BusinessWeek: Keep Up with the Jones, Dude! from the Corporate Design Foundation
Internet-savvy and youth-aware, Jones Soda makes customers prime participants in marketing the brand and keeping it fresh...
Peter van Stolk, the 40-year-old founder of Jones Soda, was quick to learn the rules of the industry and then ignore them. Since he began selling his iconoclastic drinks out of ice chests in snowboarding shops and tattoo parlors in 1996, he's sold 187 million bottles. In explaining the runaway success of the brand, van Stolk is the first to admit, "The world doesn't need another soda." But what young cynical consumers apparently did need was a brand with which they could identify. Van Stolk gave that to them quite literally. He created a virtual community of fans who gather at the company's website to chat, blog, enter contests, share movie reviews and download freebies. Unlike the slick Madison Avenue spin of huge competitors, Jones Soda -- without any money for advertising -- created a cool under-the-radar appeal by urging fans to send in photographs to the website to use as bottle labels. The Seattle company now has over a million submissions and has used 4,372 of the photos. Consumers collect the ever-changing labels and trade them in web chat rooms, and even have their own Jones Soda custom labels specially made for them.
"We allowed the labels to be discovered and that gave consumers a sense of ownership.