60% of me is French
60% of your body is made of water that comes mostly from the water that you drink. Make sure you choose the right one.
Of the many brands of bottled water cluttering the market, one has always stood enticingly aloof from the rest. Evian, the royalty of bottled water, has built a powerful brand by bottling, for more than 200 years, the pure waters of the Cachat Source spring near the French towns of Evian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Sought out by celebrities, drunk by fashion models and designers, stocked by any self-respecting five-star hotel, Evian has elevated water into a luxury brand synonymous with glamour, style, perfection as well as good health and sustainable development.
Moving into the 21st century, the company’s branding strategists have grappled with one key challenge: how to develop a real bond between the brand and its cosmopolitan consumers in an effortless and natural way? We sat down with Dirk Holzapfel, Marketing Director of DANONE Premium Beverages, parent company of Evian, to discuss how the challenge is being met.
Pure and Glamorous
Evian’s uniqueness has always been central to the brand. Today, the brand’s exclusiveness rests on two central pillars. The first is its exceptional origin which gives the brand its unique purity and composition. Evian is the premium drinking water brand because it is known to be untouched by man and naturally pure and exceptionally balanced in minerals. “About 60 percent of your body is made up of water, so therefore you are literally what you drink,” Dirk said. Evian’s consumer base has expanded considerably in recent years as a wider range of people from all backgrounds take greater concern about what they renew their bodies with.
The second brand pillar is its iconic status. Evian’s target group is cosmopolitan and shares a global mindset. They are health conscious and willing to pay for quality. “Our targeted consumers are extroverts who move around in social circles, are open minded and ready to experience new things,” Dirk said. “Usually they are the trend setters or innovators. Their world is bigger than the world they live in or the place they are in at that particular point in time.”
The focus by Evian on a consumer’s state of mind, rather than his or her physical attributes, marks a radical departure in how most companies define their target group. Evian does not break its target audience into generation, gender, ethnicity or age. Aspirations and beliefs are the overriding market characteristics. “In identifying our target group we look at the mindset of potential consumers rather than focusing on physical characteristics such as age, gender or ethnicity,” Dirk explains. “In fact, it’s a very small group of people that we target in our communications. The consumption group is a lot larger than this, but these are people that aspire to belong to this group of cosmopolitan people, living a healthy lifestyle.”
A Global Perspective
Because Evian drinkers are global people, the company’s branding strategy operates on a global scale. The company makes strategic use of billboards in the world’s most exciting cities – New York, London, Paris – as well as partnering with high profile glamour events such as the leading international fashion shows. “The people we target are not just looking at what is happening in their own city and country, but also beyond,” Dirk said. “They look at what is happening beyond their ‘walls’ and then import this into their own social surroundings, placing themselves at the top of the aspirational pyramid. They pluck the latest trends from around the world and bring them into their own market.”
Evian is also targeting a number of emerging markets, putting its unique fingerprint on cities such as Moscow, Shanghai and Dubai. “These are the new economies and cultural powerhouses of the world with very internationally oriented people,” Dirk said.
When entering these markets, Evian first seeks to establish strong relationships with the city’s leading hotels and restaurants. As well as making sure its bottles of water are available, the company spends resources on educating staff – particularly those who work in restaurants – about the qualities of Evian. “Being present in all these places generates a global perception of high quality,” Dirk said.
The company then moves to targeted outdoor advertising campaigns. The most iconic spaces of any city are chosen: major landmarks, upmarket shopping districts and other inspirational spaces. “This is targeted, high impact and inspirational advertising that we know will not reach the whole country or even the whole city,” Dirk explains. “It is targeting specifically the people we know come to those places, places where people come to be inspired and to identify the latest trends.”
It’s a less is more branding philosophy. “Slowly, the brand becomes more and more accessible in these markets, but it is always limited to only part of the population, generating a buzz around the brand,” Dirk said. “Trickling down, after a while the local population develops a natural demand for the product.”
Confidence in your Brand
Evian always seeks to be effortless in what it does; the brand is natural and unforced. Rather than sponsor events, Evian forms partnerships with leading shows and personalities.
A key example of this approach is the company’s relationship with French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Evian has long had a strong relationship with fashion (the company is French, after all). In partnering with Lacroix, the company gave the fashion icon complete freedom to design a limited series of handmade haute couture and prêt-à-porter bottles: Evian through the eyes of Christian Lacroix. No directions were given to the designer. No demands regarding specific brand colours or any other brand attribute was asked of Lacroix. It’s a confidence in the brand that few other marketers can share.
It’s also a major reason why Evian speaks so strongly to its clients. “Evian is not trying to ram a commercial message down their throats,” Dirk said. “They are giving them a nice visual creation which has a story behind it, about both the Evian and the Lacroix brands.”
Although Evian has traditionally focused its market activities on one product, the company has still managed to build an envious lifestyle brand. People who drink Evian enjoy – or at the very least desire – a certain lifestyle.
Moving forward, the company plans to continue to leverage these strong branding credentials into other luxury lifestyle areas, health territories and services. The company has already launched a range of Evian Spas and presently manages two Evian hotels: luxury establishments where excellence is maintained. As a brand then, Evian will become more tangible in the lives of the company’s consumers as they explore new lifestyle forums. Whatever the endeavour, you can be sure it will be done with unique style and flair. Evian customers demand nothing less.