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3. November 2017

Fritz meets Coca-Cola, Fritz beats Coca-Cola

How David fritz-kola blew away Goliath Coca-Cola in Hamburg bars

Launched as an alternative soft drink manufacturer by two students, a start-up company has done the impossible and ousted Coca-Cola from many pubs and bars in Hamburg. Today, fritz-kola is making millions in sales. A shining example of perfect marketing, and how to conquer a seemingly impregnable market.

First wave of attack – with 170 crates

From time to time, it can get pretty boring in a student dormitory. The perfect moment for spinning glorious visions of the future. That’s what Mirco Wiegert and Lorenz Hampl did, anyway. Since 1999, the two former boy scouts were entertaining the idea of starting their own business. By 2002, their idea of fritz-kola was taking shape – their very own soft drink. They toiled away, had fellow students test the mixture and refined the recipe. Finally, with the aid of a professional beverage developer, they hit upon a formula which was well received.

In 2003, fritz-kola is launched – with a grand total of 170 crates. After printing out the labels in a copy-shop and gluing them to the bottles by hand, the soft-drink pioneers personally visit pubs, bars and beverage retailers and offer them their new drink. Successfully, it turns out. Production output is increased and in time, the product range is expanded to include fritz-lemonades in various flavours.

Unconventional image, clever ads

The fritz-kola-guys did profit from the fact that since 1995 and the debut of Bionade, the German soft drink market is in flux. A steady stream of new drinks has seen the light of day – some are soon forgotten, others manage to carve out a market for themselves. Especially in Hamburg and Berlin, pubs and bars are open to new ideas and products. Everywhere, micro-breweries are popping up and craft beer has become a smash hit.

Challenging the big hitters, of course, also requires the right image. In this case meaning an unconventional one, suggesting a close affinity with the customers. The fritz cola-logo just shows the heads of the two founders in black and white, while their ad campaigns are full of witty slogans. And the ads are everywhere: on billboards, t-shirts, buses, a giant floating dock in Hamburg’s harbour. fritz-kola is represented in all trendy pubs and at festivals. A nationwide roll-out is picking up speed, as is a European launch. An increasing number of pubs and bars in Northern Germany is only offering fritz-kola while the big Atlanta competitor’s product is being discontinued.

Separation from the pack

Is the success of fritz-kola an outlier or the result of clever marketing? A model to be emulated in other industries? Well, yes and no. As is often the case, serendipity played a role – which is rather unpredictable. But fritz-kola managed to build up and build upon their rebellious image with creative marketing geared towards their target audience. Even though they are by now an established company, they still radiate the image of a start-up, an underdog, a rebel. Separating yourself from the pack – in this case the major drink companies – is essential, even if the disparities are only staged.

The emergence and success of fritz-kola are reminiscent of early fin-techs. They also tried to rattle the cages of the Goliaths by tailoring alternative financial products to a young and hip target group. fritz-kola made its name via word of mouth in trendy bars, fin-techs conquer their markets via smartphones, a channel seldom used by traditional banks.

Because the brand and the product are perceived as offbeat, fritz-kola is having great success. This strategy should work for fin-techs too, since they also see themselves as unorthodox and innovative. It is up to their brand management to uphold this distinction from traditional banking houses. Even though fritz-kola is growing exponentially, the myths and legends of their early days still loom large, thanks to careful grooming and corresponding marketing. Fin-techs have to make a decision which image they want to cultivate – brash and cheeky or respectable and reliable – in order to find success in the market. Then, the product only has to meet the taste of the customers – like fritz-kola has.

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