During a work trip to NYC, I had a chance to interview the founders of Swoon, Christina Ross, and Jen Ross, to provide supplemental content for the case study Swoon: Mixing Up the Perfect Marketing Cocktail authored by Sheri Lambert and Marilyn Anthony. This opportunity gave me a chance to ask questions about their company and some of their marketing strategies they implemented to promote the Swoon brand.
Introductions and Partnership
We started off with the Jen Ross and Christina Ross introducing t themselves and how they began their partnerships as Swoon’s CEOs.
Cristina: We met, at Harvard Business School when we were in the same section. We both have the same last name, Ross and we were seated right next to each other, so it was fate!
Jen came from the perspective that was focus on learning and applying the skill she learned in business school to create a successful business. She was a go getter in wanting to start her own company and suing resources to help figure out what was the right industry for her. Knowing full well that plan will change and will need to be readjusted. While Cristina came to Business School through law school.
In the beginning, they started as friend but later became business partner to create a product out of a personal need and thought this was their opportunity to explore this new venture in finding the best sweetener without the artificial ingredients.
Jen: We really started BeMixed and then now what is Swoon out of a true personal need. I’m Type-I diabetic and was diagnosed with diabetes when I was six years old. So, I’ve spent my entire life looking for 0 sugar options and thus Swoon beverages because the reality is sugar is bad for everyone. It’s not just type one diabetics 2/3 of adult Americans are pre diabetic and that is a direct result of diet and exercise. And diet being the consumption of so much excess sugar.
Through their investigation of finding the best sugar substitute, they found that the monk fruit was the key ingredients needed in their alternative sugar recipe that had the most flavor and little effect to blood sugar levels. There was competition with existing alternative sugar brands, but they were able to break through the crowd by marketing their product as a simple syrup for cocktail drinks, BeMixed. By narrowing the scope of their product, they found that the best people to ask how to market a healthier drink would be through bartenders and mixers.
What were their needs, and what were the issues that they had in terms of serving their customer’s needs? BeMixed was our first go at this. It was a line of 0 sugar cocktail mixers. We really felt like this was an area that was like so much sugar and people just weren’t paying attention to
Through this they were able to sample and test what would be the base for a healthier alcoholic drink. Later they would change the name to create bigger platform for their products and later cater for a larger audience of Swoon consumers.
Be Mixed had a much more sort of a descriptive name, and Swoon was something much more evocative. We had learned a lot over the time when we started BeMixed and we just felt that this simple syrup platform was much broader than mixed drinks, which we thought was a bit limiting with the name BeMixed. And so that’s when we started working with the brand names Swoon and then over time we realized. This one brand really is going to be much bigger in a much bigger platform, but we need to bring BeMixed along into them and so we folded into our Swoon platform.
Marketing Your Product
The evolution of Bemixed to Swoon shifted the product purpose from just a simple syrup for cocktail drinks to a recipe for 0 sugar drinks. The Swoon Founders found that the best way to start promoting their line of product to a larger audience was through sampling event to learn how to improve the recipe as well as recruit influencer and sponsors to sell their product in stores. The color scheme that Swoons use is eye catching in store s to attract customers to the healthier alternative to high sugar drinks. With their new line of nonalcoholic drink in store they still brought along their simple syrup as part of their product line. On their social media page, they would post recipe and review for bartender and customer that used their products should the accessibility and use of their simple syrup.
However, like many companies, Swoon faced an issue in 2020. How will the company market to customer and stores if sampling event were canceled due to the production of COVID 19? What were some of the draws back of shifting your marketing strategies? Was there a positive outcome?
When COVID hit all the retailers pulled back all their sampling programs. All events. Obviously weren’t happening in person, and so we had to get a bit scrappy to say,” OK, well, we’re just going to use our networks as much as possible. “So, we packaged it and sent it out loads of friends and family kits, influencer kits and use that that to give us that sampling feedback.
They were able to adjust to the situation and investigate their network to find alternative ways to get feedback. With these kits, it created a personalized experience for people create loyal customer to comeback or even use these customers that are content creator to influence other potential customers.
We got the feedback, but then how do we use then these content creators and influencers to help us tell the story and give those tasting notes. And give that sort of live credibility that you otherwise get at a sampling. I think there’s this thirst for authenticity and really you know what do we all do? It’s been fun to think about content collaborator and in how we will they will learn to infuse their style into our style. Also, to give a megaphone to review will be helpful.