Case Study

Ruby: How Brands Can Break Out in Retail

Ruby is the F&B brand behind the first 100% organic sparkling and still hibiscus water. After launching last year, Ruby quickly made its mark and exploded onto the CPG retail scene.

We sat down with Noah Wunsch, Founder and CEO of Ruby, to learn how Batch QR codes act as a seamless extension of the brand’s retail-first approach. We cover topics including: 

  1. Ruby’s playbook for breaking through to retail customers

  2. The value in impactful storytelling and elevated branding

  3. How Ruby is deploying QR codes across multiple use cases

How Brands Can Break Out in Brick-and-Mortar

When asked how younger CPG brands can break through to buyers from the retail shelf, Noah reveals that every decision the Ruby team makes is to drive brand recognition. 

On the latter point, this means creating enough pre-existing user awareness and offering enough touchpoints that Ruby Hibiscus Water breaks through the overwhelming noise of the beverage aisle. 

To accomplish this, the team establishes what Noah calls “brand-building” accounts or partnerships with smaller, often independent enterprises like Variety Coffee or The Smile

For an emerging brand, this approach trumps a straight shot to Whole Foods for three reasons: 

  1. Rather than competing with dozens of other brands on the shelves or in the fridge, Ruby sits next to likely 3–6 other sparkling or plant beverages at most. 

  2. This increases Ruby’s ability to cut through the noise and gain attention from customers

  3. Down the line, that buyer who's already formed a positive memory of Ruby will carry that with them when they shop at Whole Foods. 

Ultimately, Noah reminds founders of the statistic that it takes anywhere from 70–90 days for a buyer to commit to a car — and that the same logic should be applied to CPG strategies. 

Despite priding themselves on unparalleled digital brand-building, the Ruby team has ultimately found most of their early success acquiring customers by focusing on high-impact touchpoints in brick-and-mortar locations over paid digital. Their advice: 

  • Understand your initial target demo and where they frequently shop

  • Cleverly surround them in targeted retail placements to rise above the CPG flood 

  • Expand brand penetration points by showing up everywhere those consumers shop

We’re 110% retail-driven. For us, having a thoughtfully-sequenced brick-and-mortar strategy is more powerful than a hit-or-miss Instagram ad.
Noah Wunsch

Why Brand Marketing & Storytelling Matter in Retail

Ruby’s strategy emerged out of Noah’s own experience. As a branding pro and self-titled “hyper-consumer”, he observed two developments as he set out to build Ruby:

  1. Homogeneity — Every DTC brand had started looking the same, both on shelves and on social media. 

  2. Competition — Unlike in the early 2010s (the heyday of early DTC eCom), a more competitive landscape meant brands could no longer compete solely on functionality. 

Noah saw this across both the F&B category and broader e-commerce. In addition to his thoughts on retail strategy, he developed a conviction that gaining a true competitive advantage required a more nuanced GTM strategy focused on social proof and storytelling that connects with a brand’s target demographic.

With that in mind, Noah set off to launch a brand that would speak to buyers the way he hoped to be spoken to, with one fundamental tenet in mind: “You have to break through when you’re on that shelf. Storytelling is everything.”

Storytelling is everything to us as a brand. We’re constantly thinking about how to lead consumers directly to ‘the Rubyverse.’
Noah Wunsch

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Telling the Ruby Story Digitally

As part of their storytelling efforts, Ruby has built a complex digital world affectionately called “the Rubyverse.” Ruby creates various digital top-of-funnel experiences that help pull consumers into their world, from basic email capture on their website to shareable content like their monthly radio show and mixtapes

Bringing consumers into this world from the physical environment is a huge opportunity for Ruby, and they’ve begun deploying QR codes in various physical environments. 

Early examples include: 

  • Hide & Seek — They hid bottles of Ruby, complete with QR codes, around New York City and placed a CTA on Instagram: “Find and scan a bottle for your own free case of Ruby.” 

  • Experiential Retail — Inspired by Noah’s past work with Sotheby’s, Ruby set up a pop-up shop at a magic shop that showed unique Rubyverse inventory for sale. 

In the future, in addition to scaling their experiential marketing efforts, Ruby plans to add QR codes to physical products and other environments, with opportunities to scan to:

  • Purchase the brand’s full range of online products

  • Read more on why hibiscus is a beneficial ingredient

  • Listen to Ruby’s latest Mysteries of Matter mixtape series

Our mentality in crafting the Ruby customer experience has always been: ‘How can we make this fun?’ The Batch tech makes that really, really easy for us.
Noah Wunsch

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