The Seven-Up Company’s roots go back to 1920, when C. L. Grigg banked on his 30 years of experience in advertising and merchandising to form The Howdy Corporation in St. Louis, Mo. Although he named the company after the Howdy Orange drink he pioneered, his goal was to create a wholesome and distinctive soft drink that would prove irresistible to the nation’s consumers.
Grigg spent more than two years testing 11 different formulas of lemon-flavored drinks. He settled on one that fulfilled the characteristics he sought: refreshing and thirst-quenching. Grigg introduced his new soft drink two weeks before the stock market crashed in October 1929. It was a caramel-colored, lithiated lemon-lime soda, which he positioned as a drink with a “flavor wallop” to market alongside the already-successful Howdy Orange drink.
It cost more than its competition. It also carried the burden of an unwieldy name, “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda,” and it competed against more than 600 lemon-lime soft drinks already in the marketplace. In spite of all the obstacles, the new brand sold well. Shortly afterwards, Grigg changed the brand’s name to 7UP.
The earliest 7UP advertising featured a winged 7UP logo and described the soft drink as “a glorified drink in bottles only. Seven natural flavors blended into a savory, flavory drink with a real wallop.” Acknowledging the success of the 7UP trademark in 1936, Grigg changed the name of The Howdy Corporation to The Seven-Up Company. By the late 1940s, 7UP had become the third best-selling soft drink in the world.
In 1967, The Seven-Up Company introduced the UNCOLA advertising campaign, which sent 7UP sales rocketing nationwide. Consumers endorsed 7UP as a viable, thirst-quenching alternative to colas. The UNCOLA tag immediately joined the nation’s vernacular and remained synonymous with 7UP, despite subsequent campaigns that featured new slogans.
In 1970, The Seven-Up Company introduced sugar-free 7UP, which was an immediate success among the growing number of calorie-conscious Americans. It was named Diet 7UP in 1979.
In June 1978, Philip Morris acquired The Seven Up Company. The 7UP “No Caffeine” campaign garnered national attention for the company four years later, as it appealed to growing consumer concern and confusion about caffeine in soft drinks. The campaign launched 7UP sales into an unprecedented period of growth and forced the soft drink industry to address the caffeine issue with new products and other competitive countermeasures.
In 1986, Philip Morris sold the domestic operations of The Seven-Up Company to a private investment group for $240 million and the company was merged with Dr Pepper Company. The new management team consolidated administrative functions of The Seven-Up Company at the Dallas headquarters of Dr Pepper Company. Sales and marketing staffs remained separate and, although The Seven-Up Company moved its headquarters to Dallas in 1987, manufacturing of 7UP products remained at the company’s St. Louis facility.
The Seven-Up Company introduced Cherry 7UP and Diet Cherry 7UP in early 1987. Marketed to young people, the new products were designed as light, refreshing additions to the prestigious family of 7UP brand products and met with instant success across the country. To further boost awareness levels of 7UP in the nation’s youth market in 1987, The Seven-Up Company introduced Spot, a character derived from the red dot in the 7UP trademark. From his inception, Spot rapidly developed into a popular cartoon character represented on licensed items throughout the nation. The character was featured in 7UP advertising and packaging until 1995.
With the March 1995 acquisition of Dr Pepper/Seven-Up Companies, Inc. by Cadbury Schweppes plc, 7UP became part of Cadbury Beverages North America. Shortly thereafter, the brand underwent a revitalization reaching out to a younger audience. In the fall of 1995, splash package graphics were introduced for all four flavors of the brand to create a contemporary, exciting new look.
The Spot character was eliminated with this graphics change. A 20-ounce package featuring a splash design and unique easy-to-grip bottle was designed and introduced to gain market share in a variety of single-serve purchase locations. In July 1996, the company changed its name to Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. That same year, “7UP. It’s An Up Thing” became an instantly accepted tagline for the product as part of a new advertising campaign to relaunch the revitalized brand.
New advertising creative featuring actor/comedian Orlando Jones and the slogan “Make 7UP Yours” was launched in late 1999. The popular “Make 7UP Yours Campaign” continued in 2003 debuting comedian/actor Godfrey as the bumbling 7UP guy.
In 2000, 7UP debuted a bolder, cleaner, more contemporary packaging graphics image, focused at, but not exclusive to, 12- to 24-year-old consumers. Cherry 7UP, Diet Cherry 7UP and Diet 7UP also received flavor enhancements in 2000.
What’s in a name? Although C.L. Grigg never explained the origin of the soft drink’s name, many stories abound. The most popular story is that Grigg named the soft drink after he saw a cattle brand with the number “7” and the letter “U”. Other stories suggest that the name reflects the drink’s seven flavors and carbonation, or that Grigg came up with the name while playing dice.