Can your marketing hold water?April 18, 2008
The bottled/designer/distilled water industry is a 16 billion dollar industry and growing. It doubled in growth and size since 1993 when it was valued at 8 billion alone for the U.S. market. According to Fast Company, it is more money than we Americans spent on iPods® or movie tickets in 2007. It is an amazing testament to the psychology of marketing and consumerism. We are willing to spend our money on something we can get for free from our own taps, yet we’ll shell out the dough for the convenience of water in a handy carrying container that fits into our cup-holders, purses, and kid’s lunchboxes. All in spite of the fact that a billion people worldwide have no reliable source of drinking water, and more than 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water (but I digress).
There is a water war brewing, and it’s primarily being conducted through marketing and advertising. The bottlers have been nipping at each other’s tailfins for the past almost decade, having their way with filtration systems (such as Brita). Now the filtration pack is fighting back, playing the “Green” card as a way to differentiate them. This has pushed the bottlers to fight back by informing and educating how landfill friendly they truly are.
It is a battle for perception trying to be won by brand. “Branding is extremely important for water,” says Chiranjeev Kohil, professor of marketing at California State University at Fullerton – speaking on brandchannel.com. “In a lot of categories, you can duplicate products and get an edge on quality or attributes, but that edge can be shaved off very quickly by competitors. In the water category, there is no technological superiority. The only thing that differentiates one water from the next is the brand.”
It is also one of the many products that are being judged on its entire lifecycle. Water branding attempts to differentiate itself in multiple ways; from the source of the water, the anecdotal legend around it, the label, the social group that consumes it, to the disposal of its packaging, which begs the question – Are we going to have to concern ourselves with the lifecycle of every product in light of this?
This is only the beginning. As markets tighten, and the “greening” of the products proliferates the markets this battle will be fought for several other product categories. The writing is on the wall for the auto industry, and if bottled water is under siege, how safe are sodas, beers, cleaning products, health & beauty, and anything else that comes in an uncertain package. Will your marketing hold water? What do you think?