Lessons From the Growth of Bottled Water
I’ll admit it I am fascinated by water.
Not just any water…A very special water – the kind you find in a bottle. In fact, I think many great business lessons can be found in the world of bottled water.
My water fascination dates back to at least 2011 when I wrote the following…
“…bottled water is truly a phenomenon of our time. When I was a kid, water didn’t come in bottles, occasionally I was even reduced to drinking it straight from a garden hose. In fact, 30 years ago there was hardly a bottled water industry. But bottled water caught on quickly…To put < sales> in perspective, more money is spent on bottled water than on movie tickets or iPods. Think about it, bottlers and distributors have elevated water to a place where it sells for 4 times the price of a gallon of gasoline, even though we get it free from our home taps. But I hear a few of you saying, that there is a qualitative difference between bottled water and tap water. In truth, approximately ¼ of all bottled water is tap water repackaged by either Pepsi or Coke. Of course, there are those sophisticated brands like Fiji or Pellegrino. Fiji produces a billion bottles of water a day in a country where more than half of the locals don’t have safe drinking water and while the town of San Pellegrino is known for water from volcanic mineral springs, Pellegrino’s bottled water requires the injection of bubbles at the companies bottling plant.
So maybe it’s not the quality that drives sales but rather it’s the convenience. A convenience that results in 38 billion water bottles being sent to landfills annually and over a billion dollars’ worth of plastic being pushed underground each year. Now lest you fear that I am trying to guilt you out of drinking bottled water, I tout no such social agenda. I drink my share of bottled water. My favorite is Ethos water, a Starbucks brand that offers a portion of the proceeds from each bottle I purchase to help secure safe drinking water in a world where 1 in 6 people don’t have a reliable, healthy source.”
So, that was what I wrote in 2011 and we all know iPods gave way to streaming audio and smartphones, but how has bottled water done?
Just recently Ad Age ran an article with the headline There’s a Clear Winner in Beverages: Bottled Water Tops Soda. The article went on to note:
“Industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. today announced that bottled water surpassed carbonated soft-drinks in 2016 to become the largest beverage category by volume, capping what it described as a “remarkable, decades-long streak of vigorous growth.”…Total bottled water volume grew from 11.8 billion gallons in 2015 to 12.8 billion gallons last year…On a per capita basis, bottled water consumption exceeded 39 gallons compared with 38.5 gallons for soda. Carbonated soft-drink per-capita consumption exceeded 50 gallons as recently as 2006. Beverage Marketing Corp. projected that bottled water would hit the 50-gallon mark by the middle of next decade.”
Back to the business and customer experience lessons of bottled water…There are few products more ordinary or readily available in countries like the United States than water. Generations ago, no one would have envisioned people paying for and walking around with bottles of water; however, lifestyle trends created an opportunity for companies to package and deliver a readily available product in a new way. In the 1970s Perrier was the first to bring bottled water (albeit an effervescent version) to America. Subsequently, two trends paved the way for the explosion in the bottled water market that we are experiencing today:
- Consumer trends toward healthier choices in hydration.
- A desire for “grab and go” lifestyle products.
H.L. Menken once wrote, “No one in this world…has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” While I don’t think paying $60,000 for a 750 ml bottle of Acqua di Cristallo water necessarily reflects a problem of intelligence on the part of a purchaser (the bottle is made of solid gold and the water is dusted with gold flakes), I do think a considerable amount of money can be made from:
- Tailoring products to fit with hectic lifestyles of customers.
- Thinking about how you can make doing business with your company easier.
- Removing pain from the life of your customer.
- Helping your customer achieve health or pleasure.
So, what lessons can you take from the growth of “bottled water?” More importantly, how can you take the ordinary in your products and deliver those products in ways that offer extraordinary value to your customers?
I’ll sip my $2.25 bottle of Ethos Water knowing that between 5 and 10 cents of that purchase goes to a positive social cause. In fact, Ethos was the first company I’m aware of that linked a cause to consumption, a trend later followed by brands like Warby Parker and TOMS shoes. Maybe that’s one last lesson we can learn from at least one bottled water brand…you can “do well and do good” at the same time!
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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