How Poppi’s Gen Z-Friendly Branding Has Built a Powerful Community of Probiotic Soda Lovers

Poppi’s probiotic sodas disrupt the soda industry with Gen Z-friendly community-building, award-winning packaging, and a great sense of humor. Get 10 actionable marketing tips on what Poppi is doing right and what shoppers want more of.

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OverviewTapcart’s Tech Partner Program is designed to expand our ecosystem of partners, encourage partner-led extensibility

In our DTC Brand Crush series, we’ll sit down with different members of our Tapcart team and let them, well, gush about what their favorite ecommerce brands are getting so right. It’s a chance for our employees to highlight a brand they love on a human level and then geek out about it on a professional level. After all, here at Tapcart, we’re consumers and shoppers like everybody else — but we have a pulse on the DTC industry. 

This week, we chatted with Courtney Faiella about Poppi, a CPG company famous for its sparkling probiotic sodas — and remarkable brand presence. So without further ado, meet Courtney, a Marketing Development Representative at Tapcart and a DTC retention and conversion superstar.

How Poppi captures the health-conscious generation of consumers and innovates the CPG beverage space

The way I see it, Poppi is reinventing soda. The brand is doing an excellent job of building brand awareness and flipping the script on the idea of soda — by targeting a younger Gen Z and Millennial audience that's learned it's bad for their health. But instead of shying away from labeling themselves as soda, Poppi is actually leaning into it — and redefining what it is with style. 

And, for what it’s worth, Poppi’s goal to disrupt the $400 billion carbonated beverage industry is working so far. Founded by husband and wife Allison and Stephen Ellsworth, Poppi came to be because Allison was experiencing stomach discomfort that wouldn’t go away. When apple cider vinegar helped her feel better, she knew it was a game-changer, but there was a problem: she didn’t like how it tasted. Poppi, founded in spring 2020 — yes, right at the start of the pandemic — was the solution: a fun-to-drink product that actually had health benefits.

Poppi is proving that if “soda” is just a carbonated drink that tastes good, then maybe the younger generation can enjoy soda in a different way. With gut health trending, they’re leaning into probiotic science, and branding it to be cool and modern (as opposed to health-nutty). Poppi’s eye-catching designs work because they stand out to me on the crowded beverage shelf. They have ultra-stylized cans and their website is full of vibrant colors and informational content.

Honestly, the Poppi team is turning that whole idea of soda on its head. They're really owning it, and to me, it's working on a consumer level. I get that dopamine hit from drinking Poppi (my go-to flavors are Raspberry Rose and Classic Cola) without all of the sugar of soda, plus there are all those added benefits for my gut health.

Poppi’s marketing magic always stands out — from viral social media campaigns to in-store displays

I originally learned about Poppi through social media, of course. They also had that Super Bowl commercial that went totally viral. I've also seen them in retail stores near me, and even next to all the other wildly colored cans, Poppi’s products somehow stuck out to me. That's how good the graphic design is.

Even circling back to that in-store, heart-shaped merchandising I'm obsessed with, it was actually a Valentine's Day display. Of course, that was right after the Super Bowl, so everybody was already talking about the product. But they're so good about making sure you know that a can of Poppi isn't just another can of soda — that it's going to be kind of this experience.

10 marketing tactics that make Poppi a hit and win over Gen Z & Millennials

What sets Poppi apart from other brands in the beverage industry? The branding is flat-out incredible. They're bringing the 80s back in a fun way. The branding has bright colors and vintage vibes, and their graphics are all very futuristic but also retro at the same time. Their target audience is definitely Gen Z and Millennials, and they know exactly how to speak to these consumers through their digital marketing strategy. Keep scrolling to get all the details on how (and feel free take notes if you're feeling inspired):

1. Social media swings like UGC and influencer marketing

Beyond the excellent branding I already mentioned, I love how they're getting such big names attached to the product. I know not every business can swing it, but the fact that we're seeing celebs like Post Malone, Olivia Rodrigo, and Paris Hilton enjoying the product is huge.

These are paid partnerships, and I know they're not groundbreaking, but they used them so intelligently by having them align with the investment they made in that Super Bowl commercial. I also love the random but perfect handful of celebrities they tapped to collaborate. I know they're going after Gen Z, but there was something so iconic about getting Paris Hilton involved, too.

They’re also so friendly with their fans. It’s total community building. Fans tweet or talk about them, and then Poppi shows them major love. It’s the oldest trick in the book because it works!

2. In-store presence to stand out in the overcrowded drink market

Another thing I love is how the brand is taking its in-store presence so, so seriously. And by seriously, I mean playfully… because that's what makes sense for the brand. Check out the in-store display from their Instagram post: it's  a punch of color. It reminds me of a cool hotel in Palm Springs or some kind of throwback party in college. These aren't just cans on a shelf — it’s a display that's 100% upfront about the product being a ton of fun.

 I think that's really important, especially for something like a fizzy probiotic drink. Ten years ago, you would have to dig through the fridge at Whole Foods to buy something like this. Now, these “sodas” are being packaged in a way that's as playful as a kitschy pool float.

3. Exclusive giveaways and collabs 

Poppi is also doing a great job raising brand awareness with all sorts of giveaways and collaborations. Some of these collaborations are with really prestigious brands, too — ones that customers already trust from all different types of industries. For example, on New Year's Eve, they partnered up with 8 Other Reasons and IGK Hair for a party bundle.

4. Humor and relatability

Another thing I totally loved was how they redid their Super Bowl commercial to be “Midwestern.” This pretty much costs them nothing — it's just an entire joke where some kind of employee cuts into the spot every time the word “soda” is used, instead inserting the word “pop” in the most Midwestern accent possible. 

But there's something so warm and fuzzy about Poppy being in on the joke and even how low-budget it feels. It humanizes the brand, puts them on the same wavelength as their customers, and is really, really fun. If you run into this on social, you're totally going to send it to your friend from Wisconsin like it was any other meme — and that’s just huge.

5. Unique branding

In an era where aesthetics are everything, even their social media feed is on point. They follow this color scheme, which is really cool and unique. Every 12 posts are the same color. It creates that same color-blocking vibe you'll see in their in-store displays. They are all in on color and playfulness, and it's paying off. Maybe some brands would think it was too much, that they were laying it on too thick, but with Poppy, it works.

And it’s not just me that’s digging the packaging, either. Poppi has won awards for its “look” at BevNet, Dieline, and more. 

6. Educating customers

That said, the brand is also serious about educating customers. It is. Head to their website, and the FAQ will tell you, in very plain words, exactly what's in the products and what the benefits of those products are. I think this is key for any CPG brand.

7. Store locator

Their website also features the store locator, which sounds like a no-brainer, but is helpful if you're interested in trying the product for the first time without ordering a bunch to your door.

There's also a Mean Girls joke, which is always going to make me smile.

8. Tik Tok community

Poppi is also doing such a good job with its massive TikTok community. They know exactly what they're doing, and are completely attuned to whatever trends and styles of videos are performing at the time. They also make it easy to comb through all of their existing tik toks and search them through different categories, such as ‘Poppi in the wild’ or their ‘Shark Tank’ content.

9. Online discounts

They also offer an online discount to their customers, helping them sell higher volumes of product in exchange for their customers' contact information. That's huge because, down the line, I know this brand will have more and more good news to share with its customers, from pop-ups to new flavors to really awesome content.

10. Merch

Because Poppi knows they're not just building a brand but a lifestyle, they also have tons of really playful merch that fits right in with that Gen Z aesthetic. You can grab a hoodie, a beanie, and even a corduroy hat. You know something’s gone right when customers are paying for the privilege of advertising your brand!

Tech upgrades and customer engagement I hope to see from the brand for an even better experience

Obviously, I'm low-key high-key obsessed with Poppi. But as a customer, I think they can take their success to an even higher level. For me, Poppi is a nice-to-have but not a have-to-have and part of that is because I only buy it when I'm at the store. Sometimes, I simply forget, usually because I don't walk down a specialty aisle.

If Poppi offered a mobile app to their top customers like myself, I know that the brand would be top of mind for me more often. Here are a few examples on how adding an app would make the customer experience so much more convenient for me:

1. Easy-to-manage subscriptions while I’m on the go

Having an easy-to-manage subscription service that I could maintain within an app would work really well for DTC strategy. That way, I could switch out whatever flavor was coming that week or month, and then it would auto-ship to my house. I wouldn’t forget about it at the store, and I’d have them there to enjoy at lunch without the effort of tracking one down. That would be the bee's knees.

2. An effective communication channel to get brand updates (it's especially easy to miss updates on social media)

Another point is that I don't always know when new products are being released unless I'm actively checking the website. Part of that is because social feeds are just so crowded now, and the algorithms are what they are. They might be talking about these releases, but there’s no guarantee that information will reach me! But if Poppi had an app, they could just send me a push notification when they were having a sale or released a cool new flavor. I would also want push notifications about new merch — I would totally buy a Poppi cooler bag!

3. Offer a home for Poppi's brand fans like myself

At Tapcart, we already know that when a customer downloads a brand's app, what they’re really doing is self-identifying as a VIP. As a fan and a consistently returning customer, I would love to see Poppi lean into that: to create this curated space full of all of their fantastic content that's a new hub for their best customers. Plus, it would make the reordering process as quick as one click. And that’d be a win-win for me and everyone else who loves Poppi…and for the brand, too.

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