January 15, 2015

Bottled Water and Brand Identity

Bottled Water and Brand Identity

Water bottles are here to stay, and so is bottle design. What are some considerations when coming up with a design consumers will appreciate?

The human need for water is as old as time, and fortunately, access to clean drinking water has been readily available for at least the last century. The U.S. began disinfecting its tap water in the early 1900s, and for a while, people were content with drinking out of the tap. But as health concerns grew more prevalent right alongside doubt in the alleged safety of municipal water supplies, bottled water brands emerged as a safe, but pricy, alternative to tap water.

Thus, over the course of the 20th century and beyond, the bottled water market sprung from a measly couple of brands to a thriving hydra where two new competing brands emerge for each one that goes under. Who knew simple drinking water would become so complicated? After all, while different brands of drinking water may come from various natural spring sources or infused with certain vitamins or flavors, let’s face it: water is water.

Regardless, it appears as though the bottled water trend isn’t going to vanish anytime soon. But if you’re in the market, you’d better be prepared to deliver a unique and engaging bottled water brand that doesn’t shy away from the competition. Here are a few pointers to consider:

Singularity of Source

One of the biggest trademarks of major bottled water brands is their source. Evian comes from the Alps, appealing to cultured consumers who want a taste of Europe at their lips. Arrowhead comes from the mountains of California, offering a “local” alternative to Evian, equally fresh but easier on the wallet. Most bottled water brands boast of a pure source that evokes images of an exotic location. Therefore, emerging brands should choose their source wisely, and, if possible, select a unique one.

Added Benefits

On the other hand, plain old drinking water, despite being mankind’s loyal friend for the entire existence of our species, has become, frankly, quite boring. Today, many consumers are leaving plain water at the wayside in exchange for exciting new types of water that include a little something extra. This can be in the form of flavors, vitamins, carbonation or even colors. In addition, don’t underestimate the power of today’s health-conscious back-to-the-roots organic trend. Coconut water, watermelon water, maple water and artichoke water are only a couple examples of bottled water that speaks to this very powerful target market. Water that offers unique health benefits has a special place in the hearts of consumers focused on healthy living; just make sure that your brand can back up its claims with cold, hard scientific facts.

Environmental Friendliness

In recent years, boxed water has hit the markets as a new trend in bottled water branding, appealing to environmentally-conscious consumers with its recyclable brown carton. The water itself may be nothing special, but the packaging sets it apart from the rest and creates a unique brand identity. Of course, by taking such a packaging risk, you chance alienating your consumers by not immediately conveying your product. There is also the risk that bottled water consumers are so attached to their bottles that a carton simply won’t cut it.

Tips to Take Home

What the bottled water market can teach us at the end of the day is the importance of branding. When marketing products that are essentially identical in all ways except their branding, how do consumers decide which brands take the cake? In addition to considering a unique source, added infusions and environmental concern, emerging bottled water companies should consider how consumers will ultimately relate to their product. Is their product suitable for fine dining? What about athletics? On-the-go parents or busy executives? When it comes to the next big bottled water brand, the possibilities are nearly endless, but undoubtedly, successful bottled water brands speak to their target consumer in unprecedented and exciting ways.


by Kevin Smith
Managing partner at SmashBrand. We're a group of experienced brand owners, thinkers and world-class designers united by an obsession for creating category disrupting brand experiences.

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