It’s a rare musical artist that counts ’80s nostalgists and their offspring as fans. Biz Markie is one such performer. Known to many 30-somethings as the man behind the late-’80s hip-hop jam “Just a Friend,” Markie also has a rabid pre-school following who know him as the guy who teaches beat-boxing on Yo Gabba Gabba. Add to that his work as a DJ, actor, comedian, and reality TV personality and Biz is a regular multi-hyphenate.
Now, with his relationship with natural soda brand Zevia, Biz Markie can ad spokesman to his list of credentials. An existing fan of the soda, which is sweetened with stevia instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners, Biz Markie has been enlisted to help promote the product. To promote the partnership, and to draw on Markie’s enduring appeal, Zevia has created a commemorative can for it’s cherry cola—a Biz fave.
Designed by Shepard Fairey’s design shop, Studio Number One, the can will be revealed along with Biz Markie’s appearance at the Natural Foods Expo this week. Zevia CEO Paddy Spence, says both the partnership with Markie and the special edition can are part of the company’s quest to be authentic.
“We’re all about authentic stories. We’re not paying someone seven figures to say they like the product. We’re finding people who love the product and have a connection with it,” says Spence, noting that both Markie and Fairey have issues with diabetes and are interested in healthy lifestyles.
As for the can design, it’s classic Shepard Fairey, with clean lines and bold colors. “Studio Number One are relentless innovators so we really trusted them on this. We said, we want to do a can with Biz, make it look cool,” says Spence. “What they sought out to evoke was the nostalgia of soda. It’s a really playful, ’70s look. It really speaks to the connection emotionally that many of us have to soda, and when you’re David fighting Goliath, that’s the kind of thing you need.”
Indeed, Zevia is the ultimate challenger when it comes to large soda brands like Coke and Pepsi. But with increased interest in alternatives to sugar-laden, high-calorie drinks, or the alternatives with artificial sweeteners, Zevia has become the leading stevia-sweetened soda brand, controlling 78% of the U.S. natural soda category and ranking as the #15 diet soda in U.S. supermarkets (according to SPINS/Nielsen data). It is the only stevia option in the top 20 sodas and the only one in the top 20 not owned by Coke, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper Snapple.
“Our brand is resonating because it’s an easy switch. If you like cola or ginger ale, our product is an easy replacement,” says Spence.
Creating an iconic can is part of Zevia’s plans to boost its profile further. Spence says that Biz Markie will appear in future ads and video content, and is interacting with Zevia fans over social media and TV appearances. Spence and Markie were even invited to the New York Stock Exchange. The design created by Studio Number One for the commemorative can will also be integrated into future events with Biz, particularly a spring promotion called the Zevia Flavor Jam, which is a contest in which people can write and perform a song or poem about the brand. The contest will be judged by Biz himself.