s pleasures, being with friends and family and “taking time to relish the little things of everyday life.”
In its restaging, the company has concentrated on three elements:
– Staking out a space in the cluttered soft drink market that no other brand has claimed.
– Bringing in a new marketing firm, the Hauser Group of Atlanta.
– Redesigning Cheerwine’s packaging by hiring the Girvin design group of Seattle.
“We’re very excited about all three parts of this,” Barbitta said.
Gone will be Cheerwine’s most recent marketing campaign which included a Cheerwine News Team and its efforts in “protecting your right to drink Cheerwine,” Barbitta said.
Hauser has “creative bandwidth” that will help power Cheerwine to a whole new level, he said.
“It’s what this brand needs,” Barbitta added.
Cheerwine has been about chilling and kicking back for 91 years, Barbitta said. The new marketing campaign will be aligning things in a contemporary way so it resonates with all segments, especially young people, Barbitta said.
In the past year, Cheerwine did consumer research that included student focus groups at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Wake Forest University.
The new packaging is a “Back to the Future”‘ approach.
It reaches back into the past a bit with the logo design, but it also takes the drink’s assets and makes them new again, Barbitta said.
“We had to keep it simple and convey relaxed, not sedated; and classic, not dated,” designer Tim Girvin said.
Barbitta sees 2008 as being a rollout year for the new branding and 2009 as a breakout year.
“We think everything is queuing up for an exciting 2009 and beyond,” he said.
The Hauser Group will be creating and buying the advertising, which will take the form of billboards, point of sale, truck backs and radio spots.
Cheerwine has been well received this year in the Atlanta market and has a bottler partner in Modesto, Calif. The company hopes to expand from both points.
Wayne Parks, the area vice president/general manager for Southeast Atlantic Beverage said, “‘We can hardly keep the product on shelves here.”
Barbitta said Cheerwine also can reintroduce itself in the Carolinas, where it’s strongest and where people from other parts of the country have moved without any knowledge of the brand.
The transition to the new packaging is a “soft conversion,” Barbitta said. As existing inventories are depleted, they will be replaced over the coming weeks and months by the new look.