Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Soda Name Fun & Brand Loyalty

Sorry to be off topic with today’s AI, but I’ve been busy with some other kick ass projects that you will see here soon (stay tuned), and didn’t have a chance to come up with something smart.

There’s a little “Stop and Rob” store near my house where I pop in on occasion to get myself a nice, refreshing fountain drink.

Course the soda is the only item in the store I will buy, because purchasing anything there requires a loan application and a credit check. But I’ll gladly pony up a dollar fifty for a large bucket of brown carbonated sugar water.

I like fountain drinks. In my book, they’re the best way to simultaneously consume a half pound of sugar and enough caffeine to re-animate Marlon Brando. I don’t favor diet or caffeine-free sodas, so if you ever meet me on the street and my teeth are rotted out and my heart explodes right in front of you, you’ll know it was from the fountain drinks.

But aside from 7-Eleven, the various Grab ‘n Dash stores don’t really market their sodas. They don’t seem to be concerned with giving their fountain drinks cool names. Most of the ones I see are simply named for the quantity of liquid they hold. The cup dispensers are loaded with containers marked 20 oz, 32 oz, 44 oz, and yes, even 64 oz.

Jeez, these aren’t just measuring devices. They’re pick-me-ups. They are identifiers that signify social status as well as thirst level. They are symbolic of our American ideal for over-consumption, as well as of our right to be unhealthy. They are screaming out to be the objects of a brand loyalty war. They should be emblazoned with bold print on the cup, and swirling day-glo colors that can be seen from space, and yet . . . the world is littered with plain white Styrofoam cups with 32 oz written on them in a sterile, block font.

So . . . .

Bottle, can, or fountain? And . . . What would you name your franchise’s fountain drink? Are you prone to brand loyalty, in any capacity?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Fountain all the way.
    A regional gas staion/convenience store here calls their fountain station “Fizz City”, and you can buy an insulated 136 ounce thermos proclaiming you as the “Mayor of Fizz City”. Refills are just 49 cents.

    God bless America.

  2. Never bought such a thing so my preference would be “none of the above.” I was trying to think if I’ve ever been inside such a store. I must have been at some point back when I was still driving and there was no pay at the pump maybe 15 years or so ago. For some reason these places creep me out. An ocean of disgustingness designed to separate you from as much of your money as possible and suppress any impulse beyond that to buy more junk food and junk water. I’d sooner drink pee directly from a cat. Yetch.

  3. I vaguely remember the bottled liters available in the local convenience store, in the cooler ailse. I would want one, but only had 50 cents, so it was a can for me.

    I’m a Mt. Dew guy, first and foremost. After that, I go with Dr. Pepper. After that, I go with root beer. I know, you’re probably like, WTF!, from high caffine to no caffine-yes, that’s RB’s dirty little secrety-it has NO CAFFINE, but it tastes so good.

    I like Barq’s to A&W.

  4. Quick Trip (midwest) does a pretty good job of this as well, with the branded cups and the flavor mix in things (lime diet mt. dew. Yum.)

    Its really a matter of the difference between soda as brandable product (or really, cup as brandable product. A Big Gulp is a Big Gulp, irrespective of the contents) and soda as commodity (Casey’s, another Midwest chain, sells this way. The soda fountain is an afterthought.)

    As far as naming one, I think its important to name it something that threatens harm. Your target audience is much like Sam in the introduction: Harming themselves and proud of it. The Liquifier, Belly Buster, etc. Some form of size claim is reaaonable as well, ala the Big Gulp. Perhaps the Slam Bucket.

    Oh, and glass bottle. No question.

  5. I tend to go with plastic bottles, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Mostly because glass bottles are few and far between around here. They exist, but most stores default to plastic. Not opposed to cans, and fountain, only in restaurants.

    I’m way more brand loyal than I would like to be, but I switch it up depending on the type. For Cola, I tend to go with Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. For lemon-lime, I go the other way, and prefer Sprite. Sussex Golden Ginger-ale, and no real root-beer preference. And wouldn’t touch Mountain Dew with a ten foot pole.

  6. @davew: These grab-and-dash places never creeped me out before until the one I encountered this summer. Exactly like every other one you’ve ever seen, except it had ammo. Lots of ammo. Huge separate ammo kiosk right in the middle of the store, with multiple giant glass display counters. Great stacks of ammo. Not merely gun-store amounts of ammo. No, I mean “crazy tax-protester in a remote Idaho shack” amounts of ammo.

  7. @ekimbrough: No, I mean “crazy tax-protester in a remote Idaho shack” amounts of ammo.

    What an amazing convenience for those who want to hold up a convenience store but are out of bullets!

  8. I like Coke from a fountain best. My second choice would be from a can. However, I most often drink it from a 20 oz bottle, since they sell them at my workplace cafeteria for only $1.

  9. I really don’t drink soda much at all. Every once in a while I crave a pepsi or a cherry pepsi. I do NOT drink diet (it’s so nasty). So I might have two or three sodas a month, TOPS. I also like root beer from the fountain.

    When I do get soda, it’s usually at QT, because QT is AWESOME. They also have unsweetened and sweetened brewed iced tea. I live on their unsweetened tea during the summer.

    For the summer they have 59 cent 32 oz. fountain drinks. That’s awesome. And I like getting sprite and mixing it with that cherry flavoring they have.

    So anyway, I don’t drink soda much at all, but fountain is the my choice if I do. Too much carbonation makes me feel ill, though.

    QT also has this non-carbonated Green Apple Green Iced Tea that is delicious, and I’ll get that if I’m craving something sweet but not carbonated.

  10. @davew: You’ve never been inside a QT, have you? They are AMAZING. Huge, spacious, and the staff is always fantastic — no matter what QT you go to. They can multi-task and check two people out at once, it’s fantastic.

    I am such a QT fangirl, it’s not even funny.

  11. @SKrap:

    Quick Trip (midwest) does a pretty good job of this as well, with the branded cups and the flavor mix in things (lime diet mt. dew. Yum.)

    QT high-five! I know where all of them are here in Phoenix/the surrounding valley. I always get gas there because it’s so huge and easy to get in and out. Their bathrooms are always SPOTLESS.

    I soooo do not work for QT, I promise. I don’t even talk my actual employer up (big-box pharmacy) as much as I do QT. QT should pay me.

  12. My favorite is Dr. Pepper, though I’ll drink most anything. I tend not to get fountain drinks because I’ve worked food service and seen how nasty those things can get. Thus, I usually go for bottles.

  13. @ekimbrough: No, I mean “crazy tax-protester in a remote Idaho shack” amounts of ammo.
    Nearly spit my Mt. Dew out my nose at that one. Awesome!

    @davew: Beat me to it. Well, they don’t call em’ *convenience* stores for nothing.

    Oh, and do not diss the Dew, my friend. Best. Soda. Ever. Period. End of discussion. I was about 12 years-old when that arrived in our local store and have been hooked ever since (20 plus years). Best out of a fountain, but still pretty good in the plastic. When’s the last time they sold it in glass bottles?

  14. I’m not a soda drinker but on a hot day a ‘Squirt’ with vodka and a squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice on ice is pretty damn good. And I’d dump any brand product in a second if I found something better of if their quality drops.

  15. @ekimbrough: The best one I’ve seen was last summer was in a remote area in Oregon. It was grubby with windows so dirty you couldn’t see in and the sign outside advertised saw blade sharpening (circular and chain) and tanning. I even stopped to take a picture.

  16. @marilove: QT irritatingly stops 2 hours from home. Whenever I go to Des Moines, I’m irritated by how universally superior their gas stations are.

    @James Fox: One of the random pieces of culture shock the first time I was in Mexico was the prevalence of Squirt. Not just the soda, but the branding. Godawful squirt logo table umbrellas in local cafes.

  17. I make my own soda. I brew my own CO2 and use it to carbonate water. For the most part, I just add a bit of lemon or lime juice to that. I have experimented with other flavors, though. You can pretty much carbonate any drink (carbonated Tang = good, carbonated coffee = not good). Grocery stores have all sorts of extracts and flavorings to experiment with too.

    For store-bought stuff, though, I tend toward Coke or Coke Zero.

  18. @marilove: “You’ve never been inside a QT, have you?”

    Can’t say that I know what QT is. We’ve got 7/11 and Circle-something-or-other in Colorado. Besides convenience stores are a car thing. On a bike you pretty much always have water with you or you get used to being very thirsty most of the time.

  19. @Steve: “I make my own soda. ”

    Yes, yes, yes! Nothing like homemade ginger ale with copious amounts of ginger and cloves. Refreshing and sinus clearing! I use yeast for the CO2, however. I do have a water-kefir culture that I’m going to use just any day now.

  20. @davew: I use yeast to make CO2 but only the CO2 ends up in the drink. Takes a bit of plumbing to do that but it definitely improves the taste. I’ve done very strong ginger ale with cayenne before. Quite nice.

  21. @Steve: I use yeast to make CO2 but only the CO2 ends up in the drink.

    Ah, yes. Cool trick. I have to stick to certain drinks because the yeast taste will overwhelm certain flavors. This is what the water-kefir is for. The flavor is more suitable to soft drinks. What I like about live yeast is the drink will recarbonate itself every time you put the lid back on.

  22. @davew: Oh my god. You are missing out! I even went to QT when I was taking public transportation (they are like on every corner here lol) because it’s so awesome.

    You know how Target is the fancier, nicer version of Wal*Mart? Think of QT like that in comparison to Circle K. QTs are like, 3 times the size of any Circle K, MUCH cleaner, MUCH more efficient, and have so many soda fountain options you tend to get confused.

    Also, their gas is always cheap.

  23. I can’t remember whether it was Flem Comics or Something Positive that suggested it, but I would take a page out of whichever’s book and market a 132 oz. drink simply named DAMN! Each cup would also have printed on it a warning of potential bladder explosion if the entirety of the drink is consumed in one sitting.

  24. @davew: Well, you also have to consider what sort of firepower might be kept just below the cash register in a place like that. I encountered this store when driving to Winston-Salem for the International Jugglers Association convention. If they sold even 10% of that stock, then there can’t be even one deer left alive anywhere in the Carolinas.

    The convention will be in Sparks, NV, next year. God only knows what I’ll find there. Possibly similar giant kiosks with ammo AND condoms.

  25. I remember my grandfather calling the step up from a Big Gulp a “Bladder Buster”. I don’t know if he came up with that or not.

    I am a Hedge

  26. Dr. Pepper from the fountain. But pretty rare these days for me.
    Since we’re citing local convenience stores, any Jersey natives here? How about some Wawa love? *Let the giggles begin*

  27. When I actually was drinking pop (yes, I call it pop, I’m from frickin’ Michigan and I don’t care who knows it), I tended to forgo the fountain drinks, so I never paid much attention to the naming. Was never prone to brand loyalty, basically drank anything that tasted like Coke or Pepsi though (Sam’s cola, Faygo Cola, RC Cola, or just Coke or Pepsi). Now I tend to avoid it all together, with only the occasional one now and again.

  28. My fountain drink will be called …


    And I’ll serve it by bra-cup size. we’ll go from DD to F cups.

    Yes, this is a shameless attempt to steal COTW from Gabriel.


  29. @Sam Ogden:
    Kick-ass projects that we’ll see soon, huh? Anything to do with your declaration from a few months back to run for the Texas Board of Education?

  30. Fountain, without a doubt, especially during the summer when most of the chains around here sell every single size for less than a buck. I love being able to grab 44 ounces of liquid for 79 cents, and I love the freedom to eschew ice and get even more pop than I would otherwise.

    Brand loyalty? Well, since I don’t want to get fat again, I tend to go diet when I get a big gulp, but other than that it doesn’t matter. When I do get cans, I prefer RC Cola to Coke and Pepsi, which I’m told makes me weird.

  31. @Skept-artist: Heh. Wawa. Your suggestive gas station names cannot hold a candle to the majesty that is Kum and Go.

    @ekimbrough: Until that comment, I didn’t realize that you were juggling in your avatar. I had assumed it was being taken through a screen you were writing on, minority report style.

    @NoAstronomer: Marketing them as A to DD cups would get the message across to the population better. Also, it would leave you more room for expansion.

  32. The only brand loyalties I have are to feminine hygiene products. Oh, and bras.

    I try not to drink much soda because I love it too much. Cherry Coke is my ultimate sugar rush but Coke Zero is what I drink most often. Sugar cane sweetened Coke from a glass bottle with a wedge of lemon is soda heaven.

  33. As a kid, I looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas parties because I was allowed to have one soda, and it was always Fresca. Yum!

    I used to be a Coca-Cola man. I stopped when I learned about all the fun stuff in it. Now, the once a year that I might cave to my craving I deeply regret as my gut feels like there’s a Filene’s bridal gown sale going on.

    Now that I live with at least 3 Trader Joe’s in a reasonable distance, I will occasionally treat myself to a Hansen’s: grapefruit if they have it.

  34. I had to give up soda some years ago because the combination of carbonation and citric acid frequently gave me heart burn.

    I never truly realized what an acquired taste cola is. Now, I don’t even want it, and when I try some, it just doesn’t seem that pleasurable. I do miss root beer though, especially root beer floats. Floats are even worse for heartburn because of more acids in the dairy.

  35. I kind of think it’s crazy that a “small” is now 20 ounces. I hate the variability that comes with fountain drinks. I drink soda mostly in diet form from plastic bottles, but I always gently shake it up first to mix the sweetener that has settled out of solution.

    I am immune to traditionally defined brand loyalty, but that’s only because I am an engineer who works closely with marketing teams.

    When I am “brand loyal,” I consciously commit to it: I have committed to being brand loyal to Harpoon IPA for a good beer, to Coors Light for a shitty beer, to Texas Instruments for calculators, and to Polo RL for polo shirts. All of these have good reasons.

  36. @davew

    You’ve never paid cash in a gas station? That’s funny because I’ve never paid at the pump, ever. I think this should be a little homework assignment for us, you should pay in cash in the gas station and buy a fountain drink, and I’ll embrace that we now live in the future and pay at the pump. I’m game if you are!

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