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Good Water / Bad Water / Weird Water

December 31, 2009


How do you market something that is, in most places, naturally abundant, and free. This sounds a bit like one of those “if a tree falls in a forest, but no one is around to hear it fall…etc, etc.” philosophical problems. Granted, in many countries clean drinking water is hard to come by, but the bottled water market in Europe and the US is just as strong as elsewhere. So strong in fact that bottled water is now a global industry predicted to be worth over $85 million by 2011. But how did this happen? And how do new brands differentiate themselves in a crowded market place?

Do you abide by industry-standard of blue bottle for still, green for sparkling, perhaps with the addition of some vaguely watery, natural imagery, like the Evian mountain-tops, or the Highland Spring babbling brook? Or attempt to fashion a classic brand like San Pellegrino? (actually that might be tricky – according to San Pellegrino’s website, the brand originated in the year 1250, and is officially endorsed by Leonardo Da Vinci). So, what are the options…?

Option 1: blind them with science! Or not, as the case may be. Ogo is one of a number of hyper-oxygenated waters, containing 35 times more oxygen than regular water. Apparently there is no scientific evidence to support Ogo’s claim that their product “serves as an energy booster, revitalising concentration, reflexes, and memory”, but then, perhaps surprisingly, the company offers none, relying instead upon the popular conception that oxygen and water are good for you, so oxygen + water must be really good for you. Still, the “oxygen molecule” bottle designed by Parisian firm Ora-ito, is a winner, even if it must be a bitch to stack in a fridge.

Neau is an interesting one. Sold in the Netherlands, for the same price as a bottle of mineral water, Neau is actually a range of different designs of empty bottles, each containing a flier with information about the product… or lack of it. The idea is for the consumer to fill the bottle from the tap, keep hold of it, and refill when necessary. In other words, its a way of encouraging people to drink tap water. As if that isn’t worthy enough, all the profits go to environmental causes. Menno Liauw, of Amsterdam-based advertising bureau Vandejong and Stichting Neau (the Neau Foundation) explains “we sell conscientiousness and social responsibility”.
“Starting life at London’s top hotels in 1989”, Ty Nant is hotel water for yuppies, with a Gandalf-sounding Welsh name. Still, Ty nant (meaning “house by the stream”) is remarkable from a design perspective for both it’s award-winning cobalt blue glass bottles, and the asymmetrical plastic bottle pictured here, which was created by Ross Lovegrove to evoke the fluidity of water“.
Ty Nant produce another mineral water named TAU, which, from the design of the bottle, looks a bit Japanese, but is apparently just as Welsh. Designed seemingly to plug a hole in the market of hotels that don’t like Ty Nant’s blue and red glass bottles, TAU takes
its name “from an ancient Welsh word for ‘to be silent’, TAU Spring Water is specifically designed for outlets such as designer hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes where colour may not be appropriate but purity, quality and elegance are essential.

Belu claim to be “the UK’s first carbon-neutral water”, thanks to off-setting, eco-friendly production processes, and compostable bio-bottles made from corn starch (although these are the up-market glass version picture above. The plastic ones have pictures of icebergs and penguins on them. Ahhhh.) Like Neau, Bleu is a only non-profit organisation, with all profits donated to clean water projects. They even go so far as to claim that “every bottle you drink gives someone clean water for a month”. How’s that for emotional blackmail?

Drench, owned by UK soft-drinks company Britvic, is aimed at the 16 to 24-year-old youth market. There’s nothing particularly different about the product, or even the way its presented (the name is the most obvious thing so far, which I suppose sounds a bit sexy or frivolous, and might appeal to the average Skins fan), though their new jazz-hamsters advert is poking about in the right area.
Fiji Water. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Someone in marketing came up with a great idea – exclusivity is the buzzword here. Fiji Water is “untouched by man”, produced “Far from pollution, far from acid rain, far from industrial waste” and shipped thousands of miles to its consumers in Europe and the US. Fiji have responded to accusations of supporting a military dictatorship, involvement in political shenanigans, and of course responsibility for the devastation of the environment, courtesy of an elephantine carbon footprint by greening-up their act with claims that “the production of each bottle will actually result in a reduction of carbon in the atmosphere”. There’s also some gumf on their website about “investing in local Fijian communities” to off-set the detrimental effect of diverting clean water from local usage, for the company’s exclusive access via a “17 mile-long aquifier”, whatever one of those is. “Lipstick on a pig” was one critic’s response.
Bling H20 is the brainchild of (no joke) “Hollywood writer-producer” Kevin G. Boyd. Click on his name there to see his list of Hollywood credits.. oh, there aren’t any? I wonder why that is..? Kevin presumably thought-up Bling to give him something to talk about while sniffing coke off a hooker’s arse at his friends house parties, or perhaps because an inner voice told him “you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of bottled water they carry”. Like, for example, if they’re an insecure narcissist who thinks that paying FIFTY DOLLARS for a jewel-incrusted water bottle will mean they end up sitting next to Brad Pitt at the Oscars. And don’t just take my word for it. What. A. Tit.

Project 7 Purified Water really milks the “it’s for a good cause” argument. The texas-based company also produces t-shirts, gum, and mints, which are branded with a range of 7 worthy causes – Build the Future, Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Help Those in Need, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, and Save the Earth. Half (only half?) the profits from any product go to a charity in suppport of the cause promoted on the label. So, for example, if you want to help “Build the Future”, but you don’t like homeless people, you can choose where your money goes.

Tap’d NY is, as far as I can tell, unique in being the only bottled water that specifically markets itself as coming from a tap. Available only (or should I say, exclusively ) in New York, the water is purified through a process of “reverse osmosis”, and shipped to the streets in robust-looking bottles bearing quotes like “no glaciers were harmed making of this water” and “bottled water without the funny accent”. As their strapline “Truth in Hydration” confirms, the brand aims to lay its cards upon the table – challenging the naysayers with the argument that while it may only be tap water, it’s the finest tap water in the world, and it doesn’t harm the planet in getting to the consumer. See, this is a very canny product that manages to appeal to a sense of civic pride, environmental consciousness, AND the tourist market simultaneously. They even have a street team of Hydrators, who dress like Ghost Busters and will refill your bottle for free.
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