Bottled water was once dubbed, “the marketing trick of the century” and despite minuscule basis point differences in PH levels, it’s accurate. What causes us to participate in this completely irrational scheme aside from convinence and how can software marketing use the underlying principles to leverage growth?
Bottled water in our opinion has been one of the most successful, simple, and apparent examples of nearly identical products differentiating themselves through positioning. When bottled first started making its appearance in the 1970s its current success was unfathomable. Why would people buy bottled water when they could get tap water for nearly free at home or elsewhere?
Today, total bottled water by volume exceeds over 14.4 Billion gallons according to the International Bottled Water Association. Pierre first made its American debut nearly 50 years ago. It was welcomed with mockery and skepticism, now it’s called ingenious – hindsight always seems to be 20/20 for many, but the lessons can help provide foresight into other marketing conundrums.
Bottled didn’t seek to immediately compete with tap water upon its market entrance, it sought to compete with soda. The immediate marketing approach was designed to appeal to monied audiences branding the product with prestige and as the healthy alternative to gauche fizzy and sugary soda products. The product then began sweeping to the mass market as the apparent health-conscious choice – a social phenomenon that arguably was for the better as the western world continued to evolve in making more select health-conscious choices. In the process, bottled water found a new competitor, tap water.
While the product availability, convenience, and an elevated consciousness played a key factor in the consumer shift, what are the factors driving consumer choice for near-identical products of water across numerous brands – the simple answer, perception.
According to Statista the market share of private label, bottled water companies was greater than The Coca Cola Company & Pepsi combined, their brands include Dasani, SmartWater, and Aquafina. Private label companies would include brands like Fiji Water, Evian, Poland Spring, Just Water, Essentia, Voss, etc. The next largest market shareholder after private label companies and major beverage brands was Nestle.
Large beverage distributors have the advantage of just that, network and distribution they cater primarily to the basic choice market. Private label water bottle companies need to win sales on the edge of perception and consumer seduction.