The rain has returned to the Pacific Northwest after a few idyllic spring days. Moss is threatening to take over, sprawling in garden beds, spreading to decks and fences, creeping on the brave souls who made the mistake of removing the ubiquitous fleece jackets too soon. It is time for a cheerful, uplifting story, some sun, bright colors. It is time to return to the glorious Mediterranean summers of my youth. It is time for a glass of Orangina.
In the land of Coca Cola and Sprite, many may not realize how special the cute pear-shaped bottle really is, with its pebbly texture (meant to recall the peel of an orange) and its colorful metal cap. Like my father and his ancestors, Orangina was born more than 70 years ago in Algeria, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Even though the sparkling orange-flavored beverage was originally invented by a Spaniard and introduced at a trade show in Marseilles, France, in the 1930s, a French Algerian, Léon Béton, is widely credited as his creator. From the start, Béton understood the importance of savvy marketing, entrusting Orangina‘s marketing campaigns to French graphic artist Bernard Villemot as early as 1953. Villemot gave the brand its identity and a logo that would become instantly recognizable. Their collaboration would prove a successful and legendary one.
But life (and politics) got in the way. In 1962, after years of turmoil and violence, Algeria became independent. Hundreds of thousands of Algerian-born French people, nicknamed Les Pieds-Noirs, (the Black Feet,) left the only country they had ever known, their homes, farms, and businesses and landed in the cities of Southern France, where, (many found out,) they were not always welcome. Léon Béton and his little round bottle were no exception, but he adapted quickly. The first production line opened in France after 1962. By the 1980s, the brand had joined the Pernod Ricard group. From France, it took over Europe and the world. Today, Orangina is represented in 60 countries and on 5 continents.
It all started with the brand’s unique formula. Orangina is a blend of citrus flavors, a sparkling drink, with no food coloring, and a lot of orange pulp. It was soon discovered the orange pulp had a tendency to drop to the bottom of the bottle, making it necessary to shake the bottle vigorously before drinking. Not to worry. This would become the concept behind all of Orangina‘s creative marketing campaigns. So many years later, I can still sing the funny little song in the brand’s hugely popular TV commercials: “Secouez-moi, Secouez-moi, pour bien mélanger la pulpe d’orange!” (“Shake me, shake me, to stir the pulp!”)
From the start, Orangina had a seductive personality: It was a fun, refreshing drink, a Mediterranean drink that did not take itself seriously. For that reason, the brand’s target was always the 18-35 crowd. There were ups and downs, and Orangina lost some market share in the late 1990s. It came back, and the commercials got better, and better. And people talked about them.
There was the hilarious series directed by French actor Alain Chabat. Got to shake that bottle to stir the pulp! In the roller coaster ad, Orangina bottle #1 is worried. Orangina bottle #2 tells him to relax and be optimistic. Then all hell breaks loose. At the end of the ride, the director’s voice can be heard saying: “Bon, c’est bien les enfants, mais on la refait. Moins crispés!” (Good one, guys, but we need another take. Don’t look so tense.)
In the pinball machine ad, the actor impersonating the Orangina bottle asks: “C’est quoi, le texte?” (What’s the script?) The director replies: “Ahhhhhh…” Watch what happens next. At the end, a woman’s voice can be heard saying: “The player gets another round…”
In 2010, Orangina introduced its first LGBT commercial. It became an instant hit in France. McDonald’s France (aka “McDo“) did the same thing that year. I featured their LGBT commercial in another story a few weeks ago.
In recent years, the brand’s “animal” campaign, heavy on sexually suggestive content , shocked the British public…
Today, Orangina is owned by Japanese consortium Suntory Holding Ltd, and it will be interesting to see where they take the fun little orange drink. I am betting France will always have a soft spot for Orangina, as I do. To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the company revived and sponsored the famous “Course des Garçons de Café,” (the waiters’ race,) in Paris and in Marseilles recently. The message could not be more clear: Orangina is part of French culture, and love it or hate it, it is here to stay! To me, nothing says: “Eté” (summer) like a fun bottle of Orangina on a café table…