Marketing Eye

How Daniel Birnbaum turned a 6 million dollar company into a billion dollar global enterprise.

It caught my attention by accident. I was in an airport and Scarlett Johansson popped up on facebook. Apparently, after eight years of being a global ambassador for the anti-poverty group Oxfam International, their relationship had come to an end due to her doing a Super Bowl commercial for SodaStream.

Now, that's a word I haven't heard since I was a child. SodaStream was in every home when I was a child and at some stage, went down the same route of so many other popular brands that are "fads" and became a thing of the past.

The uproar was because SodaStream operates in Ma'ale Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The pedigree marketing background in consumer products that CEO Daniel Birnbaum credits to his name, was the reason that SodaStream fell in his lap. A friend asked him some years to have a look at the operations with him as he thought it was undervalued. After much consideration, it was decided that for $6 million, they would buy SodaStream and Birnbaum would take over as CEO. 

I have watched Birnbaum and I would say that he has a "Steve Jobs" style about him and without doubt the same marketing nous.

Instead of selling SodaStreams to sit on your kitchen bench, he revamped the design so that it looked great on the bench and then started a multimillion dollar marketing campaign to showcase how much more environmentally friendly SodaStream is compared to Pepsi and Coke.

It was this head on approach that caused an uproar over this years Super Bowl Advertisements, causing SodaStream's original advertisement to be banned by Fox. Instead the advertisement was placed up on YouTube and received almost 13 millions worth of hits and was shared on every social media platform imaginable. On top of that, they received tens of millions of dollars in free editorial worldwide, literally putting SodaStream back on the map. It didn't harm them any having one of the most beautiful women in the world, sipping SodaStream from a straw. 

In an interview with USA Today, Daniel Birnbaum said of the whole debacle of using the phrase "Sorry, Coke and Pepsi." : "Which advertiser in America doesn't mention a competitor? This is the kind of stuff that happens in China. I'm disappointed as an American."

As a marketer, I think Daniel Birnbaum is a genius. He may be using big agencies, but I suspect that he has alot to do with just how successful SodaStream has become. From a $6 million investment, the business now has a billion dollar market cap and while they don't have the marketing budget of Coke and Pepsi, they are giving them a good run for their money by clearly differentiating their value proposition. Who doesn't want an environmentally friendly solution and to save money at the same time? As for taste, I am neither here nor there. They both taste different but I am fine to carbonate my water with a SodaStream if it means that I don't have cages of landfill that is directly contributed to my laziness of buying on the run.

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