The seltzer tsunami washing over America has not abated, and this month it was announced that one of the biggest bastions of beverage is getting in the game. Introducing bubly, brought to you by PepsiCo.
I’ve gotta say, Pepsi’s new brand is really impressive, and a wonderful case study on how the name and graphic design can create a whole far greater than the sum of the parts.
Here’s a quick and dirty summary of how we got here. The OG bubble water brand, Perrier (born circa 1898), effuses pure class and elegance. S.Pellegrino (1899) also evokes European sophistication. (Not coincidentally, both companies are now owned by Nestlé.)
Fast forward to LaCroix — a brand that lived in relative obscurity from its founding in 1981 until its meteoric rise in the 2010s — bridges elegance and fun. (Note the name LaCroix actually references the St. Croix river and the town of LaCrosse, both in Wisconsin, where the company began.
For those of us outside the Badger State, however, the name is simply “cross” in French. Anything French suggests refinement to the American ear, and its cursive font and pastel colors evoke elegance and femininity, while the forms in its packaging are dynamic and fun.)
With the name bubly, Pepsi went all in on fun. “We created bubly to provide consumers with a great-tasting, flavorful, unsweetened sparkling water in a fun, playful, and relevant manner that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the sparkling water category today,” said Todd Kaplan, Pepsico Beverages Vice President in a release.
The word bubbly means, of course, full of bubbles, or, metaphorically, vivacious. It also is used as slang for champagne, which suggests celebration. In general, an “ee” sound at the end of a name conveys friendly and familiar, all part of having fun. This ending is also rather genderless (as opposed to the traditionally masculine-sounding “o” or feminine “a”), which could be an advantage given the feminine-skewing competition.
Spelling the word without the third b ensures that it is pronounced with two short syllables (“bub” + “lee” rather than “bubble” + “ee”), which makes it peppier. This spelling also distances it from champagne enough to avoid possible confusion about whether the product contains alcohol.
But the real genius comes from the lowercase b, and this is where the name and packaging work in full concert. The colors are bright, one might even call them bold. But the brand took care not to appear aggressive — these aren’t energy drinks, or even sodas with caffeine or sugar and intense flavors. So the lowercase b and rounded, sans serif font soften the position, while also communicating playfulness and independence. This brand doesn’t care about conventions and formalities like capital letters.
You might think that the smiling u would have kept the name light and fun all on its own. But tempering the first letter for bubly was especially important because it is a plosive, a letter that involves a burst of air as in b, p, d, t, k, or g. Plosives carry a lot of force, so pulling back from that with the lowercase was a subtle yet important choice.
PepsiCo is planning a huge product launch, with the brand set to debut with two ads during the Academy Awards broadcast March 4th. They’re hoping this night for bubbly will become bubly’s night.
The lower case b is casual, intimate, and playfully flaunts convention, all of which orients the consumer to see the intense colors as fun rather than bold.