A brand’s unique DNA doesn’t arrive in a neat little package, express-mailed overnight. It takes time, diligence, and a willingness to push boundaries. We Powwowed with SodaStream’s Chief Marketing Officer, Matti Yahav, for an interesting chat about how he encourages constant creativity from a brand that’s over one hundred years old. From Pepsi’s acquisition to their hilarious commercials featuring Paris Hilton and Mayim Bialik, to their commitment to helping the world rid itself of plastic bottles, Mr. Yahav gave us a glimpse into the marketing strategy of a multi-million-dollar brand.
Which experiences (career and otherwise) have best prepared you for where you are today?
“I feel extremely fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity throughout my career to work with great leaders and great brands. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about marketing and how to lead a team. Honestly, I still feel I’m learning and developing every day. During the past four years at SodaStream, I’ve evolved into a better marketer and leader, mostly because of my boss (and mentor) Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream’s CEO. I always thought I knew how to think big, but Daniel taught me what it really means to dream big—he’s really impacted me on a professional level and challenged the way I think.”
A few of SodaStream’s values are business courage, creativity, sense of urgency, optimism, and transparency. To which extent do you fold them into your marketing strategy and messaging? Why do you focus on these values? How do you want customers to perceive you?
“SodaStream has a unique DNA and business culture that comes across in everything we do, especially in the marketing department. Business courage, Creativity and Sense of Urgency are the values that define what kind of people we’re looking for, who we are as a team and how we do marketing. Even though our marketing budget has risen tremendously over the years, we still keep a startup state of mind. When a good idea arises, we make it happen regardless of tight deadlines, budgets restrictions and other logistics issues.”
SodaStream is known for pushing boundaries and injecting creatives with humor. From Paris Hilton to Mayim Bialik. Why do you strive to keep audiences on their toes? How does your team continuously churn out fresh ideas for campaign creative? What purpose does this strategy serve?
“We like to convey our important environmental message in a lighthearted, easy to digest way. We try to keep the content entertaining and unexpected so that the consumer’s engagement and interest level is high, our message resonates better, and it’s more effective. Like for all brands, the first step is to decide your brand’s essence and then be very disciplined and consistent with creating the tone, style, and messaging within these guidelines.
Our marketing isn’t based on the traditional strategy of creating 30-second commercials and investing most of the marketing budget behind airing them. Of course, we also air TV commercials, but we focus our efforts on creating content that consumers will want to watch, share, and that will create PR. Coming up with ideas for such campaigns isn’t an easy process and it involves many people from the marketing department and external creative partners.
”What does your marketing funnel look like? How do you push customers down the funnel? What are the most critical stages in your marketing funnel?
“On a global level, our goal is to create brand heat, to become a beloved brand. We create brand stories under our overarching theme “Better for you, better for the planet.” Lower down the funnel, we have local communication in our 46 markets that make the conversions into sales and increase our household penetration.
”More and more marketers are using data to really define what it is their customers want and how they can best serve their needs. Can you walk us through the technologies you use and the kinds of data you leverage? How do you use this data for marketing purposes and, specifically, how do you take advantage of your data to deepen the relationship between the brand and customers?
“We use many of the same Big Data tools that other marketers use – Google Analytics, Syndicated data… We complement this big data with ‘Small Data,’ to really get a grasp of who our consumers are and understand how SodaStream fits into consumers’ lifestyles and the user experience. We actually take time to go into consumers’ homes. It’s the balance between big data and small data that is key to maximizing consumer insight. Having this deep understanding helps us to better target consumers, focus on driving effective communication and improve the user experience.”
Every brand has a different approach to building a marketing team. Can you share the marketing team org structure at SodaStream? Do you have specific functions in the team looking over customer relationships? If yes, which KPIs do you follow to gauge customer relationship success?
“At Headquarters, we are a global team, with almost zero hierarchy or bureaucracy. The team is composed of Innovation, Design, Product, Consumer Insight and Brand Communication (including Social and PR). Every single person on the team has the consumer in mind when they create content/products on a daily basis. On a local level, we have Marketing Teams in every subsidiary of ours and we work very closely together.”
Last year, PepsiCo acquired SodaStream for a buzzworthy 3.2 billion. From the outside, the conglomerate approached relationship marketing differently than SodaStream. How did the acquisition effect your marketing? Did PepsiCo’s company ideals align with your branding? Did this deal present any challenges, marketing-wise?
“Being acquired by PepsiCo is a huge recognition of our work and the potential of our category. Our budgets grew dramatically and we’re clearly taking advantage of PepsiCo’s power (for example in our media buying). We will use these new assets to accelerate growth and take the brand to new heights. Our environmental messaging will continue to be at the core of our marketing and we will defiantly continue to be bold and disruptive but we’ll need to make some small changes going forward. We probably won’t say anymore “f**k plastic bottles” in our videos, anymore, for example.”
In a way, SodaStream’s product positions itself as a means to reduce continued consumption. Does that contradict with the business’ need to drive repeat business? How do you promote reusing and optimizing natural resources, while creating repeat business?
“Our message is very simple: SodaStream reusable bottle replaces thousands of single-use plastic bottles. What gets the consumers back to the store are our CO2 cylinders refills and our flavors. Our goal is to increase household penetration dramatically for our sparkling water makers because the more products we sell doesn’t just mean our business grows stronger, but we also make a greater environmental impact.”
There’s a shift from product-centricity to customer-centricity. As a company that is mainly known for its product, do you consider yourself customer-centric? If yes, how does this translate into your marketing strategy?
“SodaStream has been around for over a hundred years. Over the years, of course, the design and user experience have changed and improved, but the basic feature of the product, which is turning water into sparkling water, has remained the same. Product innovation is important, but what made a difference for our business is the brand we have built and the way we talk to our consumers. We have a conceptual target audience that we defined very clearly and in anything we do in terms of product, in store, communication etc. we have her in mind.”
Please give some examples of brands or campaigns that inspire you.
“In general, I’m inspired by companies who stand behind their values and find a way to build a hot and relevant brand while actually making a positive impact on our planet. Two such brands are Oatly and Patagonia. Oatly’s brand language that makes drinking oat milk sound fun and Patagonia really walks the walk of their mission to save the planet.”
Who would you like to have dinner with and why?
“In the business world, it would be Elon Musk an innovator and the CEO of Tesla. I admire him for dreaming big, not being afraid to disrupt the industry, and always finding creative ways to create buzz and excitement around his products. I think one of the best PR stunts in all time was sending a Tesla car to space causing the entire world talk about his companies SpaceX and Tesla. Can you arrange a date? ;)”
Any tips for young marketers just starting out in the field? Which common mistakes would you advise them to foresee and avoid making?
“For me there are two main things that have guided me as a young marketer and are still very relevant today. The first is very basic but it’s to understand what really moves the needle in order to achieve your goals and focus, focus, focus on it. One of the biggest mistakes I see young marketers doing is trying to do too much and I believe the ones who are successful are those who have the ability to focus on what’s really important. Second is what I call the “wow factor” and it’s really helped me define my DNA as a marketer. I try to think, where can I create a wow factor? Meaning that the end result of my work won’t be ordinary or expected. In order to do that you need to think big and creatively and not be afraid to make mistakes. The best marketers I’ve seen had glorious failures, but this didn’t stop them from achieving greatness and many “wow factors” along the way.”