How to: Build a Consumer Brand from Scratch

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If you’re an entrepreneur launching a new product, one of your biggest challenges is to get your shiny new object in the hands of potential buyers. For Internet services, that’s easier to do these days.  You can create compelling content on a web site, like  Then blog, market, do public relations, foster word of mouth and (fingers crossed) watch the buzz take off.   (Well, it helps if you start with a killer service that fills a need.)

For those of you producing and selling a ‘lumpy object’ like a beverage, or widget Jones Soda pic on label—you’ve got to be innovative in order to get your potential customers to sample/try  your product.  One proven business to consumer approach is to take a page from the Jones Soda Co. story.

Hang Out Where Your Customers Are

In 1996 CEO Peter van Stolk launched Jones Soda by making coolers of the brand new soda available in independent music stores, tattoo parlors, and surf, snowboarding and ski shops, among others.   Peter van Stolk really knew his customers and where they hung out.

He took one giant genius step further to connect with his consumers.  He invited them to be an integral part of this new brand.  Jones Soda customers submit their own photos online for use on the constantly-changing soda bottle labels.

Jones Soda built its brand the old fashioned way.  They earned it using word of mouth.  Today (according to the firm’s web site) the soda is sold in major retailers including Starbucks, Panera Bread, Barnes & Noble, Safeway, Target, Cost Plus,
7-Eleven stores and more. (Follow Jones on Twitter.)

Peter van Stolk would probably agree with Mark Rampolla, the CEO/Founder of Zico Coconut Water about how to connect with customers when launching a new Zico coconut waterproduct.

Build an Intimate Relationship

Rampolla said in a recent quote in a WSJ article here (subscription required)

“The best way to build a brand, particularly a beverage, is to build an intimate relationship with consumers using one-to-one marketing.”

Zico is a health oriented sports drink and knew that folks working out intensively—like in Yoga classes—would benefit from the potassium and other healthy attributes.  So the startup connected with consumers by establishing a partnership with a well known yoga guru. reports that Zico’s founder

spent two years handing out the coconut drink in yoga studios, where it is often now sold.  The brand has been embraced by a yoga guru, Bikram Choudhury,

Sounds like this one-to-one approach to building an intimate relationship with consumers is paying off for Zico Coconut Water. also noted that they’ve grown 300 percent in the last year.  Of course Zico has some company (competition) in winning customers in the emerging coconut healthy water market.

It will be interesting to see how the different marketing approaches taken by the coco water companies work out.

Use New & Old Marketing

To create more buzz, Zico is applying both traditional and new, social media marketing to get the word out.  Follow Zico on Twitter.

  • They placed Zico logos on pedicabs; WSJ ran a cool pic alongside the article.
  • Outreach to bloggers: A quick Google search shows the Zico drink is getting some ink on several fitness type bloggers.  One, Biking Diva wrote a nice post about trying the product after receiving a sample from Zico’s PR person.  The Bike Diva’s post is here.
  • Traditional Public Relations:  Zico’s PR firm is doing a nice job, they’ve appeared in Redbook magazine among others.

Can you find more ways to connect (personally) with your consumers?  Are you hanging out where your customers hang out?

Update: Building both consumer relationships & buzz maybe paying off for Zico.  Just found this Reuters news release from Aug. 28, 2009:

Coca-Cola Co is near a deal to invest in Zico, a California-based maker of coconut water drinks, according to industry publication Beverage Digest.  Beverage Digest reported news of the possible Coke-Zico deal late on Thursday via Twitter, and Sicher confirmed the Twitter report to Reuters on Friday.

Cynthia Trevino on twitterCynthia Trevino on linkedin
Cynthia Trevino
Works with entrepreneurs and business owners who want to grow by getting the attention of perfect customers--wherever they're looking for help. Loves dogs, burritos + Syrah.


  1. says

    Building a brand is hard work but you also must keep in mind profitability. The beverages mentioned have built good images but has anything fallen to the bottom line? That is what pays the bills.

    • Cynthia Trevino says

      Thanks for your comment Dave. True, good marketing by raising awareness/branding is just (a big) first step. Distribution, sales volumes and managing your costs are key big next steps.

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