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The Ad Campaign that Convinced Americans to Pay for Water

Why do people spend so much money for bottled water when they can get it out of a tap for almost nothing? In 2016, it’s an in grained habit. It’s often the only way to get water away from home, with fewer public fountains available. And insofar that it’s replaced sugary drinks, that’s a good thing. But how did our bottled water habit get started? Blame Perrier. The French company was languishing in a niche market for most of the 20th century, then beginning in 1977, an American ad campaign declared that Perrier was special, for special people.

Perrier’s advertising was selling a specific message, and it targeted a specific population: well-to-do baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, as they entered adulthood. It sought to assure them that those who partook of Perrier’s sparkling waters were sophisticated, classy, and conscientious. It conferred, in a word, status.

“It was a sophisticated way to go to a cocktail party and not drink alcohol,” says Gary Hemphill, the director of research at the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Unlike soda, Perrier wasn’t sweetened. It was the non-alcoholic, fizzy drink for adults.

The price of the water reflected that clout. Nevins lowered the price of a 23-ounce bottle from $1.09 ($4.30 today) to 69 cents ($2.72 in 2016 dollars) — within the reach of a certain strata of society, but significant enough that buying it still constituted a statement. It rested in that sweet spot of being simultaneously aspirational and accessible.

“It fairly sparkles with snobby cachet,” People magazine declared of Perrier in 1978.

As expensive as Perrier was, it was cheaper than cocaine for the jet-set wannabes of the era. And when fitness became cool, the bottled water industry was ready to cater to that, too. Read about the rise of bottled water at Pricenomics. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce)

I could strangle the perpetrators of the plastic water bottles. The bottles are a huge waste of materials, the contents a totally unnecessary use of a valuable resource, and the empty bottles cause all kinds of environmental problems.
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