Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rob’s Perrier

Signalwriter heard from Rob Schoenbeck yesterday:

I finally made my way to your blog, recalling somewhat ashamedly that you’d asked me on or the day prior to Thanksgiving to read an article you’d posted. I assume that it was the one entitled “Bottle Spin.”

Of course I was gratified to see you calling today’s marketers to rise up off their collective duffs and do something clever and innovative; as you say “outside the bottle.” It will be interesting, to say the least, to learn what response you generate.

Ironically, the article immediately called to mind a campaign which we (meaning yours truly at the time in London serving the great master of advertising Leo Burnett) developed to make the Perrier brand a household word in the UK introducing a “foreign” — even worse, French — product to alter the habits of the British consumer who, if he drank bottled water at all which was very rarely indeed, it was sure to be British!

“Eau-la-la” was the beginning of a 15-year advertising campaign for Perrier. Originally created for a single poster, the “Eau” theme had so much impact that a campaign was built around it. Throughout the 1980s, hundreds of Perrier “Eau” advertisements were spawned. (For example, the play on the word “eau” and the visual of two bottles of Perrier side by side with the headline “Eau Pair.”) There was never a word written about the brand but the famous French bottle was always the star.

Rob continues: The reason I bring this up is because we even went so far as to create a new look (“package and personality”) for the brand. When I read your article, I could help but smile and think how far-sighted we were, thirty years ago, in not only taking the high ground by identifying water itself (and the French word “eau” at that) with the Perrier and doing it in a most striking, memorable, clever and unique way so that there was no mistaking “which” brand was the one to drink if one wanted to drink bottled water (from the Continent no less.)

It worked like crazy. Commentator Barry Groves has noted:

But an advertising campaign by the French company, Perrier, in 1974 was to bring about a dramatic change. The Financial Times, in an article on the Mineral and Spring waters market, called the campaign a waste of time because bottled waters, it said, would be drunk only by cranks and foreigners. How wrong they were. Bottled water has become an extraordinary success story. Sales of bottled water totalled 3 million litres in 1976. In just one decade that figure rose to 128 million litres and by 1991 some 300 million bottles of mineral water were drunk in Britain alone.

I generally consider that great advertising people are always looking for new, smart ways to present their brands to their target audiences. “Bottle Spin” addressed the packaging itself. But you can see from the ad above that there are more ways than one to make the package do more of the work. We only think “integrated” marketing is a relatively new concept. In fact, it goes on all the time…if we’re great advertising people.

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