Building a Customer-Centric Brand

Jones Soda founder and CEO Peter van Stolk never made it to business school. But shepherding one of today's hottest beverage brands has been an excellent marketing education. Here's what he has learned.

Good brands take time, not money.

"If somebody said to me, 'Peter, I want to give you $100 million, and I want you to launch a successful brand tomorrow,' I'd say, 'Keep your money.' But give me $10 million and five years to do it, and I'll knock the ball out of the park."

Look outside for inspiration.

"When we looked at companies to emulate, we never looked at beverage companies. If I'm trying to overtake category leaders, why follow what they're doing? The very first case of Jones Soda went to the founder of Nike, Phil Knight."

Don't trust focus groups.

"You can get a focus group to tell you anything you want. You have to be careful to make sure you get honest answers. When we do tastings, people have two choices: Does it taste good, or does it taste like s — -?"

Your target demographic isn't the same as your target customer.

"Look at the 35- to 40-year-old demo. That's where the income is. But there's not a 35-year-old woman looking to a 45-year-old woman to see how she dresses. The aspiration always goes down. That's why I'm happy we're a 12- to 24-year-old brand."

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