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Is Coke’s smartwater smart enough to impress consumers?

A look at the beverage brand’s latest marketing initiative that claims to have a premium water brand that offers hydration with a clean, crisp taste

Every now and then we keep hearing about smart gadgets being launched — smartphones, smart watches, smart lights, smart fans, smart lock, and what not. Most of the time they succeed in impressing consumers with their unique features. But ever wondered if the water we drink turns smart?

Yes, you heard it right! smartwater, a premium water brand marketed by Coca-Cola, claims to be so.

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According to the beverage brand, smartwater’s unique process of vapour distillation is what makes it smart. The product is inspired by the simple hydrological process that nature uses to make clouds to give us the purest water. It is then re-mineralised with electrolytes, which lend it a clean, crisp taste.

smartwater was introduced in 1996 in the US by Glaceau but was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 2007. The brand is available in several countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and the Middle East. In India, it was launched in 2017. As of now, smartwater is available across all metros and a few major tier-1 cities, including Goa, Pune, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Agra and Lucknow.

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The packaged drinking water (also known as mineral water) category has some strong players such as Bisleri Vedica, Qua, Kinley, Aquafina, etc. So, by introducing smartwater, 'is Coca-Cola trying to create a new sub-category in the segment?', we asked.

Anoop Manohar

“Coca-Cola India has been working towards building an increasingly diverse consumer-centric portfolio of brands attuned to unique consumer preferences. With smartwater, we now have a premium water brand that offers hydration with a clean, crisp taste,” says Anoop Manohar, Director, Emerging Categories, Coca-Cola India.

The brand has recently released two new ad films for its ‘Made Differently’ campaign, featuring brand ambassadors Radhika Apte and Rana Daggubati. Conceptualised and created by Taproot Dentsu, the campaign highlights how smartwater is made differently through the process of vapour distillation and remineralisation with electrolytes. The films have been produced by Aamir Uzefaa of DZU films and directed by Daniel Zenas Upputuru.

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Through this campaign, smartwater is attempting to reiterate the brand ethos and introduce its new theme, ‘Made differently for smart thinkers’. The theme depicts smart thinkers who break through the conventions with simplicity and style, like smartwater. “We are constantly listening to the needs of our consumers and hence we roped in trendsetters (Rana) Dagubatti and (Radhika) Apte. We believe that they will inspire our consumers to make choices that are an expression of their intelligence and imagination,” said Manohar.

But why did Coca-Cola take so long to launch its maiden campaign in India for the product?

“For us, it is very important to understand the consumer behaviour and what they expect from a particular brand. smartwater’s consumers are digital-savvy and we have been talking to them through this medium. We now have a consumer base that understands the brand proposition and resonates with. Hence, this was the ideal time to come up with a campaign,” informs Manohar.

Titus Upputuru

Before the campaign was rolled out, the brand and the creative team invested a lot in understanding the category and consumer insights. “The real challenge was to execute what was on paper because we had to create all of those giant installations and hang them up in the air and have these actors walk around without worrying if anything will drop on their head. The director wanted to create everything in real,” says Titus Upputuru, Creative Head, Taproot Dentsu, Gurgaon.

The brand has been looking at different moments and initiatives where it gets an opportunity to talk to the consumers. The campaign has multiple touch points, including digital campaigns. Furthermore, this year, smartwater continued its association with Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) for the second edition of ‘The Platform’, a programme conceptualised to identify and mentor young and innovative designers willing to push the boundaries of fashion and create a new ‘norm’.

Over to experts

Rajeev Raja

According to Rajeev Raja, Founder & Soundsmith, BrandMusiq, by taking the higher ground, smartwater has certainly changed the game and found a way to differentiate itself in what is essentially a ‘commodity’ category.

Raja says, “It’s a really ‘smart’ campaign. It’s more than a one-off, tactical idea. The brand has found an enduring platform that equates the smartness in the way the product is made to the smartness in its brand ambassadors. People who are known for doing things differently and are admired by the new generation. Now, if only the brand had a Mogo® or musical logo. That would have completed the ‘picture’!”

Sameer Aasht

On other hand, Sameer Aasht, Founder Director, Alma mater Biz Solutions, says the water category consumers have evolved from being indifferent during the late ’90s to highly concerned and involved; willing to pay a premium if convinced of the benefits. The premium water consumers are even more conscious about how and what they consume.

Aasht says, “While the communication surely has clutter-breaking elements with sufficient dramatisation, style, music and entertainment values, the premium audience does expect a brand from the Coca-Cola stable to be a lot more responsible and smart by first decoding product truths, and then narrating, socially conscious, real benefit-led meaningful propositions.”

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