Orange juice wasn’t always the iconic beverage we know and love, dotting the breakfast tables of families across America. Sure, it’s sweet, delicious, and nutritious (well, minus all the sugar), but those qualities alone don’t sell countless cartons.
Great marketing does.
That’s what it took to put OJ on the map, and in people’s refrigerators. In fact, one particular campaign propelled orange juice from a fruit byproduct to an American staple and the second-most popular morning beverage in the country – after coffee, of course.
Here’s a look at how the juice was squeezed – with a special appearance by America’s first “Mad Man” and the inspiration for Don Draper.
In the early 1900s, drinking orange juice was virtually unheard of. As copywriter Cole Shafer put it, “Recommending a cold glass of orange juice along with a plate of greasy eggs and bacon would have been like asking someone if they wanted a tablespoon of mustard in their coffee.”
The problem was that oranges were a big deal, at least for growers and sellers. Most notably, the Southern California Fruit Growers Association was overwhelmed with supply but lacking demand.
To increase sales of their crop, they partnered with ad agency Lord & Thomas and rebranded as – drum roll, please – Sunkist Growers, which is still alive and kicking 125 years later. And, yes, they’re the parent company of Sunkist Sodas, which launched in 1979.
So, they had the name. Now they just needed the campaign.
Enter Alan Lasker, CEO of Lord & Thomas and America’s first “Mad Man.” In 1916, Lasker came up with a brilliant idea: Sell more oranges by empowering customers to juice them. He realized that the average consumption per serving was normally half an orange. But if customers made their own juice, that number would jump to two or three oranges – up to a 400% increase!
The best part was that Sunkist wasn’t just going to convince the public to juice oranges. They were going to sell them the tool they needed to do it.
To spread the word, Lasker launched the “Drink an Orange” campaign in The Saturday Evening Post. It advertised a Sunkist-branded juice extractor along with a bundle of oranges.
The campaign even included a promotional deal. Since Sunkist oranges were individually wrapped, the brand offered discounted juicers discount to people who saved their orange wrappers. The ads also convinced people that orange juice was a healthy way to start their day – a claim that has since been debunked.
As a result of this campaign, orange juice sales skyrocketed and the delicious nectar became a staple of the American breakfast table.
Sunkist and Lasker did a lot of things right, and there’s a reason this campaign was so revolutionary for marketing. It contains a handful innovative tactics, including:
The outcome wasn’t just an increase in sales, but also the creation of an iconic beverage that’s now embedded in a national culture.
So remember that while modern marketing is full of fun case studies, marketers can still learn a great deal from standout campaigns of yesteryear – even ones that started in the early 1900s on an orange grove.
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