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Brand Strategy

Brand Success Requires More Than Creativity


I know many of you have smiled at their antics. Whether they are roller skating or mimicking their older selves, those cute babies are a viral hit. Apparently, however, their appeal has not managed to boost Evian’s fortunes in the USA. AdAge reports that Evian is now the number three premium water brand behind FIJI and Glacéau smartwater.

Eric O’Toole, president-GM at Danone Waters North America, which imports and markets Evian, identifies Evian’s failure as follows:

The brand allowed other brands like FIJI and smartwater to define the game and keep the pressure on. They innovated on bottle shape and the use of influencers in the space. While they gained steam, Evian was quietish.

The example of Evian is a salutary reminder that it takes more than great creativity to keep a brand strong and successful. You have to continue to innovate around the brand, not necessarily in terms of the product itself, but how it is packaged and all its various touch points. Even a great creative campaign needs to be rooted in what the brand stands for in a way that is readily appreciated by its audience. Evian’s lackluster performance is also a reminder that success is dependent not just on what you do, but what the competition does too.

If FIJI water is the parvenu of the mineral water world, then Evian could claim to be the grande dame, since its illustrious history dates back to 1789. And did you know that Evian first focused on producing water for babies in 1935, becoming “the water for feeding-bottles” because its bacteria-free purity made it safe to drink it without boiling? It was news to me.

I cannot help but feel that Evian’s problem today is that its marketing has become divorced from the brand’s purpose and origins. A brand needs to stand for something meaningful beyond simply being salient. Evian is still more salient and better-known than FIJI according to BrandZ, but it lacks a compelling story to justify choosing it over the competition. This is not an uncommon situation for a venerable brand like Evian. Over time, what it stands for gets lost and the marketing becomes more and more focused on creating buzz not meaning.

Consider these three Evian ads. (1 2 3) None of them explicitly hark back to the brand’s origins, but note how the first and second ones, while separated by a decade, focus attention on the brand as a metaphorical “fountain of youth.” In the first, the introduction states, “Let’s observe the effects of Evian on your body” and in the second it asks, “How does Evian make you feel?” In the third, the dancing babies have become the sole star of the commercial and the brand is relegated to an end shot with no real attempt to tie the brand into the action.

So what do you think? What could Evian do to revive its fortunes? Will a new bottle shape be enough? What do you think of the new campaign? Please share your thoughts.

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Kristine Putt
Twitter: kristineputt
on August 31st, 2013 said

I agree, the dancing babies commercial fails to tie the brand into the action. The only “marriage” I see is the tag line, “Live young.” But it’s weak. Worse, it took a long time to get there. It seemed to stop short, never bringing the “one idea” together with the brand. Having unique packaging is always a plus, but that’s just dressing. The brand has to be interesting from the INside. Imagine going to a party, the packaging is what you wear. But what will you say when you get there? What’s your story? You might look really pretty in your party dress, but if there’s nothing of substance beneath the attire, no one will pay attention to you for long. If Evian wants to level the playing field, they need a character rebrand, not merely a new dressing.

Hilton Barbour
Twitter: ZimHilton
on September 01st, 2013 said

Ironically I blogged on this topic recently. Ignoring your equities is the fastest way to play directly into your competitors hands. Or to coin Simon Sinek, “People buy WHY you do something, not WHAT you do”. Thanks for adding a very pertinent example.

Jim on September 03rd, 2013 said

Evian along with other big brands equal cute with profitable and most often than not that is not the case.

Advertisements that win awards often times can’t produce sales.

When I think of Fiji water I think of purity, glaciers e.t.c. When I think of Evian – nothing comes to mind. Probably that’s their problem.

KEN kisselman
Twitter: potentialKEN
on September 03rd, 2013 said

Describing the campaign’s babies as a viral hit underlines the core of the problem. It’s a ‘successful commercial’ because it is popular (when the criteria for success should be its effectiveness at brand building and influencing sales) and that appeal is achieved by selling the audience babies not bottled water. It’s easy for a ‘creative team’ and even ‘brand management’ to allow the pursuit of a hit campaign to eclipse the underlying objective of producing an effective marketing communication. Every hipster out there could think that the campaign is the best thing since skinny jeans but if that cool factor doesn’t transfer to the product at the time of the purchase decision and/or the consumer at the time of consumption than all that the advertiser actually bought was a popular viral video about babies. Sure you can argue product attributes as differentiators but at the end of the day there are few products that are more basic than a bottle of water. The primary role that branding needs to play in this example is to establish a ‘lifestyle badge’ status for a fundamentally generic product in an easily commoditized category. Fiji bottles look cool and that provides a lifestyle accessory to the consumer who is seen drinking from them. Smart water’s name implies something about the product’s attributes, the choice to select the product instead of a competitor, and ultimately the intrinsic self-worth of the consumer. When I think of Evian the first thing that comes to mind is the Janeane Garofalo line in “Reality Bites” that ‘Evian is naïve spelled backwards’ which basically encapsulates the lifestyle attribute that a consumer is dumb to spend money on a bottle of something that comes free from the tap. I would argue that at a time when the consumer’s options for a ‘branded bottled beverage’ are continually expanding and when brands like Pur and Brita are exploiting ‘green’ sentiments to go head-to-head with the bottled water category; Evian needs to be more concerned with the question of why their brand promise justifies a consumer decision to purchase bottled water than why their bottled water is cooler than a competitor product in the category.

Anthony on January 29th, 2014 said

I agree. Brand success does indeed require a lot more than creative ideas. As you rightly mentioned, emotional connect and value to the audiences are a major component. Another interesting line of thought I came across was that marketing is a sum of creatives,analytics, process and technology. Thought it was an interesting take http://bit.ly/19fAOcJ

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