Why PepsiCo and TBWA are staying fuzzy on details in new Izze Fusions push

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Is the newest PepsiCo beverage a soda, water or a juice? The brand has good reasons for saying "it just iz."

Recently, PepsiCo brand Izze announced a new beverage to its bubbly line-up: Izze Fusions. At only 60 calories, the brand markets the 12-oz. drink as a healthier option to Pepsi’s 150 calories and even to the original Izze, which has 90 calories for just 8.4 ounces. But what exactly is it? Made with cane sugar and stevia, it contains no artificial sweeteners. And with flavors like orange mango, lemon lime and strawberry melon, is it a soda, water or a fruit juice?

Don’t expect the new campaign to answer the question. 

Izze Fusions Marketing Director Rosemarie Iannucci wrote in an email that "it’s a sort of soda, sort of juice, sort of sparkling water." Yesterday, the brand continued its undefined strategy by announcing a partnership with musician Shawn Mendes, who will appear at Camp Izze, a "sorta music festival, sorta inspirational summit, sorta world-changing melding of the minds," according to a press release. Experiential agency Sid Lee is behind the ambiguous event—for which tickets are free—and iHeartMedia is helping distribute it. In the end, Izze Fusions is trying to reach Generation Z and millennials, two groups that eschew labels.

The new approach contrasts starkly with Izze Fusion’s predecessor, Izze. Launched in Boulder, Colo. in 2002, PepsiCo bought the brand four years later and has since marketed the carbonated beverage as an alcoholic mixer with recipes for Izze Peachy Keen, Izze Hurricane Cocktail and Izze Big Game Cocktail. But the company always steers clear of alcohol associations when targeting minors, said Iannucci. Instead, Izze Fusions will focus on playful messaging in an effort to reach "Gen Z/teens as teens are taking a larger role in family beverage decisions" Iannucci said, and can therefore become the gateway to their Gen X parents and Baby Boomer grandparents.

Enter the new campaign from Izze’s creative agency Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day, which won the account in July 2016, Digitas, which handles digital and social media initiatives, and production company 1st Avenue Machine. Adopting teenagers’ "you do you" attitude, Izze Fusions declares, "It just iz."

Through two 30-second, kaleidoscope-esque films released on social media this month, Izze Fusions makes up its own adjectives like "frefreshing" as actors dressed up as fruit dance in the background.

In a spot for International Women's Day, the product doesn’t make an appearance. Instead, two girls—one wearing a hijab and MC Hammer pants—skateboard down a boardwalk together to the beat of a hipster-esque song. 

You do you. We bubble soda juice. #ItJustIz #IzzeFusions

A post shared by IZZE (@izzeofficial) on

Then, there are 15-second, quirky snippets where the lemon lime flavor rains down on a woman dressed in white, tandem bicyclists ride while making horse noises, and a girl falls carefree into a ball pit.

More than 70 similar executions will be released on social platforms in the coming month, according to a source familiar with the campaign. Iannucci said to expect "a lot of micro-content across mobile, radio and social," but no TV spots—at least for now.

Why be so vague about the product? Because Izze "is a flavorful blend of bubbles, natural fruit flavors, no artificial sweetners or flavors (sweetened with a blend of cane sugar and stevia)," said Ianucci.

Or there could be a more strategic reason. In August 2016, both PepsiCo and Izze Beverage Co. were slapped with a class action lawsuit claiming the original brand (not Izze Fusions) uses deceptive marketing practices. At issue are the "no preservatives" claim and that each bottle of soda "delivers two servings of fruit based on USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines." Court documents allege that Izze sodas contain both citric and absorbic acids, which are both preservatives, and that "the USDA did away with this measure of servings in its 2010 Guidelines precisely because it misleads consumers about how much of various food groups they should eat or drink." By contrast, "It just iz" is an irrefutable statement. Iannucci declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Izze Fusions is a different kind of beverage, she argued, and "taps into the unmet needs of teens for fun, cool hydration options that don’t sacrifice taste, while ensuring that parents can feel good about providing it to their families."

It also taps into the unmet needs of PepsiCo, which has a goal that "at least two-thirds of its global beverage portfolio volume will have 100 calories or less from added sugars per 12-oz. serving" by 2025. That’s why the company promoted only zero-calorie beverages during Super Bowl LI with LIFEWTR and Pepsi Zero Sugar, she said, adding that "changing consumer and societal needs are something PepsiCo is committed to."

One big way customers are changing—they’re drinking more bottled water. Earlier this month, bottled water surpassed soda consumption in America for the first time in history, so it may be a good move for Izze Fusions to not hook itself to one particular beverage category. In fact, when asked where consumers can find PepsiCo’s newest drink, Iannucci remained coy. "On the sparkling aisle," she said.

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