Re-branding the soda of North Carolina into a “Legend”

Cheerwine, the novelty soda of North Carolina, was created in 1917 in Salisbury, NC by L.D. Peeler. A soda called the “Nectar of North Carolina” flourishes in the state, but Cheerwine has more recently branded itself to grow to a larger demographic–setting itself aside from other popular drinks.

While the renowned soda is unique to its NC roots, the company released Diet Cheerwine in the ’60s in an attempt to target more health-conscious consumers; however, the company was still mostly Southern-dominated. In more recent years, Cheerwine has used a new advertising campaign to break out of NC into a national product through a refreshed branding of the company, calling the beverage a “Legend.”

The New York Times reported  that Cheerwine’s company Carolina Beverage Corporation hired a New York-based advertising agency, Woods Witt Dealy & Sons, around 2011 to promote the brand as a “legend.”

“The campaign has two goals: stimulate interest in Cheerwine among those who have not tried it while at the same time forging stronger ties with fans,” NYT says.

With a new website, featuring graphics and a tab entitled “Find Cheerwine,” consumers can search via zip codes to find a local place to purchase the hard-to-find drink. By portraying the brand as authentic, unique, and staying true to its original “nectar” image, the drink has created a high demand for itself. Cheerwine says that they gained attention from their new marketing strategy, receiving letters from consumers and an increase in popularity outside of North Carolina. Since 2011, the brand continues to expand to other states, most recently Virgina, Maryland and Delaware in 2014.

Through social media presence, promotions, and revamped advertising, Cheerwine’s collaboration with a creative advertising firm attempted to break out of the Southern demographic while staying true to its old-school roots. What do you think about their re-branding in 2011?

-Kaitlyn Russell

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35 thoughts on “Re-branding the soda of North Carolina into a “Legend”

  1. Great example. Harnessing regionality and niche status and framing it as legend is clever if it works and doesn’t correspond with a NASCAR like move to leave the region behind as it seeks to grow. Regional partnerships like this one also help. http://www.cackalacky.com/ BBQ is a regional food and making a sweet BBQ sauce with Cheerwine helps both companies–especially if one is a legend.

    • Dr. Olsen,
      Combining two regional products, such as Cheerwine and BBQ is a great idea to expand the company, while staying true to its roots. Those products really illustrate the Southern values that Cheerwine has, as well as reaching out to a demographic that is consistent with the products. Thank you for showing us this!
      -Kaitlyn Russell

  2. I think it’s interesting that Cheerwine is trying to spread their market. This new website makes it seems like they are attempting to dissociate themselves from their southern brand image. It will be interesting to see whether this new easier access to Cheerwine helps or hurts their market. I think part of the draw to Cheerwine is that it isn’t easily accessible. As Cheerwine becomes more widespread I wonder if this will actually hurt their brand image because they are losing what made them special- that you could only buy Cheerwine in the South.

    • Carolina,
      You made an interesting point! I think this is something that Cheerwine has struggled with over the years–the debate to make its product more accessible, thus growing demand, or keeping it NC-based. The Southern region is definitely a large part of its overall image, so it’ll be interesting to see how much farther the product will go in the coming years.
      -Kaitlyn Russell

  3. Great Article! I’m from the north, so Cheerwine is hard to come by. Whenever my friends come to visit they always try Cheerwine and love it, but it’s so hard to find back home. I think it will make the old fashioned drink more modern and current by making it more accessible and creating a stronger social media presence. Can’t wait to hopefully find it back home in Annapolis!

    • Molly,
      It’s neat to see a perspective from someone outside of NC and what your friends think of the beverage and brand when they come to visit. By expanding the product to other states, it could very well create a larger customer-base for consumers, like yourself, who enjoy the drink and wish to find it when you’re back home. Thanks for commenting!
      -Kaitlyn Russell

  4. This was a very good post! I’ve lived in NC my whole life and I think anytime I’ve ever gotten a Cookout tray I’ve gotten a Cheerwine as my drink. I had no idea they were finally pushing to states outside of North Carolina. One thing that I believe would help them is if they were able to get on a McDonalds or Burger King menu nationwide because their pretty popular establishments located across the world; a new type of beverage would perhaps boost their sales and definitely have a huge increase in Cheerwine’s sales. Branding it as “legend” was very catchy and smart, and it does appear that it worked.

    • Griffen,
      Adding the product to a fast food restaurant, such as McDonalds, would definitely help the brand expand both nationally and internationally by making it more accessible; however would that boost in sales override the originality and authenticity of the image of the product? That’s a question that Cheerwine will have to decide when it comes to future marketing campaigns!
      -Kaitlyn Russell

  5. This was a great article to read. I found it very interesting that Cheerwine is trying to expand outside of the South. I feel this soft drink is special to the South, so to me it is kind of a shame to see that it wants to expand elsewhere. When we think of Cheerwine, we think of the South, so I feel it will be interesting to see how other states accept this soft drink.
    This companies use of social media I feel is really smart in regards to engaging its consumers. Creating a tab in which consumers can find where to purchase this drink, I would think would really increase their sales. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this article and learned a lot!

    • Vanessa,
      Glad to hear that you learned a lot! You saying that when you think of Cheerwine, you think of the South validates that their image is Southern-dominated. It would be neat to see what perception other states have on the soda as well!
      -Kaitlyn

  6. Cheerwine is one of my favorite sodas and it’s no secret that the try to make it “unique” by selecting only a few stores and few states to sell it in. There is a famous restaurant in my hometown called Zack’s Hotdogs and they sell Cheerwine in the classic glass bottle from which it was so called “raised.” I can always count on getting my Cheerwine fix here, because I’m never sure when the next opportunity to buy it will be. I’m always pleasantly surprised whenever I see it in stores so I personally think they new marketing strategy “Find Cheerwine” is awesome. It still keeps the brand authentic, but allows the customer easy access to the closest Cheerwine near them. What’s interesting is that this marketing strategy is generated BY the customer. I think Cheerwine is pretty brave putting it in our hands. Fortunately for Cheerwine they thought to add a disclaimer stating “Keep in mind these locations are all generated by you our fans, so please don’t get too flustered if the info is not exact.” This way if I drive to the location that claims they sell the soda, but in fact they do not, well at least Cheerwine can say they told you so!

    • Olivia,
      You make a good point that the marketing strategy is generated by the consumer, by having them search for a location that offers the drink. By making the consumer feel like they have the power to find the drink, instead of being told where it is, helps in their “legend” brand, as well as giving them the opportunity to post where they personally found it. Thank you!
      -Kaitlyn

  7. This was a very interesting article! I had no idea that Cheerwine was attempting to breakout of North Carolina and spread to a larger market. I love Cheerwine and think that other states should be able to experience it as well, however, I think that this could potentially harm their image. Cheerwine makes people think of the south. In my opinion the fact that Cheerwine is only found in the south is part of what makes it desirable. Their social media does mention the south and using “legend” to market it was a good idea but will this take away what made this soda unique? I’m curious to see how successful they are in the next few years.

    • Juliane,
      We’re also curious to see how this new tactic will alter their “legend” and Southern brand image. It’ll be interesting to see how North Carolinian’s respond, as well as out-of-state consumers. They seem to have tried hard to keep that nostalgia in their commercial and social media campaigns. Thanks!
      -Kaitlyn

  8. I think this is a bold, yet promising business move for Cheerwine. I think they should definitely keep the homegrown message attached to Cheerwine, and let their customers know that this is North Carolina originated drink. I like what they have decided to do to their website and I think that it will benefit them in a variety of ways. People will want to buy this product because of its originality, but also because it stands for something more than just another soda. It is authentic and people like that. I think that expanding their demographics is a good idea, but they need to make sure people know where it first came from.

    • Abigail,
      It may be a good idea for them to market it as an “NC Legend” to really hone on the origination of the drink. The authenticity of the brand is really what keeps it different from other sodas. Thank you!
      -Kaitlyn

  9. I enjoyed reading this article. I did not know that Cheerwine was trying to expand its market, but I definitely think they should. It does seem as if the company is trying to stray away from their Southern roots, which could both help and hurt the company. I believe that if they strategically market themselves, they could keep both consumer markets. Krispy Kreme is another company that started in North Carolina that expanded into a worldwide market. I think that if they take some pointers from Krispy Kreme, it could help them a lot.

  10. This really excites me. I love Cheerwine and always hate traveling and it not being available when I leave the state. Everytime I bring a friend from out of state here to NC, I always force them to have a Cheerwine and I rarely hear a negative response to it. Cheerwine has been missing out on a huge market by not moving outside of NC and this sounds like they are on the right path.

  11. Cheerwine is a legend! I grew up in Charlotte and I always knew and loved Cheerwine, and it made it that much cooler when my friends who moved from different states didn’t know what it was! Of the people who grew up with Cheerwine I think that they would agree with me that it is a legend, but for the people that don’t know about Cheerwine it may be different. I would be interested to see how the company plans to persuade people that Cheerwine is a legend when they don’t know what it is. I think they might have to work pretty hard at it.

    • Cheerwine is indeed a legend! They will have to work hard to market Cheerwine to people who don’t know what it is. The company wants to re-focus their brand to reach new people while also maintaining their old consumers. If they are successful then they will succeed in introducing the wonderful goodness that is Cheerwine to new people.

      Anna Zima

  12. Kaitlyn,
    I really loved this article! I’m from the South and while I hear of Cheerwine all the time I don’t personally drink it. However, I do think this was a great way to re-brand the soda while still keeping true to it’s roots. I think some companies find it hard to keep their loyal customers when they re-brand the image so often. But after watching the video I like the idea of being able to type in your zip code and find where this unique soda could be. Very interesting facts about Cheerwine and I think the company is doing a great job of expanding their brand out of the south yet still keeping its loyal fans.

  13. I think that it is great that Cheerwine is attempting to widen it’s market, but I worry that they will leave their Southern roots completely behind and revamp themselves. This image change could be positive, but part of Cheerwine’s appeal is that it is an exclusive product in the South. Perhaps spreading to other states could hurt their sales as non-southern states may not be as attracted to the drink.

  14. I chose to read this particular article because I absolutely LOVE Cheerwine. I honestly had no idea that they had started to re-brand themselves to reach consumers outside of NC. However, i think it’s a great thing for them to do. Even though re-branding changes the look of the company, loyal Cheerwine drinkers aren’t going to stop loving it just because they are advertising for it differently. By expanding their target audience to other states they are only furthering the future success of the company.

  15. I really do believe that marketing Cheerwine as a legend to the national market is a brilliant idea. I have friends from up North that come in town to visit family. The first thing they do when they arrive is stockpile Cheerwine to take home. Advertising the drink to a national market as been a long time coming. I’ve actually wondered myself on several occasions why Cheerwine had not done something like this years ago?! Great topic and excellent article!

  16. Great article and I think it’s great that they are trying to expand their market outside of the South. It will be interesting to see if other states love it as much as we do here. I kind of agree with you Vanessa about it being special to the South. If the company is doing great I look at it as the saying goes if it’s not broke don’t fix it, but no matter if they think this new way of marketing will increase their business then I hope they do well with it.

  17. I think this article was a great read! I am not personally a Cheerwine drinker, but all of my family up north always need to have it in the house when they visit. I think that it is a great idea for Cheerwine to make their drink more accessible. I think they are expanding their market from just the south to the north. I am interested to see how this marketing technique will work and if their revenue will increase.

    • Grace,

      We are also interested to see how successful they are with this marketing technique. Hopefully their “legend” soda will be successful in all parts of the country. Thanks for your post!

      Anna Zima

  18. I think rebranding the drink is a great idea, as it seems the brand needs to be thought through to encourage it to grow outside of North Carolina. The rebranding seems to be thoughtful since it has expanded into nearby states such as Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, indicating it has worked. Personally I feel that ‘legendary’ brands need to have a story, which Cheer Wine has spoke about in their website, this will help the brand encourage some intangible value. I hope to see this brand expand further!

  19. Great post, Kaitlyn! I was born and raised in North Carolina so I am very fond of Cheerwine! This drink is dear to many Southerners and I think it is great they are trying to expand their company to sell their drink in other places. My only concern however, is loosing Cheerwine’s southern brand image. I love their 2011 advertisement though, and that they are promoting the brand as a legend. If I did not know of Cheerwine but heard it was a legend, I would want to know the history, and would find out about it’s southern roots.

  20. As a North Carolina native, Cheerwine is seens as somewhat of a delicacy in my eyes. I think that it is about time that Cheerwine makes its way out of the south, and teaming up with an ad agency in New York seems like a surefire way to do that. I agree with the post above mine, I love that Cheerwine is being advertised as a legend because down south that’s how we see it. I think that the marketing campaign will be successful if the brand is able to hold the same significance up north and out west as it does in the south; if it is able to be portrayed as the delicacy we believe it to be.

  21. I think Cheerwine’s re-branding into a “legend” is a good strategy and will definitely appeal to the die-hard North Carolinians that love their state. It is a good opportunity to bring people together who are already a fan and also to create interest in new people who have never tried the soda. Being a legend creates a sense of honorable history and will definitely spark interest in both continuing consumers and new fans.

  22. As someone who did not grow up in the south I had no idea that Cheerwine existed until I moved to North Carolina. For me it will not be a re-branding but more of an introduction to the Cheerwine brand. I think it will be interesting to see how it effects markets outside of NC and the south. I feel that, like me, people who are not familiar with Cheerwine will be introduced to it and will have the opportunity to grow to love it like I have.

  23. Cheerwine using the term “legend” to market itself seems to be a very coherent advertising strategy as it can play on its already established image of rarity. To establish itself outside of the Carolinas will be difficult, however, as its promotional strategy of emphasizing the fact it originated in North Carolina and that it is only commonly found in the state of its origin makes it seem all the more special to local consumers. Trying market it outside of its well known region will have to rely more on the legend aspect of rarity and less on the regional aspect of rarity. Also, marketing more heavily outside of North Carolina could take away from the brands local image as it is no longer purely a drink of the Carolinas.

  24. Although I understand why the company wants to reach out to other markets, I think Cheerwine may lose some of its appeal by doing this! I’m from California, and I had never even heard of Cheerwine until I moved to NC. Due to it having loyal customers that rave on and on about it, I tried it and somehow feel like I have this secret that no one else but Carolina natives can know about. Their expansion may contribute to a loss of sales simply because it will lose its uniqueness. Being available in different parts of the country will make it seem like just another soda company. Cheerwine has a chance of getting lost in the shadow of big brand names like Coca Cola and Pepsi if it loses its appeal due to its expansion.

  25. I love that Cheerwine is reaching out to other regions that just around the Carolina’s. I am from North Carolina and when I travel to other states people look at me like I’m crazy when I ask if they have Cheerwine. I grew up on the “nectar” and can’t wait for other people to experience how awesome it is!

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