006 - The Greatest Marketing Trick of the Twentieth Century

If you can help it, work on products that make the world a better place, not a worse place.

More than 2 in 3 U.S. adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity in 2014. As we became more concerned about obesity, consumers shied away from sugary soft drinks. Major beverage businesses were able to play on the habit of buying a beverage by bottling a nearly free commodity in plastic and printing a compelling label on it.

Popularity of bottled water:

The trick - bottled water is no healthier:

Marketing bottled water relies on convincing consumers that bottled water is a healthier alternative to soda, when in reality it is an alternative to tap water, and often times is actually worse for you. 

Bottled water suppliers are not held to the same standards and reporting requirements as tap water suppliers. (Which in the U.S. are not high in the first place.) A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group in 2008 identified 38 pollutants in 10 brands of bottled water, while 20% of the brands were indistinguishable from tap water.

Ironically, bottled water works against the goals of health and environmentally conscious consumers. Plastic from bottled water contributes to environmental degradation and Trash Islands (plural, as there are 5 oceanic floating trash heaps, some the size of Texas).

  • Buying a litre of bottled water costs between 250 and 10,000 times more than a litre of tap water

  • The average person produces half a pound of plastic waste every day. No wonder the oceans are filling up with waste!


But it’s not just marketed as having “no calories or artificial ingredients” - it’s marketed as healthier and safer than tap water. That's BS.

Racist advertising and targeting:

In 2014, Nestlé spent over $5 million advertising Pure Life — the most advertised U.S. bottled water brand — and three quarters ($3.8 million) went to Spanish-language TV advertising. The target audience was Latin-American immigrants, particularly mothers.

The angle: despite admitting that tap water is much cheaper and usually safer, corporations like Nestlé market bottled water as part of the immigrant “heritage” of coming from places with less access to clean drinking water. 

This whole thing is problematic. It is bad for the planet. It’s a waste of money from consumers who are being manipulated.

I try to work on products I feel good about. Look at some of the brands I've worked with. Imagine if all marketers did so.


Subscribe to the Beetle Moment Marketing Podcast on Stitcher

On your Amazon Echo device (or in the Amazon shopping app), add the Beetle Moment Podcast Skill then say: