Shopify Ecosystem

Healthy Sodas DTC Diagnostic: Part 1


A can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar. Sprite isn’t far behind with 38 grams, but Mountain Dew crushes both with a whopping 46 grams.

We’re definitely aware of the high sugar and other not-so-favorable ingredients our favorite sodas (or pops) contain.

DTC brands Olipop, Ugly, and Poppi form a new regime of healthy sodas – a battle to win over the taste-buds of soda drinkers and La Croix lovers.

With the U.S. soft drink market valued at almost $3 billion, we’re diving deep into how these brands are grabbing a piece of the pie.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll dissect different strategic elements of each brand including:

  • Facebook ads
  • Email strategy
  • Website layout
  • Overall product experience (are the taste buds satisfied?)

Today, we’re focusing on Facebook ads with the help of Pilothouse’s senior media buyer and soda connoisseur, Stu Mason.

Let’s jump in:


Started in 2017, Olipop is a tonic that combines the benefits of prebiotics, plant fiber, and botanicals to support your microbiome and benefit your digestive health. Each drink contains 2-5g of sugar, 9 grams of fiber, and variety packs cost $41.99 – the most expensive of the bunch.

Right off the bat, we noticed the sheer variety of creative that Olipop is testing. Anything from user-generated content and simple graphics to high-quality video and beautiful product shots. This provides the flexibility to mix and match creative with different types of copy and ad styles.

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Olipop’s use of hyper-local targeting is one of our favorite aspects of their strategy. Ads are specifically targeted to individual cities with “Hey, Austin,” “Hey, Nashville,” or “Hey, Atlanta!”

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“Targeting particular cities within Facebook allows you to speak to a customer’s location, which can instantly boost conversion rate,” says Stu. It creates a personal feeling which increases the likelihood of a purchase.

Also, did you notice the simulated text message conversation? This is definitely a scroll stopper. It’s intriguing, clever, and most importantly doesn’t look like a typical ad. Test this, and hyper-local targeting, with your own brand.

As the “healthy soda alternative,” it’s important for Olipop to build credibility with this claim through professionals (doctors, nurses, dietitians). The ad below is UGC from a registered dietitian and nutritionist who highlights why she loves the drink.

The UGC style makes it authentic and having labels like “R.D, Ph.D.” or  “Nutritionist” helps increase the believability and legitimacy of your product.

Landing page, product page, or home page?

Olipop leads a majority of consumers to a kick-ass landing page that’s designed to perfection and encompasses reviews, comparison charts, testimonials, and more. Other ads lead to individual product pages or their homepage.

Further Observations & Suggestions: 

  • Create a transformational story ad. For example: “I used to drink 3 Cokes a day and now I drink Olipop instead.”
  • Olipop heavily relies on short-form copy (which we love) but think about testing long-form copy.
  • Great use of emojis. They’re not overpowering, and compliment the ads nicely.
  • Test “fear-based” messaging. For example:“Did you know the average soda contains 39 grams of sugar?”


Launched in 2020 Poppi is a modern prebiotic soda with apple cider vinegar and less than five grams of sugar. A variety pack of 12 costs $29.88 and, instead of  Shopify or WooCommerce, the brand uses Amazon for checkout.

Since launching in March of last year, the brand doesn’t have many Facebook ads. While they’re not as competitive with their number of ads, compared to Olipop and Ugly, they do have one massive advantage with the ads they are running – celebrity endorsement.

Actress Olivia Munn came across Poppi after searching for different products to help with her autoimmune disease. After testing Poppi and loving it, the actress reached out to invest (jackpot). The post below is a TikTok-style video where she features the brand and various flavors on a profile with over 2.5M followers.

Poppi boosted the video as three separate Facebook ads and let the $$$ flow in. Celebrity endorsements can be disingenuous, but in this case, it’s extremely authentic. The product clearly helps Olivia with her auto-immune disease and she doesn’t typically promote brands on her Instagram. It’s a win-win for everyone and reminder of how powerful genuine celebrity endorsements can be.

Besides Olivia Munn taking Poppi to the moon, other ads include UGC videos formatted into carousels. The content features real people, faces, and the product – a perfect combination that doesn’t look like a typical ad. With Poppi being so new the brand is relying heavily on UGC, which is a great idea.

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A bone to pick: 

Poppi doesn’t use the same color logo in their ads. They interchange orange and green and sometimes pink and yellow. “I get what they’re trying to do, extend the brand’s theme, and introduce fun and playfulness – but their brand recall will suffer because of it,” says Stu. 

Our advice: stick with the flagship logo and build consistent recall.

Landing page, product page, or home page?

Since Poppi can only be purchased through Amazon, a majority of ads lead to their Amazon page. Only one ad leads to the brand’s website. As believers in owning your own data, we hope Poppi begins to transition their ads more towards their website and landing pages down the road.

Further Observations & Suggestions: 

  • Test, test, test, and more tests. As the brand continues to mature with FB ads, the number one thing we recommend is testing different creative, copy, and formats. Take a page out of Olipop’s book 😏
  • We’ll say this again: Pick a logo and stick with it! It takes a long time to build recall with one logo let alone trying multiple.


Launched in 2017, Ugly is a flavored sparkling water with no sugar, no sweetener and no calories. A variety pack of 24 costs $24.99 – the cheapest of the three brands.

Similar to Olipop, Ugly positions itself as a healthy alternative to soda, but their approach to ad creative is totally different. The brand leans heavily into memes and comparison graphics with well-known brands like Dr. Pepper and Monster. Calling attention to such big name brands is awesome for your ads and it’s frankly surprising they can get away with it legally. More power to ’em.

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Comparisons clearly communicate how Ugly is different, but we’d like to see them expand their creative with UGC, pictures with faces and higher-quality video. The ads lack variety especially in the color format. While the colors are on brand, a customer seeing the ad for the first time doesn’t care if it’s on brand or not.

Ugly’s use of informal and to-the-point copy is witty and transparent, which consumers enjoy. It can’t get more informal than “Need a new fizzy fix? Ditch the dew and glug an Ug.” This language helps Ugly stand out from competitors like La Croix who wouldn’t dream of saying something like that.

Landing page, product page, or home page?

Ugly leads a majority of users to a killer landing page which includes UGC from their Instagram (use this in your ads, Ugly!) Other ads mentioning certain flavors link to their variety pack which is common practice in this industry. Variety packs are the highest AOV (average order value) and it will appeal to a wider audience since it has multiple flavors.

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Further Observations & Suggestions: 

  • Like Poppi, we’d love to see Ugly expand their creative and test more styles! This could include testing alternative color pallets, UGC, video, and more!

That’s all the Facebook analysis for now. Our next review will cover each brand’s email strategy!

Special thanks to our friends at Pilothouse for their insights on this topic.
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