But these aren't your average sodas. At $1.99 a pop, each bottle comes with exclusive content via augmented reality technology — a "network," as Liles calls it — to fans who download the company's app and then scan the labels with their phones.
The beverages are currently available in select locations and moving at a pace of 1,000 bottles a week, according to Forbes. But soon that figure should jump considerably as they will be stocked soon at 7,500 Duane Reade and Walgreens stores around the country.
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For the former Def Jam president and Warner Music executive VP who runs KWL Enterprises — which, as well as brand consulting, a philanthropic wing and more, includes a management company that oversees the careers of musicians, athletes and models including D'Angelo, Trey Songz, Estelle, Nelly, model Selita Ebanks, co-management of Ty Dolla $ign, and others — these drinks are just the beginning of what may be possible to leverage his expertise into the consumer goods market. Additionally, he is a partner with his former Warner colleagues Lyor Cohen and Todd Moscowitz in 300, an Atlantic-distributed label that's seeking to work a new model in the music business.
Billboard caught up with Liles after a hectic day announcing Butterfly with Mariah Carey to discuss the intricacies of his new venture.
Billboard: How did the Butterfly and 40/40 deals come about?
Kevin Liles: We constantly have conversations around Fortune 500 companies because of my marketing expertise, whether it's how to bring more 15-to-34-year-old traffic into stores or to harness the purchasing power of young America. I've done it so many different ways that I do a lot of advising. My partner and I were having discussion with Walgreens about their "Happy and Healthy" [campaign] and where they wanted to go. They wanted to skew a little bit younger, and they wanted to come up with some ideas about how they could bring more product lines inside Walgreens. So we said what would be best would be to find a product, and then find brands, that we could attach to the product that would bring a certain core demographic, while never getting away from your main objective around the campaign.
We decided the beverage business would be a good place to enter: it sounds like with 40/40 we could [reach young males] and with Mariah, we could cater to the female 34-to-60-year-olds who are the core consumers at Walgreens. I called my friends and said, "Hey, I know this might sound crazy, but I want you guys to start beverage businesses — one around Butterfly and one around 40/40. Let's give them a two-for-one: a great-tasting drink, but also, I have technology that I want to put on every bottle [to provide exclusive content] and disrupt the consumer package goods market. To make a long story short, we launched the beverages and there will be many other line extensions, whether you add another flavor, like a Butterfly Light, coming out in 2014.
What content can fans expect from this?
The reason we were at the [green-screen studios the previous day] was because we wanted to provide Mariah with an opportunity to record things she's never done before. It's her own network and we just started programming, so now she's the owner of her own beverage company, and she's now programmer of her own network. So what would Mariah fans want to see? They want behind-the-scenes access, they want special shout-outs, they want contesting, they want things that normally you would do on your traditional social media platforms. This is her own network, and because it's virtual, anything could pop up — like last night we shot her singing with butterflies; she sang something you've never heard Mariah sing live before.
Again, it's another medium for her to engage her fans, and Mariah's one of the young ladies who's always engaged her fans in that manner, so this is just another extension to help her communicate and engage with them. Eventually we'll have a head of programming. The great thing about the device and application is, when you download the Go 'N Syde app, you can go inside the worlds of 40/40 and Butterfly. I would also say that if we don't continue to innovate around what true behind-the-scenes content is, then we lose the opportunity to do something special. We've got green-screens in New York and L.A. where we can constantly [create new content], but we also can take partners' video footage and upload it. We've hired camera crews to follow them and get exclusive footage that they might have shot before and put it on the site.
This is not behind the scenes backstage: this is behind the scenes of my life, of my world. So it'll be all kinds of things. When you have the opportunity to curate your own channel and it's only based off of what you put up — not stuff that somebody caught you doing or saying — this is stuff that you're proud about — family moments, friend moments, events. Right now we've got a lot of placeholders, but we just launched this week.
And what content will 40/40 have?
If you think about 40/40, you think about sports, you think about great events, you think about having fun, you think about, "Hey, when Jay's going on tour with Beyonce, how do I get VIP access?" We have video, galleries, contesting, all sorts of things. Some of the content up there now is just stuff that happened at the club, and we're in the process of uploading video from Jay. They're committed to releasing exclusive things: sometimes you might have a world premiere, go to a 40/40 bottle and check out this new song from Jay-Z. Mariah, too. I'm working with all the partners to come up with experiences that are unparalleled on any other network.
- Read the full interview with Liles at Billboard.biz here.