If you’ve noticed a proliferation of beauty and lifestyle brands creating smoothies — and going viral — then join the club.
While smoothie collabs are an entire product category on their own, brands have long been partnering with iconic foods to create limited-edition signature flavors and products.
Pairing a food and beverage companies with a celebrity, or a fashion, beauty or lifestyle brand can be a successful way to tap into a whole new audience and ignite some buzz.
When it comes to predicting the formula for a viral drink, the equation seems straightforward, doesn’t it?
1- Align with a noteworthy, popular founder, creator or brand.
2- Create a flavor profile that’s both delicious and highly Instagrammable.
3- Offer the drink for a limited time (this isn’t always the case but urgency is often part of the mix).
And yet, only a select few have cracked the code for smoothie collab success. That’s because there’s no true copy-paste template for this type of branded liquid gold.
I spoke with three brand founders who have mastered this, as well as branding and marketing experts who have harnessed the power of virality.
There’s no question about it: Erewhon, the Los Angeles-based certified organic retailer (that also has B Corp Certification), helped unlock a new level of stratospheric success with its smoothies.
Marianna Hewitt and Hailey Bieber are the two influencers and beauty founders who helped propel this trend at Erewhon in 2022 — starting with Hewitt’s “Coconut Cloud” in March, followed by the release of Bieber’s “Strawberry Glaze Skin” smoothie (dubbed the “Hailey Bieber”), soon after in June.
According to Vito Antoci, Erewhon Executive Vice President (who has been named among Glossy’s “Top Marketers of 2023”), Marianna Hewitt’s “Coconut Cloud” is what changed it all for Erewhon and showcased the endless possibilities within this new product category.
Bieber is currently making waves with the late August launch of Rhode’s newest Peptide Lip Treatment, which bears the same lip-smacking name as the infamous and still extremely viral Erewhon smoothie.
Bieber’s “Strawberry Glaze Skin” smoothie is still going extremely strong: “In Hailey’s first month, she sold about 36,000 smoothies,” Antoci shares. “We had our biggest month ever this past August — we saw a spike of 16,000 units.”
According to Antoci, 1,200 to 1,500 of Bieber’s “Strawberry Glaze Skin” smoothie are sold at Erewhon, per day. Sales and social media posts of the drink were even boosted in August, which Antoci attributes to Taylor Swift’s L.A. stop of The Eras tour: that week led to a significant spike in sales, as concertgoers visiting Los Angeles wanted to get in on the “Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie” phenomenon (and share about it on social).
With the belief that brands can have a positive impact on their community, Rhode built the Rhode Futures Foundation as part of the brand’s DNA since day one. Partial proceeds of the $18 smoothie went to the brand’s Rhode Foundation.
(All of Erewhon’s smoothies have a give-back component, with proceeds going to the creator’s non-profit organization of choice.)
On the opposite side of the food spectrum as Erewhon, Krispy Kreme temporarily reintroduced its Strawberry Glaze donut, until September 4. So now fans of Rhode’s Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie can have their proverbial cake — and donuts too.
(It’s safe to assume that Erewhon’s target consumer is sipping its way to Strawberry Glaze Skin, as Bieber hinted that it’s a “Strawberry Girl Summer,” but the beauty of unpredictable branding makes the Krispy Kreme tie-in that much more compelling.)
Summer Fridays founder Marianna Hewitt has since launched a follow-up smoothie at Erewhon: this summer’s “Strawberry Lemonade Summer Crush.”
Flavor and aesthetics are two benchmarks of a standout smoothie, so when it comes to creating the look, let your brand’s image take the lead.
“I am someone who thinks social and digitally first to get people excited, so I knew I wanted it to be visually beautiful, featuring a nod to Summer Fridays with a shade of blue,” Hewitt says about her “Coconut Cloud” smoothie. “But it had to taste good in addition to being beautiful, so together with the Erewhon team, we created this drink.”
“We like to tie it into something that’s natural to the brand — with ‘Coconut Cloud’ it was the blue color of Jet Lag Mask, and with ‘Strawberry Lemonade’, it’s the name ‘Summer Crush’ that ties into the brand name and feeling of Summer Fridays. We were also able to do a sample with purchase of our ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen, so we could reach a new audience with our products.”
For “Strawberry Lemonade Summer Crush,” lemonade-flavored electrolytes were added to the drink for hydration, to bring in the functional aspect of the drink.
When it comes to Erewhon smoothies, flavor and look aren’t enough — a functional element must be part of the equation.
This past June, the retailer collaborated with gut health brand Arrae to create its signature “Cocojito” smoothie.
“We had done a big retail display partnership with Erewhon last year, and then again this year, and both went really well,” Arrae founder Siffat Haider explains. “Erewhon customers are our target demo, and we had substantial data to back up the fact that a smoothie partnership with them would be a smart marketing decision.”
The “Cocojito” smoothie, which doubles as a debloating drink, contains the formula of its bestselling Bloat product, in addition to vanilla collagen.
Viral smoothie collaborations aren’t limited to beauty and wellness brands: entrepreneur, confidence coach and media personality, Serena Kerrigan, co-created a shake with global coffee and juice brand Joe & the Juice, called “For The Plot” — a tribute to her signature tagline. Kerrigan’s drink is available at all Joe & the Juice locations across the U.S., until Labor Day.
Kerrigan’s “do it for the plot” motto has inspired thousands of people to live life genuinely and unapologetically.
“This collab with Joe & the Juice felt like the perfect next step for me because it fits right in with my target audience, while being widely accessible to many who might not be familiar with my brand,” Kerrigan shares.
“The most important element executives should narrow in on when looking for talent to collaborate with, is finding someone who has a unique story to tell. I wasn’t selling a shake with this collab — I was selling a feeling. It’s an everyday reminder to embrace yourself as the main character, and do it for the plot of your life. Empowerment is truly at the center of this marketing campaign and I believe embracing yourself sends a very powerful message. Brands should look for talent with loyal communities and a strong POV.”
Antoci agrees with this thought: “We do not do smoothies with brands, we do smoothies with celebrities. Celebrity influencer smoothies are 100% our biggest viral moment.”
The plot thickens: According to Joe & the Juice, the out-of-home advertising in Soho drew a combined total of 70M monthly average views. The campaign images were seen on a billboard, through wild postings and sidewalk stencils. On the social front, the collaboration amassed more than 1.3 million views on TikTok. The ‘For The Plot’ shake sales propelled a 5% increase in sales within the first month and attracted over 10,000 new customers to Joe & the Juice. Over 15,000 of Kerrigan’s shakes have been sold and to no one’s surprise, New York, Kerrigan’s home state, emerged as the top selling state.
Juliana Goldman, founder of Potion and the agency of record for Joe & the Juice, shared her thoughts on the magic of collaborations.
“Co-creating a product is a powerful marketing play that extends beyond the beverage space and holds incredible value. It can significantly boost customer engagement, facilitate personalized experiences, generates a ton of buzz, and promotes advocacy. Brands embracing co-creation are positioning themselves for future success. Today, customers seek more than just products — they crave experiences and purpose-driven interactions with the brands they support.”
Haider of Arrae adds: “I see it as a brand awareness and marketing play. If you’re concerned about ROI, know that it probably won’t be instant, but rather a trickle-down effect.”
Those who launch a smoothie or collab with a food and beverage brand have hopes for going viral — but unlike the drinks themselves, virality cannot be bottled.
Adee Drexler, founder and CEO of Infinity Creative Agency (a.k.a. ICA), is the mastermind behind one of this year’s most viral moment: Sofia Richie Grainge’s TikTok debut right before her wedding.
Drexler shares her thoughts on going viral: “Virality can’t be forced. It’s more about having a perfect storm of several factors, all happening at the same time. Timing, relevance, a sense of effortless execution, and some luck all come into play. And if you’re trying to make something go viral, people can sense that you’re trying too hard, which can come off as inauthentic and performative. You can’t orchestrate it.”
When it comes to hoping for virality, Antoci is aligned — it’s not something you can ever project or predict. “I think it’s much better when you try things for fun. At Erewhon, we launched these smoothies and drinks for fun — it has to be very organic and it has to feel very right to our audience first. And then everything else comes with it. That’s been the magic of it.”