Charlie's has been fighting the good fight against the much larger, some would say much less principled competition since it kicked off in 1999. And, with its newish agency Assignment Group, it's launched the first campaign for a couple of years in an effort to retell its story and show New Zealanders that the brand is "on a mission from good".
Jo Mitchell, Charlie's marketing manager—AKA "The Queen of Squeeze"—says the brand's last ads featured the owners Marc Ellis and Stefan Lepionka (there's the fireworks-related Charlie's soda campaign and an older one featuring all three founders getting fruity to Dancing Queen), but with the founders selling up and moving on after Asahi purchased the company last year, it was time to "remind consumers about the Charlie's brand and the whole proposition" around not from concentrate juice with no artificial flavours, preservatives or sweeteners.
"That's where the whole mission from good idea came from."
She says the brand has used low level social and digital to reach its primary market of household shoppers with kids in recent times and focused more of promoting specific product launches, like a half juice, half water range of drinks for kids or the Facebook giveaway it ran last year for its quenchers range. But there is a need to educate consumers about the differences between Charlie's and its competitors' offerings. Charlie's simply takes fruit and squeezes it and that obviously comes at a price. But that—and its cheeky, personable Kiwi brand—is its point of difference and she hopes that this campaign, which it has spent nearly six months working on with Assignment Group before going to market, will help "bust some myths about juice".
"Quite frankly, it's criminal what some juice companies get away with in the market. Because they can make them taste good by adding stuff, they make it seem like it's real ... We have a large group of loyal followers who understand the brand proposition, but there's a whole lot of confusion out there about what makes good juice."
The campaign is predominantly print and outdoor at present, with ads running in major magazines and NIMS along with street posters and Adshels. There's no TV planned, but, while she couldn't give too much away, there's plenty of experiential activity planned (or, as she calls them "missions") that will bring the idea to life for consumers.
"We're not on TV and we don't think the brand needs to be on TV. We're not a big company, and we think experiential works best with the brand."
She says the focus is on New Zealand at present, but there's a good chance the campaign might run in Australia, with a few tweaks to ensure it fits the market.
As for the new Japanese overlords, she says they haven't been involved at all in the brand strategy and don't have any involvement in the day to day running of the company.
"The owners look at us as the innovation hub of the business," she says.
When we spoke with Stefan Lepionka for a cover story in NZ Marketing last year, he said one of the hardest things about the business was having to spend so much of the marketing budget on discounting. Mitchell says that's a challenge every FMCG marketer faces and she admits the brand does need to play on price to help inspire trial, but it's still quite staunch about how low it will go, Mitchell says. It's gunning for the high-ground, it relies on positive word of mouth and, all going to plan, promoting its benefits in comparison to some of the other options will mean drinkers will be happy to pay full price for a better quality product.