Looking again at retro beverages this week, Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) announced they will be producing their own retro packaging ‘throwback’ soft drink. For a limited time starting this month, 7up will undergo retro packaging and glass bottles to bring back a 1970s and 1980s feel. Similar to the Pepsi Throwback, it will be substitute real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
A question to look at in more detail based on this product launch: Why would Dr Pepper Snapple Group launch a retro soft drink right now, and one that is not their core product? Is there a stronger affinity/relationship between consumers and 7up, rather than Dr Pepper? When one product is successful, it invites imitators trying to piggyback on the success of the original product. DPSG may not be trying to piggyback on the Pepsi Throwback’s success, but seeing that there is a market demand with a retro Pepsi cola, they may be also be demand for a retro 7up soda. The timing of this launch comes well after its publicity on the Celebrity Apprentice television show, and also seeing that Pepsi Throwback has become a regular product rather than just a limited time product.
While consumer loyalty to either 7up over Dr Pepper is a question, DPSG’s decision to launch a classic 7up may be more strategic placement than anything. As Dr Pepper and Pepsi are both colas, releasing a retro Dr Pepper may indeed lead consumers to believe it is a copycat product. 7up on the other hand, is a lemon-lime soda, so there are slight areas of differentiation between Pepsi and 7up. Consumers interested in picking up a cola will not need to choose between two retro products and for the same rationale lemon-lime category loyalists will not have to decide between Pepsi and 7up. Furthermore, the lemon-lime soda category has been struggling with advertising and innovations the last few years, so for a classic product to be released is something refreshingly new.
A word of warning to DPSG is that not all retro products are successful. While Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwbacks were both launched at the same time, only Pepsi Throwback has survived to become a regular shelfed product. The key point is that a retro product’s success ultimately depend on two things: 1) that the product has a strong historical relationship with the buying public and 2) the consumers truly like the older product better than the new one. And as mentioned in the previous post, cannibalization should be a strong consideration for the manufacturer. After all, if the real sugar retro 7up has strong consumer loyalty and is stands differentiated from the current 7up, why not make it a regular offering?