The humble soda pop. Fizzy fuel of modern life, loathed by dentists, loved by almost everyone else.
Sugar, fruit and carbonated water have been hanging out together for generations, but somewhere along the way soda lost its mojo. Reduced to a supermarket bulk buy or an occasional guilty pleasure, enjoying soda as an adult seemed to lack any sparkle. Whatever happened to the glory days of frosty glass bottles, enticing flavours and the sheer unadulterated joy of sipping bubbles way too fast?
Melbourne-based drink disruptors StrangeLove were ready to apply their dynamic and irreverent attitude to fizzy drinks, driven by a desire to rise above the sugary sameness and create a new space for soda to thrive. They spied an opportunity for a new generation of “craft soda”, infused with clean, refreshing tastes that incorporated contemporary flavours. The target market would be sophisticated adult drinkers intrigued by a non-alcoholic alternative, not your average soda guzzlers. With a commitment to low calorie ingredients, high spec oils and botanical extracts their creation would be the polar opposite of the sickly syrups associated with modern soft drinks.
Could this be an antidote to the soda cringe which had crept in due to the sheer lack of variety and evolution? What if soda died and nobody noticed? How could it rise from the ashes like a frothing phoenix? These were the big themes on our mind as we popped the cap on designing the new frontier of fizz.
The story of soda has an interesting and slightly shady history, with its roots as small-batch brewed tonics sold from pharmacies and apothecaries, an almost medicinal product touted for its health benefits. Fast forward 100 years to our current obesity and diabetes epidemic and ironically things have certainly flipped the other way. Understanding Strangelove’s unique approach to creating products, we immersed ourselves in the origins of all things soda, searching for ways to present a product which required a certain amount of sophistication in order to stand out. Soda had it’s glory decades from the 60s to the 80s, a time where pop culture and modernist design reached its peak. We looked to these nostalgia cues to show reverence for the past while still projecting refreshment and flavourful effervescence. We devised a design approach we named “premium abstraction”; strong, modernist graphics stripped back to the bare essentials. The shapes representing the fruit flavours were simplified to flat cutouts, abstract yet still recognisable enough to get across the idea of each variety. Colour was also key in communicating the flavours which included Smoked Cola, Cloudy Pear and Cinnamon, Holy Grapefruit, Yuzu, and Lime and Jalapeno, certainly not your standard fizzy options. Their organic nature became a visual tool to play with, the vibrant primary and pastel colours popping off white backgrounds in a nod to the clean lines of modernism.
“So did it work?” (uses accountant voice). Was this a step towards the redemption of soda and more importantly, did people actually buy it?
Well, in purely business terms StrangeLove doubled in sales after the soda launch, proving there was ample room for a well crafted soda range in a niche market. It was testament to how an innovative product with an unexpected ethos could achieve great shelf appeal and connect deeply with a more sophisticated audience. The Soda range was one of the first big wins for Strangelove, inspiring them to push further into the boutique drink market. It helped prove that their instincts to do things differently and even a bit weirdly could pay off. And for Marx the bonus of having a client who is constantly challenging norms and pushing for greatness allowed us to extend our work beyond the usual, which is one of the great pleasures of any design agency.