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Starry – PepsiCo’s Sprite rival targeted to Gen Z

Back in August, astute marketers and soda fanatics would have noticed that ​​PepsiCo first registered its Starry trademark and Starrylemonlime.com domain names. Over the past few days this Sprite competitor has been showing up in retail stores across the United States, namely Kroger, Circle K and Walmart. 

PepsiCo has held off on publicly discussing launch details, but a spokeswoman said information would be released shortly. For now, however, we can confirm that VaynerMedia has the creative account, and Mrs&Mr did the design, according to people familiar with the matter.

Starry is a sparkling lemonade drink hoping to compete with Coca-Cola’s Sprite, which dominates the category. Sierra Mist held less than 0.1% dollar share among carbonated soft drinks at retail through the first three quarters of last year, compared with Sprite’s 6.9% share, according to Beverage Digest figures.

Nevertheless, Starry isn’t PepsiCo’s first attempt to launch a rival Sprite product. It introduced Slice in 1984; Storm in 1998; and Sierra Mist in 2000. Pepsi tried a variety of formulation and packaging changes over the years for Sierra Mist, to little effect.

“It’s a brand they’ve never been able to figure out the algorithm for,” said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, an industry publication. “They’ve changed direction on the brand many times, turning it into an all-natural lemon lime a few years ago, then they briefly changed the name to Mist Twst.” 

It’s USP this time around? Marketing to Gen Z – although this decision is questionable seeing that Sprite already succeeds with that demographic. Packaging on promotional materials for Starry describes it as “a purpose-driven brand built for Generation Z,” and “[a] crisp, refreshing formula with a bite to win, share2 and grow the category.” The packaging said Starry offers “a fun escape” and “a mental recharge” while “taking steps on sustainability.”

From my personal Gen Z perspective, the marketing seems like an attempt to pack in buzzwords associated with the target demographic. As to whether such targeting will prove successful, time will only tell. 

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