A bright future: Name review of Pepsi’s Starry

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Catchword reviews the name of Pepsi's new lemon lime soda, Starry
Images courtesy of PepsiCo

Launched earlier this month, Pepsi’s new lemon-lime soda, Starry, aims to outshine chief rival Coca-Cola’s Sprite, which has dominated the market for decades, completely eclipsing Pepsi’s previous citrus drink, Sierra Mist.

Pepsi tried and failed to replace Sierra Mist once before. Even so, the company is hitching its wagon to Starry, touting it in a PepsiCo release as “bright, optimistic, and rooted in culture and fun.” 

Rising Starry

Although we can’t predict whether Starry will make a dent in Sprite’s bottom line, overall the name works well and may well catch on with consumers.

Starry evokes pleasant, even poetic, thoughts of crisp, clear evenings alight with twinkling stars. It’s a creative way to translate the spritzy effervescence and cool refreshment of a carbonated drink.Starry evening

Van Gogh painting Starry NightThe name also brings to mind quite a few on-message cultural memes. The age-old rhyme “Star light, star bright” emphasizes the soda’s lightness (no caffeine, clear color) and its bright lemon-lime flavor—chefs use bright to refer to citrus, acidity, and freshness (think spritz of lime on a taco). Association with Van Gogh’s iconic “Starry Night” communicates beauty, creativity, and swirly, dreamy motion. “Starry-eyed” suggests hopeful optimism (albeit of the naive sort). Starry is simple yet rich in metaphor and mental imagery.

And we like that Pepsi chose this form of the word rather than something like Superstar or White Star because such names track to celebrity rather than the bright clarity of actual stars. 

Starry v Sprite

We would have liked a little more distance between Starry and its biggest competitor—both one-word names with an initial “S” sound that evoke energy, but the construction subtly suggests the caffeine-free, lemon-lime category given the names of this niche’s major brands: Seven Up, Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist. The “S” sound itself phonetically symbolizes speed and smoothness. 

As a one-word name, Starry contrasts better with Mountain Dew (the citrus soda with the largest market share) than Sierra Mist does. PepsiCo really fell flat in this respect, giving Mist a name synonymous with Mountain Dew despite the different taste, different target audience, and much higher caffeine content of the Dew.

We don’t love that Starry suggests a nighttime beverage, since this could connote anything from a sleep aid to an alcoholic party drink. But Pepsi has countered this perception in Starry’s visual identity, choosing bright yellow and green.

Eye on Starry

Image courtesy of PepsiCo

Speaking of design, although we don’t take logo execution into account when grading names, we give Starry props for its angled font and underscore, which communicate energy, positivity, and forward motion, and the four-point, pulsar-like image embedded in the wordmark’s “S” reinforces the association with real stars (rather than the five-point star associated with reviews and celebrity).

The design could work harder to convey twinkly zest and refreshing flavor, particularly the black outlines, which feel heavy. Paired with the clip art lemon shape and bold colors, however, we get 50s comic book and elementary school, which does express youthful fun. In addition, the script font has a retro vibe. All this nostalgia may well have been intended to help reach the brand’s target audience—trend watchers say Gen Z loves everything retro.

Light, dreamy, and energetic, but a bit close to its primary competition, Starry is a bright but not quite brilliant choice.

Final Grade:

A-

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