“The Ugly Truth”
Often success comes from innovative & crafty, but non-traditional, strategies. Most brands we speak with are fighting the good fight…battling for distribution, shelf space, and velocity/sell-through. But what about a strategy that circumvents many of those hurdles and normalizes velocity?
We’re here with Hugh Thomas, Founder & CEO of Ugly Drinks to explore how they have leveraged an e-comm-based subscription-only sales strategy to find fans, grow the brand, and ensure continued success.
Hugh, thanks so much for joining us today!
Great to be here!
Before we dig-in, can you tell us a little more about Ugly Drinks? Why the name, and what’s in the can?
Thanks! Ugly stands for the Ugly Truth. Big beverage brands have been saying the same thing for too long, and we’re here to be transparent! Ugly is a flavored sparkling water brand with no sugar, no sweetener and nothing artificial. We come in a range of flavors, and provide a great alternative to traditionally sugary and sweetened carbonated soft drinks. Find out more at uglydrinks.com
I love your mantra of ‘No BS, just the ugly truth’ as a point in time where trust/confidence in advertising continues to challenge even the most savvy of marketers. How well does this resonate with your fans, and is this a message you tout regularly across social channels/in your comms?
We think this resonates 100% with our fans. At a global time of ‘fake news and alternative facts’ both in what we read in the news + on the ingredient panels of products we eat and drink! We want to keep things simple and tell our fans things as it is – we communicate this through every touch point (even on can!)
Interestingly, you’ve chosen to avoid retail (for now) in favor of an e-commerce platform – and one that requires consumers to subscribe to Ugly Drinks. I have a few questions here:
a. What tipped the scales and lead you to ignore traditional retail in favor of e-commerce sales?
b. A subscription is currently required to buy Ugly Drinks. I love the model, but do you find you are exchanging a potentially higher conversion rate for a greater lifetime value? And if so – any indicators that you’ve made the right choice?
c. Is the plan to eventually include retail in your distribution strategy as well? Or is the goal to maintain the current model for the foreseeable future?
We believe in a long term hybrid model for beverage, but wanted to launch with e-commerce to give consumers access across the country, and get Ugly shipped to their door. Not only can we engaged 1-1 with each consumers, but we can get fast & live feedback on what we are doing 🙂 It’s super exciting!
Even though you’re still in the growth stages, you didn’t waste any time supporting a cause that’s important to you. Can you tell us about Girl Up and why it’s such an important cause to yourself and the Ugly Drinks team?
We stand for The Ugly Truth. One of The Ugly Truth’s that we identified in the world, was that of ‘gender inequality’ and this was something that we felt as a team, that we wanted to improve and contribute towards. Girl Up is a fantastic partner (find out more here: https://www.girlup.org/) and we donate 1 cent (US) and 1 pence (UK) from every can sold to the charity.
Finally, we love to finish by looking ahead, so here goes: As the flavored seltzer category matures, what are some of the factors you think will be critical to long-term success and category leadership. Is it about the right mix of flavors? Relevant extensions? Relatable brand? Is it the battle for eyeballs (digitally and on shelves)? Or maybe something else…
It’s a bit of everything. For us, having a great tasting product, with clean ingredients and a brand that clearly communicates with a positively rebellious emerging consumer group is the key! Ugly stands for something and we want to continue telling more people about our vision and journey. At the same time, we’re always tinkering with the product and have new flavors and product ideas in the mix!
I think that’s an extremely attune perspective, and I love the description of the “positively rebellious emerging consumer group.” Well, it sounds like you’ve got an exciting path ahead. Best of luck, and we look forward to seeing what’s next for Ugly Drinks! ….And hopefully we can bring you out to eBev in the fall, so folks can learn more and sample The Ugly Truth for themselves!
For questions or comments please visit:
- Rhonda Motil, Vice President of Marketing, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
- Chris Hintermeister, Director, Ecosystems and Digital Platforms – Gatorade, PepsiCo
- “Raz” (Rich) Razgaitis, CEO and Board Member, FloWater
- Michael Davidson, CEO, Black Infusions LLC
- Alan Miller, CEO & Founder, Blue Marble Cocktails