Bruce Clark, associate professor at Northeastern University, calls bottled water “one of the best and worst things that ever happened in marketing”. Water is a largely and freely available commodity and yet, the bottled water industry is one of the biggest industries around the world. The reason? Clark credits it to the power of smart and efficient marketing. “Water is a huge industry essentially created from nothing,” said Clark, coordinator of the marketing group in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “It’s an example of what marketing can do with a product that’s fairly undifferentiated, and quite honestly, fairly boring.”
Marketing becomes a crucial factor as, on a base level, it enables customer education and allows your audience to have a solid understanding of what the product is, how it’s made or processed, etc. It informs your customers about the features and benefits you’re offering them.
But marketing is also setting up certain standards and making promises. “At its most fundamental, a brand name is building a set of associations in customers’ minds,” Clark said. He talks about an American bottled water company Poland Spring. The name sounds healthy, pure, and nice. Customers associate these to the terms and have certain expectations about the product based on its name. As Clark explained, “A brand name is a promise of value the customer is going to get out of a product.” Currently, the company is facing a lawsuit after claims of the water not being spring water but groundwater, contrary to its name.
“As a company, you have to deliver based on the rules you set up,” Clark said. In other words, if you call it spring water, it needs to be from a spring. “This lawsuit is saying that the brand name is deceptive, that the product is not appropriate, relative to what the brand name promises.”
But what is it that is really making people buy bottled water this avidly? The answer is simple – sales strategies that promise purity, health, and convenience. Most bottled water companies also lure customers by explaining the lengthy collection and filtration process. People always want to try something new and something good for them. In the end, it really only comes down to the right marketing.