By concentrating on making consumers feel good about what they're buying, the bottled water category is winning a loyal customer base.
Despite an inflation-caused dip in sales last year, North America won't stop drinking bottled water any time soon.
In fact, Chicago-based Mintel, which noted the slight decline (see page 12), forecasts that the category will rebound by 18 percent in current prices and 8 percent in inflation-adjusted prices during 2011-16, with growth mainly expected to come from sparkling and zero-calorie enhanced products.
Besides product innovation with a particular emphasis on convenience, ways that purveyors of bottled water are maintaining—and augmenting— a loyal base of customers include sustainability and cause marketing initiatives that let shoppers know that the companies share their values.
Differentiating to Save the Planet
Since the national rollout of Plant-Bottle packaging across all of its packages in spring 2011, Dasani water has led the way in offering a more environmentally friendly bottle. "Packaging sustainability is a differentiator in the category, and the brand has seen significant volume, incidence and loyalty gains since the launch," says Paul Beaupre, group director, large store channel, Coca-Cola Refreshments at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, maker of Dasani. "As part of our plan to use more packaging made from renewable resources, we are testing the expansion of PlantBottle for other brands in our portfolio and stepping up our efforts to develop packaging made from 100 percent plant-based materials."
To promote Dasani's commitment to sustainability, last October the brand and New Balance teamed up to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of recycling through a national co-branded campaign spotlighting their shared efforts in cutting-edge sustainable design.
Another example of this commitment is the Dasani "Designed to Make a Difference" experiential tour, consisting of about 50 event days spanning college campuses, amusement parks and music festivals from April through October, and offering two interactive activations on recycling.
As for the foremost category trends, Beaupre predicts "an emphasis on environmental sustainability in the category as a whole."
Atlanta-based DS Waters of America Inc., maker of Athena water, is focusing on involving consumers in helping beat breast cancer. "In general, consumers want to support a cause with their purchase, especially when it does not add to the cost," observes Elizabeth Webb, cause marketing manager, citing figures from the 2012 Edelman Cause Study.
Created by breast cancer survivor Trish May and rolled out nationally last year, Athena pledges to give a minimum of $1 million to breast cancer awareness, education and research by 2014. To get its message across, the brand has recruited an Athena Warriors team of brand ambassadors consisting of singer Amy Grant (daughter of an oncologist), swimmer and Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, and LPGA golfer Angela Stanford, who make personal appearances at select stores and events, and participate in social media to drive consumers to the Athena website for more product information. Grant also provides in-store audio messaging, while shelf talkers and bottleneck hangers communicate the brand's mission.
Among Athena's other promotions are displays offering details on local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks and similar events. Future plans call for in-store sampling and free pink wristband giveaway campaigns.