The Cult of La Croix
As unlikely a story of cult fanaticism as any, LaCroix sparkling water is, well, everywhere these days.
La Crosse, Wisconsin-based G. Heileman Brewing Co. launched LaCroix back in 1981, and for much of its early lifecycle, it stayed in the Midwest. Over the course of the last 5 years, however, it’s been making the nationwide rounds. “The fastest-growing unsweetened [beverage] brand is LaCroix, whose sales have more than doubled in the last two years to $225.5 million, second to Nestlé SA’s $339.4 million in U.S. Perrier-brand sales,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
And while LaCroix may be marketable because of what it doesn’t contain (calories, sweeteners, sodium—it’s a seemingly health-conscious soda alternative), the magnetism of the carbonated water in those irresistibly Instagram-worthy cans is rooted in more than just its purported healthiness. We take a look at some of the contributing factors.
Unlike competitors like Coca-Cola, LaCroix avoids traditional modes of television and print advertising. Instead, the brand, which has found huge success among millennials (a consumer set that is noted for being highly discerning and opinionated and also weary of being sold to), relies most heavily on towering in-store floor displays (found in Whole Foods, Target, etc.) highlighting the crazy-low price of $3.99 for an 8-pack, word-of-mouth, and social media. Without T.V. ads potentially missing the mark and turning off prospective customers, the brand has grown in popularly as organically as these things happen these days. This perceived ‘underground’ It-factor of the brand appeals to the millennial consumer. Articles like Buzzfeed’s “21 Things Everyone Obsessed With LaCroix Knows To Be True” illustrate the force of this type of slow-burn marketing tactic. It’s not traditional PR, but it achieves a very similar goal of getting the word out in a highly powerful, viral-content-friendly manner.
The design of LaCroix boxes and cans are a neon-hued 80s/90s throwback. Evoking the teal and purple scribbled Jazz pattern famous for adorning Dixie paper cups, LaCroix plays on a vague but commonly felt sense of pleasant nostalgia. They are similarly iconic. Each flavor boasts its very own colorway, further inspiring the “collector’s appeal” of drinking LaCroix, exploring new flavors, and settling on a favorite.
Even the names of LaCroix flavors themselves (see: Pamplemousse) are a wink in word form. Forgoing sophistication entirely, the quirky, color-splashed designs are irresistible. For savvy shoppers, LaCroix might feel like a playful addition to an increasingly curated space of consumer goods.
One of the genius elements to the LaCroix brand is the variety of flavors available. Of the 13 flavors, from Apricot to Pamplemousse to Peach Pear and Tangerine, drinkers assuredly have their favorites and will willingly share their proclivities. The discovery of a new flavor might prompt giddy sharing, while a skeptical foray into the divisive Coconut flavor promises to drum up passionate conversation.
Meanwhile, social media is flooded with fan art creations , costumes, videos and an abundance of user-generated content shares, which serve as the brand’s own version of grassroots, consumer-vetted advertising. MyLaCroix.com, completely unaffiliated with the brand, lets you design your very own personalized can. There’s even a t-shirt dedicated to just how much women love their LaCroix.
Whether LaCroix is a fad or a modern day icon in the making is yet to be seen. What we do know is that a striking visual language and customer excitement wields a unique power in inspiring brand loyalty and spreading the word. Being a stellar cocktail mixer doesn’t hurt, either.