Martinelli’s Gold Medal Non-alcoholic Sparkling Apple Cider is a classic example of successful seasonal branding. Billing itself as the perfect alternative to alcohol, this sparkling beverage has defined and dominated its market category, making it a fitting brand success story to study for the New Year.
Although sparkling cider is marketed year round for weddings, celebrations and other affairs where alcoholic Champagne is used to toast the occasion, it is the Holidays and New Year’s Eve that have made this brand so exceptionally successful. It has become America’s go-to non-alcoholic bubbly.
As successful brand builders ourselves and the creators of Barefoot Bubbly California Champagne, we appreciate all the strategy and positioning that has gone into this great American brand. We realize also the tremendous challenge it had to overcome to get and keep good distribution, even with such a great niche product. Its success is apparent in its wide availability across the country and internationally.
Here are some things this brand did right that we can all learn from:
1. Niche. They defined their own niche, “non-alcohol sparkling cider.” They discovered and addressed a need for a Champagne-like product without the alcohol. This became the staple celebratory brand for minors, designated drivers, and anyone looking for an alternative to alcohol consumption. Most of us grew up with Martinelli’s cider, and take those fond memories to the grocery store every year.
2. Packaging. Brilliant! The heritage label is particularly reminiscent of a classic Champagne package. Folks are even encouraged to enjoy it in a Champagne flute. Value queues including gold medals on the label as well as gold within the name, validate the customer’s decision.
3. Message. Consistent messaging on labels, shippers, point of sale materials and radio ads tout its brand promise of being the top non-alcohol “festive alternative” to Champagne. But it goes on to distinguish itself from others in the category by adding, “100% juice from U.S. grown fresh apples, not from concentrate, with no added sweeteners or preservatives,” to guarantee its quality.
4. Tradition. This brand goes back to 1868 when their founder produced fermented champagne cider from California’s first producing commercial orchards and won the State Fair Gold Medal. During prohibition they discovered the market for non-alcohol sparkling cider and have continued to produce it ever since. It has taken generations to develop this aura of dependability.
5. Quality. The brand has a long history of consistent quality for a reasonable price. Since 1890, the brand has won over fifty gold medals for product excellence at state, national, and international expositions. This legacy of third-party endorsements has built a perception and expectation of quality. This in turn built consumer loyalty and extended the product’s excellent reputation.
6. Distribution. Most brand experts seem to take this one for granted, but without constant vigilance and tremendous in-store attention, all brand-building efforts would be for naught. To their credit, S. Martinelli & Company has learned and applied effective distribution management. This makes it possible for you to find it on nearly any shelf in America.
You will likely see Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider at any New Year’s Eve party you attend. It is available because it addresses a specific need, dominates its niche, has the perception of quality, and most importantly, it is in stock where your host shops. We have to appreciate this classic case study in successful branding and brand building.
Here’s to a successful American brand and all it took to get there. We toast to a great New Year for every brand builder out there. Cheers!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders