We all know them. They are present in our homes every day, no matter where we’re living. They’re like old friends accompanying us through the different stages of our lives. On request we can name their logo, colours, the most popular slogans. Have you ever wondered, how does it happen that some brands stand out above others and stay with us for so many decades? We’re going to talk about this in my new series Behind the scenes of the giants. First, it’s going to be Fanta. This may be because this soft drink lands almost daily on my desk during my work. And thanks to this glass bottle, filled with orange, sweet as hell beverage, I had the idea to learn more about these big booming brands.
Everything started from Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola, just at the beginning of the twentieth century was already very popular in the United States. A few years later, its production was expanded by European countries. In the thirties, the German subsidiary got a new executive, Max Keith. Max was a tall, well-built man, with great charisma, determination and leadership abilities. The new director had one serious goal – the development of Coca-Cola in the Third Reich, where the market of beverages was in its infancy. Keith was extremely hard-working and persistent in achieving his goal. Together with his employees, Max was spending over twelve hours every day, planning the best sales strategies for his company. One of the quite daring and innovative actions he took was coaxing the restaurants and pubs owners to buy Coca-Cola. The problem was that adult men who were the most common customers of those places were convinced that cold fizzy drinks (excluding beer) were nothing but a concoction of sweet syrups causing stomach aches. Keith had to convince them not only to buy it, but also to change their mentality. As old employees mention, Max’s charisma was so potent that sometimes only a few minutes was enough for him to win them over other retailers.
As a consequence of Keith’s actions, Coca-Cola became available for each consumer which rapidly yielded a great deal of growth. Within only three years, Max multiplied the sale many times in the Third Reich and neighbouring countries.
Necessity is the mother of invention
In 1941 the USA entered World War II and officially deemed the Third Reich an enemy. It resulted in the full embargo for products exported from the USA. One of them was the main ingredient of Coca-Cola. While many other companies that were in the same situation were closed down, Keith wanted to save the german subsidiary of Coca-Cola no matter what it took. Left to his fate, without the support of his American partners, Max had the idea of inventing a new drink as a substitute for Coca-Cola. Ultimately, the new recipe was created but it didn’t have a lot of common with the classic Coke. It consisted of whey, fruit scraps from cider production, caffeine and unidentified flavourings. The concoction had a not very encouraging light beige colour and probably tasted like something between orange, grapes and lemon.
The name Fanta comes from the German word fantasie which means fantasy. The naming was on point considering he made something from nothing, wouldn’t you say?
And this is how Fanta no. 1 was born. As a consequence of the small competition, Keith’s drink conquered the German and overseas markets very quickly. Paradoxically, the wartime policy of sugar rationing contributed to increasing Fanta’s popularity. First of all, Keith’s company was exempt from the restrictions and this made Fanta the sweetest and tastiest beverage available on the market. Secondly, Fanta became the substitute to sugar. Housewives were adding it to the soups or stews in order to make them more flavoursome. Ultimately only in 1943, Max Keith sold around three million bottles of Fanta.
After the war and the defeat of the Third Reich, the situation became a bit more complicated. After a few years of separation, there was a confrontation between the German subsidiary and the American headquarters. On the one hand, Harrison Jones, the chairman of the board, hailed Max Keith for his resourcefulness and, most of all, keeping the company alive, despite the extremely hard situation. However, there was also the other side of the coin. Straight after the American army, the group of the Technical Observers came to Germany too. There was a clash between them and Keith. The director of the German subsidiary was accused of fraternising with Nazis and planning to seize the whole company in case of the victory of the Third Reich. Max tried to explain his actions and their motivation, however, one of the technical advisors took offence to Keith’s explanations and labelled them as arrogant, Keith was refused access to the Coke syrup and Fanta production had to be significantly reduced. Eventually, there was a compromise and the Americans agreed to reopen Fanta production but with some restrictions. Unfortunately, the completely ruined German economy caused almost a fourfold decrease in sales. In addition, the plants were destroyed by bombs and the equipment, neglected for years, was also in a very poor condition. However, Keith was fearless and, again, found a solution. He started hiring old employees, former prisoners of war, who gradually turned the ruins into the well-thriving workplace. It must be mentioned here that the cooperation with the Germans didn’t bother the Americans anymore. They were impressed with their diligence and studiousness.
The beginnings of the Queen Fanta
Another breakthrough took place in 1955 when the new orange flavour of Fanta, that we know today, was introduced in Naples. Five years later, Fanta finally was put on sale in the USA. The board from Atlanta hesitated a long time before making this decision since the members were afraid that the new drink would efface Coca-Cola that was a staple in their market. The final impulse came when the competition started marketing new fruitiness and The Coca-Cola Company didn’t want to be behind. Within the next decades, Fanta became more and more popular. These days, this beverage is in the top ten of the most often sold soft drinks and the orange flavour is the most popular around the world.
Looking at Fanta’s history, you can think that this soft drink actually didn’t need complex marketing strategies. Eventually, it was supposed to replace the most popular beverage in the world and the competition was very poor. And not only, if it comes to fizzy drinks but also sugar. Fanta became one of the basic ingredients of some dishes. If not for the war and the German economy collapsing, the background of this brand’s development would have been more staggering.
Let’s see how the very first hoardings looked like.
Today Fanta is well-known for their wild and bold adverts. Young people are their target group, therefore Fanta’s marketing strategies correspond with the attitude of youngsters. The brand promotes diversity (the diversity of young people reflects the range of Fanta’s flavours), impulsivity, fun and youthful blitheness. Fanta’s adverts are always full of colours and sometimes quite weird but their goal is – being catchy, shocking, individual and triggering reaction.
In 2002 the new figures entered Fanta’s commercial stage. The Fantanas – four pretty models singing a memorable jingle Wanna Fanta, don’t you wanna?. Each model represents a different flavour of Fanta.
In 2017 The Fantanas came back after a few years break. Instead of anonymous models, we can see popular youtubers, influencers and actors, widely known from media targeted at young individuals. In this way, Fanta is showing that the brand keeps abreast with new trends and knows who rules among the youths.
In 2013 Fanta prepared a little surprise for their fans. The brand released edible hoarding that let the recipients to try the refreshing flavour of the beverage without drinking it. In the poster were fanciful descriptions such as a burst of sunshine, sweet and tangy, surprising and juicy etc. At the end of this vivid description, the producers said to tear off the piece of the page and just eat, enjoying a new Fanta flavour.
A big controversy took place a few years ago. For its seventy-fifth anniversary Fanta created a limited edition of the drink in Germany, based on its original taste and packaged in the glass bottles designed the same way as the first ones. You might think that it was a great idea, however, the commercial claimed that the limited edition of Fanta was the back to the Good Old Times. The advert caused an uproar since the Good Old Times was a period of Hitler’s authority.
I hope that this article brought you closer to this interesting story of one of the most popular beverages in the world. The fates of Fanta and Coca-Cola were constantly interchanging to finally become the sisterly brands. If you compare them to the family, Fanta would be a bit like an unwanted child. The Coca-Cola Company didn’t want to take it under their wings fearing that it would create a competition for the first-born and beloved beverage across the whole world. However, the market is ruthless and only one drink in the offer wasn’t enough. Summarizing, this brand could never be present today if there was no prior popularity of Coca-Cola, the superior determination of Max Keith and the fear of the Coca-Cola headquarters from declining its position within the market.
Bibliography: Mark Pendergrast For God, Country and Coca-Cola, https://www.mbaskool.com/marketing-mix/products/17446-fanta.html, https://brandyuva.in/2018/10/the-marketing-strategy-of-fanta-brand.html