Friday, October 29, 2010

This Water

Another great one from Pearlfisher, This Water is a spin-off brand from the very popular Innocence natural brand in the UK.

One of the things I like most about this brand is the outright call for distinction: by calling it This Water, you automatically put distance between it and other brands.  There's this water, and then there's that water.  And then they put the most distinctive feature right up front too:

Fruit from the trees; this water from a spring.
this water quenches thirsts for a living.
No trucks came from the alps to bring you this water.  (Oh BURN, Evian!)
this water is made from fruit and clouds.
Cranberries for health, this water for thirst.
this water is coloured by nature. (Take that, Vitamin Water!)

See?  It's subtle but it's there.  And it brings up a really crucial point: we have very strong associations with brands—so strong, in fact, that I immediately parsed what they were trying to say with the alps and "coloured by nature" bits without them having to say anything other than a brief allusion.  Evian is so vitally linked with the alps that This Water couldn't mean anything else by that quote about the alps.  I don't even like bottled water and I got it right off.

Our connection to brands is nearly pre-cognitive.  We are influenced and shaped by factors that we may not even recognize straight off.  I'm sure this is probably alarming to some, but I find it fascinating.  It brings up a question that I don't have an answer to yet:
Where does the line of responsibility fall: towards the consumer (to be conscious and wary of brand messaging) or to the brand (to be ethical and trustworthy when it comes to that messaging)? 


  1. In the U.S. free market, the lack of regulation and government oversight favors the game of profit over all else, including ethics. Ethics only enters as a by-product of some other potential product factor (e.g., a "green business" that is using its appearance of social responsibility to appeal to a certain class of eco-conscious customer). I'd like to change that, but unfortunately that's how the system currently works. In order to push social responsibility forward, companies have to be forced to change. The good news is that it works to a certain degree. The bad news is that corporate lobbying has led to increasing deregulation. It's a never-ending battle.

    In the case of brand messaging, I would simply say, it's complicated.

    Most importantly, there is the product itself. If the product has a known negative effect (well, everything has an impact, it's just a question of the cost to what and how), then the brand messaging has to take that into consideration. Cigarettes and fast food, for example, should not be marketed to children.

    But the ethics of the product itself are different from the ethics of "marketeering," for lack of a better word to describe marketing science. For example, if through scientific research, it is discovered that left-handed people have almost no free will with regards to candy bars, is it right to choose to always show a candy bar in someone's left hand in advertisements? It's tricky.

    Luckily, this has led to a certain amount of one-upsmanship. Given how much we are bombarded by advertisements, how we spend our money becomes a matter of competing conflicts of interests. Our lack of free will (at today's level) has become a sort of competition.

    The missing piece in all of this is that there is no such thing anymore as a non-consumer as a viable option. Henry David Thorough is dead and the commuter line runs right by Walden Pond. Our culture has become a struggle to find our own personal free will in a world where we are mostly on auto-pilot.

    Given how our brains operate, it is problematic to place the burden of responsibility on the consumer. But that, unfortunately, is where we are, legally and politically. I only hope we can break out of it in favor of a more viable model, but that is going to take time and education.

  2. I agree with you for the most part. The way we market insecurity to women with product-as-panacea enrages me. We're encouraging consumption as panacea: from food, to cosmetics, to clothes, to cars. It never ends. We consume to feel better about ourselves, but it's the overconsumption that drains our wallets and saps our energy.

    All that said, I kind of like shopping. It's insidious how women bond over shopping and problematic for it means in our culture.

    The process of acquiring things is a marker for identity. My taste is a sign of my class, wealth, and intelligence. Who knew that buying a handbag could mean all that?