How To Build A Million-Dollar Business

Jamba Juice

Juice Up Your Image

It's not the lively purple and green graphics, nor the quaint sight of wheat grass growing in the display case that gets you first. It's the scent of oranges, so piquant and insistent that your mouth puckers and your stomach starts grumbling in sync with the blenders. You are in smoothie heaven, swirling in a vortex of delicious dilemmas. Do your taste buds demand raspberries or strawberries, bananas or oranges? Do you choose the echinacea to charge up your immunity or the ginseng to boost your energy? Whichever way you go, you'll leave Jamba Juice positively vibrating with health and vitality--even if some of that buzz exists only in your mind.

Welcome to Kirk Perron's vision of 21st century marketing, where advertising isn't king. Though the San Francisco-based Jamba Juice Co. does have a marketing program--and a fine one at that--founder and CEO Perron knows that no direct-mail, coupon-driven, broadcast-based, image-enhancing stunt is going to outperform the real hook at his outrageous fruit juice and smoothie stores. His secret: It's the experience, stupid.

"I don't consider us to be marketing-driven," says Perron, 33. "We rely on people to spread the word. We didn't invent smoothies or fresh-squeezed juices, but we've created a niche by focusing on a sensory experience."

What's so ingenious about that? Nothing, unless you consider that Jamba Juice has grown from a single unit--originally called Juice Club--in the Central California town of San Luis Obispo to a substantial 59 units in only seven years. Nothing, unless you witness the mob of groovy patrons, including grandmothers and baggy-clothed teens, that squeezes into the stores morning, noon and night.

In a universe that's wise to every kind of marketing ploy, Perron's experience-driven philosophy just might be the hardest sell going. Let everyone else promise freshness, flavor, health, nutrition, simplicity, affordability, sweetness and light. Jamba Juice skips the promises and delivers--again and again.

Perron's cutting-edge savvy doesn't come from a marketing textbook but from experience. The Jamba Juice story begins in 1990, when a health-crazed Perron decided to turn his "juicing" habit into a business. His particular brand of high-quality, high-energy Juice Club smoothies and juices became so popular, expansion was inevitable.

Juice Club tried its hand at franchising in 1993 but quickly changed its plan and raised money from equity partners so the company could maintain better control of its growing retail network.

Though the Juice Club formula had been an unqualified success, Perron felt it could use a little tweaking to compete in an increasingly crowded environment. "As more stores began opening, the name started getting lost in all the clutter," he says, "There was Juice Stop and Juice Connection. We needed a name that was more identifiable," and an image to go along with it.

So Juice Club got itself some jamba, a West African word for "celebration," and gave itself a hipper, more global feeling. What was once a sterile, health-food-store atmosphere has been replaced by vibrant purple, green, orange and hot pink colors and natural wood.

"This business may look like one where you can buy a few blenders and make a fortune, but it's more than that," Perron says. "Our company exists not simply to make money. We're providing enrichment to our customers' lives. People aren't stupid." Nor, he might add, are they susceptible to the same old marketing hype: "They know what's real."

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: How To Build A Million-Dollar Business.

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