Image via WikipediaResearch has shown that minorities consume bottled water more often than white Americans, and spend a greater proportion of their income (about 1%, compared to the 0.4% white Americans dole out) on this superfluous commodity every year.
A recent study in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine confirmed this trend - finding that Latino and black parents were three times more likely to sate their children's thirst with bottled water, compared with white parents.
What sets this study apart from previous ones, is that it pinpoints the reasons why minority parents perceive bottled water to be superior, and thus a necessary expense. They genuinely believe it to be cleaner, safer, healthier, and more convenient than the stuff that pours out of the spigot (virtually) gratis. Health experts and tap water advocates heartily disagree and will produce reams of data revealing tap water to be pure, healthful, and entirely sanitary. In fact, authors of the recent study note that the reliance on bottled water may contribute to dental issues in minority children who don't benefit from the fluoride purposefully added to tap water to maintain the nation's oral health. What's more, a National Resources Defense Council investigation discovered the 17% of bottled waters contained unsafe levels of bacterial loads, and 22% were contaminated with chemicals, including arsenic.
Still, with 10 billion gallons of bottled water imbibed annually in the US, bottled water brands have been actively courting the minority market. Here are four strategies they've used to convince black and Latino consumers to swig from their bottles.
Latino-specific Bottled Water Brands What better way to attract the attention of a minority group than by putting out a product that is aimed directly, if not almost exclusively, at them. Paul Kurkulis founder and president of Las Oleadas, an Aspen-based company, has been hawking a brand of mineral -enhanced bottled water called Oleada in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California, with his focus being the Hispanic market. Loosely translated Las Oleadas means "the momentum that drives a wave." The text on the labels were originally only in Spanish, but they now also feature English, since Kurkulis found he had inadvertently garnered some non-Spanish speaking customers. In 2006, Ravinia Partners, launched AguaBlue. After years of research, they put out the bottled water that sought to pull at the emotional heartstrings of the Latino consumer. The striking, full color label features the flags of Latin American countries, and bilingual production information. Perusing the water aisle, the Guatamalan, Columbian or Puerto Rican shopper spots his or her flag, and swells with pride and warm feelings. Naturally, this makes him or him opt for a bottle of AguaBlue over another generic brand.
Over the last two years ago, Coca Cola and Nestle have both rolled out campaigns aimed at minority moms. According to Miriam Muley, author of The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors-Latina, Black and Asian, 46% of all mothers in the US are Latina, Black or Asian. In April, 2009, Dasani enlisted R&B star Chilli from the Grammy award winning group TLC to deliver its message of health and hydration to African American mothers in a special Mother's Day program. Via radio, print and in-store advertising, black women were sold on how drinking Dasani was just one step to a happier, more beautiful, more fulfilled, and more balanced them. By visiting the Dasani website, moms could see the latest fashion trends, elicit health and beauty tips and enter contests to win spa-cations. "Among African American consumers, African American moms are the gatekeeper to the household," said Yolanda White, assistant vice president, African American Marketing, Coca-Cola North America, in an Ad Age interview. "We over-index in single-family households, and so reaching Mom is critical."
Summer and fall of 2010 saw Nestle's Pure Life water campaign, "Better Habits for a Better Life," played out with a vengeance. This time it was Latina moms who were being canvassed, and this time, the campaign wasn't so much about their health and well-being, but rather those of their families. At the heart of the campaign was a challenge titled "La Promesa Nestle Pure Life," and it basically called upon mothers to pledge to replace one sugary drink in their family's day with water, or rather, a bottle of Pure Life. Once her pledge was registered, mom was in the running to win over $20,000 worth of prizes, and a trip for four to Miami.Celebrity Endorsements Brands have long since recognized the value of celebrity endorsements to increase sales. But, it wasn't until the mid-90′s that advertisers really started to take the African American market seriously and realized the profits to be cultivated if they started to use black stars. Remember what Tina Turner did for Hanes hosiery? Well, the bottled water industry certainly does. Coca Cola's enlisting of TLC's Chili, a 38 year-old-old actress, singer, and single mother to promote Dasani's Mother's Day campaign, was perfectly executed. The star embraces independence, strong family principles and a commitment to health, and, well, looking good - values integral to today's black mother. "Chilli embodies the struggles and the balance we see in our target audience," said Yolanda White of Coca Cola, as reported in Adweek.com. "She gives reassurance to moms that you can still be a great mom, take care of yourself and look beautiful." Nestle had their own superstar mom in Hispanic TV host Cristina Saralegui to serve as the brand's spokeswoman, as well as to appear in TV commercials. In one such ad, a mother is seen in a supermarket deciding between a sugary drink or water as she runs into Saralegui, who conveys to her the importance of water. Between 2008 and 2010 when Hispanic commericals featuring Salalegui were aired on TV, the awareness of Pure Life water, and purchase intent levels quadrupled among Hispanics.
All this isn't to suggest that the boys are neglected. Black comedian and actor Daman Wayans, once endorsed PepsiCo's Aquafina in the early noughties, now the brand is endorsed by Domenican football player Luis Castillo of the San Diego Chargers.
Playing the "Purity" Game In 2008, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigated the quality of bottled water. It tested 10 major brands, and found an array of chemical contaminants in all of them at levels no different than routinely found in tap water. Despite this, the cornerstone of ad campaigns of many bottled water brands is the apparent unmatched purity of their products, which intentionally plays up to the concerns of consumers worried that tap water is contaminated, polluted or simply unclean.
Unknown to many, municipal tap water is the source for 47.8%of bottled water, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation's annual report for 2009. Aquafina draws on the same water that you do in your kitchen, whereas Nestle gets most of its water for its regional North American brands from spring sources. Despite this distinction, Aquafina nonsensically features a mountain landscape on the label. Moreover, its slogans harp on about purity left, right and center: "Nothing but pure refreshment," "So pure, we promise nothing," and "Aquafina bottled water. Purity Guaranteed". Nestle's Poland Spring is big on purity too, but the real focus is on the "naturalness" of its water source. The brand's advertising is potent with images of verdant, lush forested landscapes, rolling hills and clear blue skies.
In this ad here, the tagline reads "Born Better," and the accompanying text says: "Every drop of Poland Spring's 100% Natural Spring Water comes from carefully selected natural springs. When you start with something better, you get something better." Better than tap water, Nestle insinuates. Really?
Ever wonder where the water from your faucet comes from? Lakes, rivers and groundwater that accumulates in underground wells from rain, melted snow and sleet. Sounds pretty "natural", doesn't it?