Value Propositions: Bottled Water
This has to be one of the ultimate challenges in value proposition design:
How do you make bottled water seem like a desirable product?
Water is water, yet we support so many different brands.
How does each brand position itself to command (and defend) their fraction of this lucrative market?
Let’s explore the subtle and powerful distinctions between how ten different brands sell their (virtually identical) products.
The household name, Mt Franklin is probably the most commonly sold bottle of water in Australia. It’s the brand of choice for most cafes, service stations and sporting events.
Ironically, it does not come from Mt Franklin at all, but a Coca Cola bottling plant.
The value proposition here is ubiquity and convenience – the safe, popular choice. In fact, it’s often the only choice available.
It has also been known to trade on its charitable connections – with 10c from each pink-capped bottle going to breast cancer research.
Thankyou comes in with a refreshingly different pitch to the customer.
They make three offers:
1. The warm fuzzy feeling of having helped someone in poverty today – and even see where your money goes through their Track Your Impact system
2. You can save some money – their water is 50c cheaper than Mt Franklin in 7 Eleven
3. You can participate in something cool – their minimalist and elegant labels have a certain aesthetic appeal that other brands have yet to master.
This offer seems to have worked, with Thankyou now a well-known brand within Australia.
You might notice that none of these three points have anything to do with the product itself, and could be applied to virtually any commodity consumer good.
That’s exactly what Thankyou worked out, so instead of doubling down on water, they applied the same approach to soap, muesli bars and nappies.
Fiji’s message centres around the concept of purity. Customers are shown the oceanic, tropical paradise elements of Fiji, which are combined with minimalist labels.
This plays on their customer’s desire for something clean, something natural, something far away from factories, trucks and diesel fumes.
Never mind that the very concept of shipping water in from Fiji is disastrous for the environment, let’s just close our eyes and picture ourselves sunbathing on white sands…
Pump have taken a different angle, focusing instead of water’s role in physical activity and the need for immediate rehydration.
It’s for the busy, fit person who clearly has no time for screw-top lids.
Pump mimic the design and functionality of a reusable sports bottle, but place themselves in convenience stores as a single-use product.
Their choice of name, shape and typography all reference the idea of movement – this is for active people with “no time to waste”.
In that regard, Pump have cleverly made water a piece of exercise equipment, rather than a commodity.
Maybe Evian doesn’t have the same appeal it did in the 90’s, but back in the day Evian was sophistication in a bottle.
Everything about it said “Premium”; the French name, the packaging design, all the way through to their deliberately high price point.
High prices signify an investment – something you’ve decided to enjoy rather than something that fills a practical need. If you swapped the contents with generic spring water, nobody would notice, but if you dropped the price to $1, then the appeal would be lost.
Evian intends to be the kind of bottled water you’d buy at a restaurant, not because it does anything special, but because it looks respectable, earning the right to sit on a white tablecloth.
Of course, skeptics will want to remind you of what Evian spells backwards…
I say Woolworths, but this applies to virtually any home brand bottle of water.
This is sold as a purely practical pain reliever – you’re about to go somewhere without readily available clean water, so you need to buy packs of 12 or 24 bottles at a time, which you then will keep in the boot of your car.
Woolworths makes no attempt whatsoever to appear socially conscious or cool – these would actually diminish their appeal of being as cheap as possible.
In this way, Woolworths sell water as a tool – it solves a functional job in a convenient way, and nothing more.
Another Bloody Water
We all inherently understand how silly it is that we’d ever buy bottled water in Australia, and Another Bloody Water let us know that they’re in on the joke.
That said, since you’re in a situation where you DO need a bottle, you may as well have a laugh about it.
Their packaging is funny, self-aware and self-deprecating; you’ll be passing the bottle around to your friends to enjoy the refreshingly honest message.
The only problem: why would you buy a 10th, 11th or 12th bottle?
The value proposition here is novelty, and the challenge is turning a brief positive experience into an ongoing fanbase.
A gimmick sounds like a trivial reason to buy a product, but I distinctly remember being captivated by Blk water the first time I saw it.
It’s subversive, wrong, and really really cool.
The colour comes from the fulvic minerals in the water, and it’s incredibly eye-catching. So much so that I’m more tempted to display it than to drink it, which sort of defeats the point of buying a bottle of water.
This gimmick became less remarkable when I remembered how much Pepsi Max I consume, another black liquid with absolutely nothing natural in it whatsoever.
There may also be another customer persona – someone who is looking for water with a certain set of minerals. More specifically, someone who wants to feel healthy, and believes that minerals are the key to their sense of wellbeing.
Sparkling water has a slightly different appeal, making it hard to compare with the others in this article.
However, it has a special property that is worth noting:
San Pellegrino’s value proposition is that it is a dignified substitute.
I’ve never seen anyone order a bottle for the taste, or for hydration.
Instead, it’s a substitute for alcohol, caffeine or sugar.
How else do you explain restaurants charging $10 for a 1-litre bottle?
It’s because it’s a replacement for beer or for coffee, something interesting and respectable to drink. The bottle is heavy and elegant, imagine if they switched to clear plastic! The product may be the same, but the charm would be gone.
Voss have probably out Evian-ed Evian.
In a time when plastic bottles are taboo, Voss come out with a striking, elegant glass bottle that oozes sophistication.
It is heavy and impractical - unapologetically so.
Voss have gone all-in on the cool factor; through their bottle design, branding, and price point.
Love it or hate it, it seems to be working.
You see how an insightful value proposition can make millions?
Each company pays a fraction of a cent for the water itself, and spend the rest of their money on branding, marketing and distribution.
Each have found their own angle:
We’re the most (reliable / impactful / pure / sporty / fancy / thrifty / funny / interesting / elegant) water available.
Same product, similar sized containers, completely different customers.
These brands have crafted such unique, compelling value propositions for a dull product.
What would each brand do in your industry?
And what’s stopping you from doing the same?
For more of the Value Propositions Case Studies series;
Part One featuring Louis Vuitton, AFL, Uber and TOMS
Part Two featuring Nespresso, Heineken, and Shoes of Prey
Part Three featuring a variety of Men’s Watches and Chocolate brands
Part Four featuring the classic iPod ads, Whiskey, Hardware, Butter and Barossa Tourism
Being The Best explores how companies frame themselves as industry leaders
Being The Cheapest covers strategies for demonstrating value for money
Social Proof examines how brands make themselves look popular and trustworthy
Cologne looks at how intangible gains are conveyed through imagery and design
Bottled Water compares ten brands selling the same product in different ways