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Marketing water: What we can learn from the brands making a splash

March 15th, 2024

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Francesca Nicasio
Marketing water: What we can learn from the brands making a splash

Water sustains life. That’s a universal fact. So much so, that access to clean water is a human right.

But if water is so ubiquitous, why is the bottled water industry so competitive?

Answer: The bottled water industry thrives on differentiation. Purity, taste, convenience, and branding set products apart in a competitive market. This emphasis on distinction drives innovation, pushing brands to implement smart marketing strategies that make a splash.

Bottled water is also extremely popular worldwide, and consumption in many countries is projected to rise in the coming years. The global bottled water market size in 2024 is $243.6 billion and is projected to achieve a market growth of 5.24% annually (CAGR 2024-2028).

Tracksuit data shows the premium sparkling water category has 39% penetration in the US — or 98.8 million people in the category. It has 47% penetration in the 18 - 44 years age bracket, which suggests that premium water brands are favored by Gen Z and Millennial Americans.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the rising popularity of bottled water and learn a thing or two from key players on how to get your branding and marketing right.

Why bottled water has become so popular 🌊

Research shows that the per-capita bottled water consumption in the US increased by 187% between 1999 and 2022. Another report by Statista shows that bottled water sales volumes have increased significantly — year on year — from 2010 to 2022. It also highlights that just under 16 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States in 2022.

Oh, and in a country known for fast foods and mega-sized portions of soda, bottled water was the most favored beverage in 2022.

One reason is there has been a considerable shift in consumer behavior, tastes, and perspectives in recent years. Consumers have become more conscious of their health and well-being. They understand the negative impact of too much sugar, calories, and sodium on one’s health. So, they are increasingly looking for healthier alternatives to their favorite soft drinks and this is evident in the growth of the non-alcoholic beverage category of the global beverage industry.

Apart from changing their diets, health-conscious consumers are also exercising more, which has increased the sales of nutrient-rich water brands that boast health benefits. Water brands are increasingly choosing to market bottled water with labels such as “oxygen-rich,” “spring,” “fortified,” “alkaline,” and “vitamin-rich.”

People also spend a lot of time out of their houses and in offices or on the go. For them, grabbing bottled water is a convenient way to stay hydrated when they don’t have access to tap water. Not to mention, the fear of waterborne diseases, contamination, and substances like chlorine in the water supply makes people choose bottled water.

Water ads have done an excellent job of convincing people that bottled water is more hygienic. This is why in 2022, the Asia Pacific region (mainly China and India) contributed the most (over 45%) to the global bottled water industry.

What this means for water brands trying to win in the space 💡

These trends are encouraging, but bottled water advertising can be tricky. Water tastes the same, so creating water brand marketing strategies to make yours stand out can be daunting. Let’s dive deeper into how water brands can come up with successful, long-lasting bottled water marketing campaigns.

We drink water for one simple yet vital goal — to stay alive. But water marketing strategies can’t rely on just that premise to distinguish their bottled water from the rest.

Water brands need to develop something unique with their bottled water products and water ads need to play up this USP. No wonder, so many bottled water companies out there are selling flavored or vitamin-infused water.

The source of water can be attractive to consumers. Bottled water came to be because of the discovery of therapeutic properties of spring water in the 1800s (the company was Poland Spring). Even the most well-known brand in the industry — Evian — is famous because it touts its water being sourced from all-natural springs in the French Alps.

The shape of the plastic bottles and sustainability efforts can also be effective selling points for bottled water. With the premium water industry being so saturated, brands need to test various water marketing strategies on consumers. But how?

This is where a brand-testing company like Tracksuit comes in. We help you tap into your target market through consumer surveys that gather insights about their brand perceptions.

Because of the large samples of survey participants, test results are bound to be unbiased. Tracksuit collects the data and presents them in intuitive, simple, and easy-to-use dashboards that marketers can use.

You can see how your water brand is perceived among different age groups and against competitors, allowing you to create the best strategy to improve brand awareness and boost conversions. 🔍

What marketers can learn from the water brands making a splash 💧

When it comes to bottled water, you aren’t just selling H2O. You’re also selling the story and status of your brand. This is especially true for premium water companies from whom hydration comes at a much higher-than-average price.

Evian

The name Evian evokes images of snow-capped mountains in France and of the French aristocracy.

The company may have been founded in 1829 but the spring waters of the French Alps were already known to be beneficial to human health. All thanks to Marquis de Lessert, whose health improved when he began drinking the natural mineral water sourced from the region close to Lake Geneva.

France has always been known as the center of high society, luxury, and elegance, and Evian has played up these qualities since the very beginning. This bottled water brand was even mentioned in the book “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie.

Evian is now owned by the food conglomerate Danone but the brand continually works to keep up its luxury image to maintain its sizable market share. Their water ads often feature supermodels in decadent surroundings.

Another excellent marketing strategy they’ve used is to collaborate with luxury fashion designers and houses like Balmain, Kenzo, Christian Lacroix, and Elie Saab to create limited-edition bottles. These special releases not only ooze luxe but also impart a sense of urgency as only a small number of these special bottles are produced.

 

FIJI Water

FIJI Water is another water brand that leans heavily on exotic places to sell bottles of water. Where Evian comes from the pristine Alps, FIJI bottled water comes from the untouched, wild, and lush Fijian islands.

The company has its headquarters in Los Angeles but ships its water from Yaqara on the island of Viti Levu.

Apart from advertising the source of their water, the company has increased its brand awareness, especially among high-end consumers by sponsoring major events like fashion weeks and film festivals. You might remember the Fiji Water girl from the red carpet of the 76th Golden Globes when she photobombed (accidentally or not) many A-list celebrities.

Aura Bora

Aura Bora — a Tracksuit client — has carved a niche for itself with its funky 70s-inspired branding and packaging. In a clever strategy, the brand has been able to connect its all-natural, environmentally-conscious, and healthy bottled water to a time that is known for its messages of peace, free love, and returning to nature. If you’re thinking about entering your health era, this is your sign.

Their sparkling water is made with real extracts from various herbs, fruits, and flowers, and it has made sure that the imagery on its cans matches the flavor of the water. The flavor combinations are interesting and appeal to a younger consumer base.

Colorful, quirky images of plants and animals cover the water bottles making its branding not only youthful but also eye-catching. It also helps that the brand has a running ticker right in the middle of its website that lists all the wonderful qualities of its bottled water — Vegan, Zero Calories, Zero Sodium, 1% for the Planet, etc.

If you keep looking, you’ll find a library of cocktail recipes made, of course, with the various flavors of their sparkling water. Underneath the recipe is a CTA to add the relevant water flavor to your cart - a smart tactic!

You can even treat your ears to one of their public Spotify playlists, accompanied perfectly with one of their beverages.

Liquid Death

While Aura Bora’s branding lies on one end of the spectrum, Liquid Death’s lies on the other end. The brand is all about skulls, gore, rock ‘n roll, and best of all: dark humor. To go with the overall image of its brand, the cans that its beverages are packaged in have a few, dark colors with the skull logo on them.

It has inventive and funny taglines that go with its branding such as “Death to Plastic” and “Murder your Thirst” which conjure up images of tattoos, heavy metal, and punk rock. Where Aura Bora radiates a fun and more whimsical image, Liquid Death wants you to know that it’s crazy and controversial.

To amp up the shock factor, it has collaborated with the likes of Steve-O, Tom Segura, and Wiz Khalifa. It even got Steve-O to get a tattoo with the name of the brand and made an enema-themed ad with Travis Barker.

Their over-the-top content pushes the brand further in front of its consumers but the content doesn’t overshadow its bottled water. There’s always an apt storyline to tie in its bottled beverages with the insane content.

How Tracksuit helps water brands win 🏆

All these water brands didn’t just land on winning strategies by chance. They had to come up with innovative marketing campaigns to sell water and had to find out which one works best. Tracksuit can help you test out your marketing strategies and track the health of your marketing efforts. Here’s how.

Find out whether your brand activity is working 💡

With Tracksuit, we survey thousands of people in your brand's category to measure your awareness, consideration, usage and preference. After our in-house research team sets up your survey, you’ll get your first brand metrics in only 30 days. You can use these metrics as a baseline to set KPIs from. Marketers also use Tracksuit data in their monthly reporting to provide evidence for the impact of brand activity.

Plan what to do next ⚖️

Tracksuit data helps you hone in on areas or segments you should focus your marketing efforts on. Through demographic deep dives and funnel analysis, you can improve your strategy setting and plan future brand positioning.

Find out what competing water brands are doing 🕵️

Alongside your own brand, you select five competitors you want us to track. That means for all your brand data, you’ll also be able to see your competitors’ metrics too. Our customers use these insights to inform quarterly competitor reviews and for category benchmarking.

Grow your water brand (and marketing-driven revenue) 📈

Tracksuit is your source of truth for proving the impact of your brand marketing activities. With our data you can calculate the ROI on brand building efforts and use this for board reporting, pitching for more budget and championing the value of marketing.

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