71% of the earth is covered in the stuff, it’s vital to all known life. Water is also big business. Sales of water just topped soda in the US last month for the first time, making it the most widely consumed beverage in the country. A market that was started in the 18th century in Jackson’s Spa Boston to harness a resurgence in the fashion of spa-going and drinking mineral rich filled water, still shares a number of parallels with today’s water market. For many the choice in bottled water is not based on hydration alone, bottled and premium water still sells itself in terms of health, naturalness, and vitality.

It’s with the $70bn global market in mind that PepsiCo released their new water offering Lifewtr to the market at the end of 2016. With dozens of brands vying for attention, ranging from the more traditional mainstay spring and mineral waters to the more elaborate brands like Blk Water (enriched with fulvic acid!), which water package messaging resonate with consumers?

Well, that’s what we wanted to explore at Zappistore. Through our proprietary idea screening tool, Favor It, we tested 20 premium and bottled water package messaging with 1000 respondents in the UK and US. This allowed us to rank these messages by purchase intent and believability, and to test each message against a number of emotional attributes.

The study revealed that several premium water brands, including PepsiCo’s new entrant Lifewtr, may face a journey to become as ubiquitous in the water market as they are in soda.

In the UK and US purchase intent was topped by ‘mineral water’ and ‘spring water’ respectively. And in the UK, the top five messages based on purchase intent are all featured on the packaging of already established brands such as Evian, Volvic, Perrier and Buxton. In the US, common package messages from newer premium water providers generally scored better for purchase intent than in the UK.

Messages such as ‘artesian sourced’ which features on water from Voss, Fiji and Hawaii water scored higher in the US, while the term ‘volcanic water’ used on Volvic ranked significantly higher in the UK than the US. All this indicates that familiarity and time in market potentially play a big part in purchase intent in this market. Voss, Fiji and Hawaii have been on the US market for a lot longer than they have been in the UK, while the same is true for Volvic – a mainstay of the UK water market with very little penetration in the US.

Purchase intent score out of 10.

The study also found that messages which score lowest for purchase intent are generally product messages that consumers find confusing. ‘Enhanced with fulvic acid’, as we have seen a message from niche water provider Blk Water, was found to be confusing by 51% in the US and 41% in the UK, whereas ‘vapour distilled’, a key message on the packaging of Coca-Cola’s SmartWater was found to be confusing by 35% in the US and 29% in the UK.

So, what does this mean for PepsiCo’s new offering? Well established messaging still carries the day in the war of water brands. But the study suggests that newer niche packaging messages do pick up relevance and affect purchase intent over time. PepsiCo’s Lifewtr message of being ‘pH-Balanced’ ranks slap bang in the middle for purchase intent.

It benefits from the health associations of the message, and probably from an existing understanding of pH-levels used in common parlance in personal care products, but purchase intent puts it down with some of the more obscure product messaging on water packaging. For brands looking to break into this huge market it would be best to marry more traditional messages such a ‘spring’ and ‘mineral’ with packaging messages that communicates their USP. In that way brands should be able to leverage the traditional while increasing relevance of the new over time, and hopefully, lead the horse to water and make it drink.

Favor It is a concept screening research tool from ZappiStore for testing ideas, ads, concepts or anything you like – with results delivered in a matter of hours. You can learn more about the tool and how our clients have used it to create winning campaigns on ZappiStore.com

Daniel Evans

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Daniel Evans

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