How do you make a strong and compelling proposition out of the most common commodity in the world, water? For many people, water is nothing but water. At the best of times, one can use the word, “clean” to prefix it, and that is usually as far as one can go in elevating the value of water.
But if you consider that when the conversation is about health and consumption, water is only worth the name if it is clean. That is the only way it can be safe for the consumer.
Given this scenario, it becomes difficult to create a brand out of this liquid, which scientists say makes up 60 percent of the human body. Before now, the likes of Spring Waters Nigeria Limited, makers of the SWAN table water, Ragolis and Eva, from the stable of Coca-Cola, have all risen to the top of the water food chain, thanks to effective distribution. But besides the ubiquity enhanced by merchandising, creating a definitive proposition has not happened in that sense.
With “clean” not being a compelling proposition for water, players in this category have to search for something a lot stronger to remain not just relevant, but the leaders. The table water market in Nigeria is big. According to www.marketresearch.com, the bottled water market in Nigeria was equal to $1.15 billion or N900 billion (calculated in retail prices) in 2015. This is being forecast to reach $7.52 billion (N4.5 trillion), thus increasing at a CAGR of 16.89% per annum for the period 2020-2025.
The numbers here are numbing and far outstrips the valuation of the beer market, which stood at to $1.99 billion USD of N1.19 trillion (calculated in retail prices) in 2015 and estimated to peak at $6.20 billion (N3.2 trillion), by 2025.
So, when you see the “water makers” in a frenzy for stronger positions in the market, including, as we have seen in the case of Aquafina, you know there is something in the crystal ball that is spurring them to make significant investments in perception building.
Aquafina has been relatively quiet since it was launched in 1994 and has relied chiefly on the strong distribution network of 7Up Bottling Company to claim its stake in the market. Aquafina appears to be ready to claim a good swathe of the trillions envisaged in the market between now and 2025 and recent moves point to an intentional, game-changing strategy towards this pie of cash.
Recently there was a storm in “Tweetdom” when the brand unleashed Nollywood sensation, Kate Henshaw on the social media with a teaser that caught many netizens by surprise. Kate has been single since the Nuttal suffix left her name a few years ago, but this teaser got many thinking she was getting hooked once more.
Kate made her post using an apparently carefully created hashtag, #PadiOfLife, and with everybody’s mind immediately riveting to marriage, the buzz went around Twitter and Instagram like forest fire long before the reveal.
The choice of #PadiOfLife was quite a creative proposition, cleverly weaved into a simple hashtag. In the Nigerian street lingo, Padi evokes the imagery and emotions of true friendship and when one says a person is his or her “Padi of Life ” the message is usually a lifetime friendship, usually marriage. It was no wonder a lot of folks ran ahead of themselves to congratulate Kate on her finding love again.
The secret of successful social media marketing lies not in bombarding the media ecosystem with a deluge of content, but in creating a very simple hashtag that connects to the “streets.” The more relatable it is to everyday life and conversations, the more effective. Padi of Life doesn’t not just fit perfectly into the everyday conversations of the fun-loving typical Nigerian, but also strongly connects and tells the story of what Aquafina wants to be seen to represent – a brand that is useful for people until death.
If the human body consists of 60 percent water and Aquafina says it is the “Padi” of life itself, it presupposes that many people will regard the brand as a critical ingredient to maintaining good and healthy lifestyles.
There is no doubt that a campaign such as Aquafina has embarked upon will yield dividends and will propel it high on the category charts. Owning the expression, Padi Of Life, or at least, sharing it with the Nigerian teeming youths, who use the expression in everyday conversations and banter, will be a sure means of competing fairly in a market largely dominated by brand names, with little or no selling propositions that forms the extra reason to buy.
The average water consumer often goes into shops to ask for “bottle water” and cares very little about the brand. But with such a distinguishing proposition, consumers will have an added reason to ask for Aquafina as a brand. With this will come the recall and actions that will drive store keeping units to stock and prominently display the brand, given that consumers are making specific demands.
With Kate Henshaw and a host of other celebrities behind it, Aquafina has created a space for itself as perhaps the first water brand in Nigeria to hire celebrity ambassadors to drive its marketing. The choice of Kate Henshaw is even more strategic. Since her emergence as a key player in the Nigerian movie industry, Kate has maintained a very healthy lifestyle. Besides acting, many have come to love and respect her for being mostly scandal-free, maintaining a consistent exercise regime that has kept her looking young and healthy.
Her role in the television drama, Do Good, also created an image of a humble, supportive woman who loves cooking, an exercise that is strongly and complementarily associated with water. Kate is a good hire for this role if ever there was one. Also driving the Aquafina brand story for the campaign is Aproko Doctor, who has built a reputation as a water intake crusader on social media. He frequently provides tips on the benefits of good water intake to his followers, making him another perfect match for the Aquafina brand.
Nollywood actors Jemima Osunde, Jide Kene and Munachi Abii, are other notable faces of the Aquafina brand. Osunde, a model and presenter, gained exposure after playing Leila in the television series, Shuga. She also featured in popular movie, Quam’s Money. Professionally known as Swanky JKA, Jide Kene is a model who is best known for his portrayal of Nnamdi Okeke in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free. Munachi Abii who emerged Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 2007 is a rapper, songwriter, television presenter and model.
Prior to this campaign, Aquafina has carved a niche as a leading brand in the table water category. Besides extensive distribution that sees it reach the nooks and crannies of the country, it also prides itself in a filtration process that includes a reverse osmosis process to eliminate dissolved solids and organic compounds in water. It also undergoes carbon filtration, ozonation and ultraviolet light to deliver water that is truly pure. To claim a leading value position, Aquafina also undergoes a purification regime that exceeds requirements set by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as well as other global minimum standards.
Backed by a campaign with such a strong resonance, Aquafina’s talkability will greatly improve and with it, a steady climb in consumers’ scales of preference.
Okuhu, a brand expert and journalist, writes from Lagos