Putting your story to work for your brand

 

Seth Hillstrom (SH):

Hello and welcome to the first eBev Global Interview of 2018! We are thrilled to bring you Itai Bichler, the digital genius behind much of SodaStream International, Ltd.‘s recent success.  We’re going to talk about why success is about more than telling brand stories that work; it’s about putting your story to work for your brand – something Itai and Sodastream do incredibly well.  Please ask questions and/or chime in! Itai, thank you for joining us today!

Itai Bichler (IB):

Hi Seth, nice to be here!

SH:

Okay, let’s jump right in! Itai – this past fall you made it clear that in your eyes, if a brand doesn’t have a story to tell that people actually care about, the platforms and technologies they’re using to reach their consumers are irrelevant. Not surprisingly, SodaStream has done an incredible job of doing just that: making consumers care. You’re responsible for overseeing a team that spans 45 countries; encompassing consumers with different values, interests, and cultures all around the world. What are the greatest challenges you face in accomplishing this?

 IB:

First of all, thank you for your kind words. I believe that we made it clear to our consumers that the hazards our planet is facing due to the inconceivable amount of plastic bottles the beverage industry is generating is something we genuinely care about. The true challenge here is authenticity, because there is thin line brands need to avoid crossing since you can easily appear opportunistic as we saw in Kendall Jenner Pepsi’s case.

SH:

That’s a fine line indeed…I think a great example of this is the now famous – or infamous, depending on who you are – “Shame or Glory” campaign did an amazing job or tapping into multiple things people care about (namely Game of Thrones and the planet). You achieved over 100 million video views and 8.5 billion global impressions with very little media investment – plus you received 7 cease and desist letter from Nestle. It seems like SodaStream is perfectly content ruffling feathers…and in fact, is quite adept at using the attention created in doing so. A few questions here:

First, how do the rest of us reach such a staggering audience without a major media investment? Clearly you had the right message – why, and what did you do next?

IB:

Shame or Glory in my mind is indeed a perfect example of how you can generate attention organically which is challenging the common perception that effectiveness is gained nowadays only through investment. People who saw the video were actually consuming the content as a cool piece of content and that generated engagement that we normally don’t see in adds, yet our message came across loud and clear and that was the key. What I suggest brands will do is free themselves from constraining KPI’s that drive the creative down and think about how they can actually please their audience and not enforce themselves on them. That by the way has a lot to do with choosing the platforms obviously and just the content creation. As for the cease and desist letters I think this is all about our attitude as a brand that is a true reflection of the business courage our CEO Daniel Birnbaum has. We are not afraid of anyone and nothing will stop us from telling the truth. The biggest surprise we had when we received these letters was the fact they were sent by Fax. who uses fax anymore? 🙂

SH:

I’m quoting this because I think you’re exactly right, and too many people either don’t recognize it or are a slave to the metrics: “What I suggest brands will do is free themselves from constraining KPI’s that drive the creative down and think about how they can actually please their audience and not enforce themselves on them”

Following on from this, and to your point about the many cases of public backlash we’ve seen: when your messaging lives on the edge of establishment and convention, how can a brand so consistently keep itself free and clear of negative controversy? You’ve had plenty of pushback over the years, but have continued growing rapidly regardless of any detractors. We’d all like to stand on the right side of equality and activism, but we are also responsible for protecting our brands along the way (and we’ve seen that one misstep can be pretty costly).

IB:

You can’t always be on the right side but in a way I think that it is just like marriage… There are couples that are never arguing and everything always appear harmonious and perfect but then after the first fight you hear they got divorced, but you also have the couples that are constantly showing their differences, sometime they are even getting too vocal but their relationship is strong and they Overcome all obstacles. SodaStream is a successful Israeli company and we are proud of it, we employee in our plant people from diverse ethnicities, religions, Israelis and Palestinians but this doesn’t prevent us from being attacked by anti-Israeli organizations so you can understand that from just being who we are, we are constantly under attack. So when we are being attacked – it unites us. When people are targeting us – we are getting stronger.

SH:

I really like that analogy. And you bring up a fantastic point…We generally stick to marketing, but in the case of SodaStream, your success represents more than just a rapidly growing company over 100 years in the making. In a region where cultures unfortunately sometime clash rather than coexist (and I don’t mean the US), SodaStream is finding harmony in building a workplace that leverages the talents of people from so many different backgrounds. Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like working at SodaStream, and why this approach is more than just a model for how companies can leverage diversity?

IB:

As I mentioned in my previous answer, in SodaStream we have an extraordinary story; we are in fact a true Island of Peace. In Israel you do not see images of Palestinians and Israelis getting along (I’m sure most of you watched Fauda on Netflix so you know what I’m talking about) but these are common, everyday images that you can see in our plant. Here’s a proof https://youtu.be/nCbgiS461Mg. We are not just proud of that; we are inspired by that and it’s a true evidence for us at SodaStream that everything is possible, and this reflects also on the way we do business. We are actually so proud to be working in SodaStream that we are shooting a special recruiting video these days that is showing the work environment in SodaStream in a fun and humoristic way, and I’m sure it’s going to be a very cool piece of content. so stay tuned.

SH:

An “island of peace” is the perfect description of what your team has built, and it’s something I hope people take note of. It will help us grow better businesses, and more importantly it’ll help us build a better place to do business (and live) in. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of your recruiting video! Please share it with us when it’s ready 🙂 Itai, it’s been great chatting with you today. Thank you!! Please keep doing the great work you’re doing, and we’re excited to see what comes next from you and the team.

IB:

Thank you Seth Hillstrom and team. It was my pleasure.

 

For questions or comments please visit:  https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6354712798051868672/

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