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What Popular Drink Brands Can Teach Us About Brand Loyalty

By Sarah O'Sullivan
What Popular Drink Brands Can Teach Us About Brand Loyalty

Do you prefer Coca-Cola or Pepsi?

When you order 7up at a restaurant and they offer you Sprite instead, or vice versa, do you accept through gritted teeth?

Or when you crave a Lucozade Sport – does an own-brand equivalent hit the same spot?

In theory, there should be little difference between the drink options – similarly flavoured drinks serve the same purpose, and are the same to the people serving them.

But one thing causes that customer hesitation each time, and that is brand loyalty.


What is brand loyalty?

It is an unwillingness by a consumer to deviate from a beloved brand.

They could be faced with a product that is very similar and serves the same purpose, but refuse to try anything other than their brand, merely because it is theirs.

With established brand loyalty, customers will be more willing to pay a slight mark up for their preferred product because they believe it is better than competitors.

Top Brands

In the Checkout Top 100 Brands of 2023, five of the top ten brands were soft drinks.


This reflects strong brand loyalty to soft drinks compared to other products.

Published every August, the Checkout Top 100 Brands is based on branded value sales across the Irish grocery sector, making it the most accurate barometer of the biggest-selling brands in the marketplace.

In compiling the report, NIQ Ireland measures the sales performance of over 5,000 brands from over 200 product classes.

Coca-Cola was the number one brand for a record-breaking 19th year in a row.

The famous American brand has made itself so ubiquitous in culture that it remains a top brand globally.


But it is not an impossible feat – any brand can find its loyal customer base. Below are a few methods to keep in mind when trying to establish strong brand loyalty.

Curating A Relationship With The Customer

A Venn diagram with 'things that are blue: a whale in double denim' on the left, 'things that are juicy: office gossip' on the right, and an arrow coming out of where the two circles meet pointing to Innocent's Bolt From The Blue smoothie

Creating brand loyalty is not so different from creating loyalty in life – it comes from trust and familiarity.

When running a business or creating a brand, it is easy to reduce customers to numbers, but in order to win over loyalty they need to be treated as individuals.

What can this brand offer you, specifically, that you do not already have?

Through this personal connection, one of the greatest tools of advertising comes into play: word of mouth.


An example of an exceptional social media campaign that led to word-of-mouth circulation and a deeper connection with consumers is that of innocent in 2019.

When the brand launched its ‘Bolt From the Blue’ drink, the social media team took to humorously responding to everyone who said the drink was green by correcting them and saying it was blue.

The method of responding to tweets was so successful it caused a viral response, which led to a filmed advert, in much the same tongue-in-cheek tone as the social media campaign.

In this case, the personal connection and moving away from corporate formalities strengthened the brand’s connection with its audience.

Brand Messaging

Coca-Cola Santa Clause

It is also important to make your brand feel personal, and one way of doing this is linking it to nostalgia.

Part of Coca-Cola’s success is its iconic branding and familiarity in popular culture.

It has continuously done this through films like E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial and their well-known Christmas ads.

These boost the feeling of comfort and familiarity that consumers experience with the Coca-Cola brand by linking the brand to childhood nostalgia.

And Irish brands do this as well.

Tayto have tapped into the market for an item that is missed by the Irish diaspora and the brand has used this in recent ad campaigns.

The rolling out of its well-known mascot, Mr Tayto, has also proved to be an effective marketing tool.

Rockshore’s ‘Refreshingly Irish’ campaign launched in June spoke to Irish identity in an amusing way.

The ad follows friends making fun of each other in a uniquely Irish way in a song to the tune of 'As Long As You Love Me' by the Backstreet Boys.

This campaign cleverly appealed to both personal identity and nostalgia, positioning itself as a talking point and increasing brand recognition and word-of-mouth circulation.


Avonmore Oat Drink

Outside of advertising and branding, the product itself remains the most important offering.

While innovation is exciting and an essential part of growing your brand, it is important to keep the core offering consistent so that customers can trust what it is they are buying.

Coca-Cola tried an intense brand overhaul in the 1980s, changing the official name to ‘New Coke’ and updating their formula.

The plan was such a disaster that 79 days after the announcement of the formula change, the company went back to their original recipe.

While they wanted to reinvigorate the market, they forgot an important adage – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

The brand has been able to expand in the years since, but the core offering has remained the same.

Irish brands such as Avonmore, Barry's Tea, and Tayto have all added to their offerings while keeping their core products of consistent type and quality.

Avonmore has moved into milk alternatives, Barrys now offers herbal teas, and Tayto have a number of different flavoured crisps and snacks.

These brands have the ability to try new products and offer them to customers who know and trust the consistent quality of their main offerings.

So, feel free to experiment, expand, and try something new, but remember to protect the core element that earned brand loyalty in the first place.

Read More: Irish Brands Make Up Nearly Half Of Nation’s Top 50

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