Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Doug Kolozsy
English 101
Essay 2
August 2003

Look What They Did With Water

What do we think of when we picture water? Probably not a whole lot. Pure water is colorless, orderless, and tasteless. My first image of water on the go would be the combat soldier with his aluminum canteen filled with some swamp water and a few iodine tablets. Hardly sounds thirst quenching. Another image would be at a sporting event, where sweaty athletes squirted themselves with long nozzle squeeze bottles of water or Gatorade. How about people in the midst of a natural disaster being airlifted supplies for basic survival, including water in jugs and bottles.

To most of us water seems very basic and necessary. These examples mentioned portray water as an element of survival, but more than likely you may picture water within its most recent vehicle- a plastic bottle. While the function of water to sustain life has not changed, water’s image has evolved into something much more. Water has become a statement. Something which was once considered free and available in unlimited quantities is now peddled in our supermarkets in more than 900 brands (Mayell and Murphy 1). Among those hordes of brands you may even see one designed specifically for your favorite canine. Its is called Pawier, a play on the first imported bottled water, Perrier (Mayell and Murphy 1).

So why the bottled water craze? Are we drinking out of those plastic and colored glass bottles out of necessity, or have we been programmed to think its necessary? I believe we have been seduced by the bottling companies and their marketing agents to drink bottled water because they want us to believe that it’s the best choice for us.

For us to examine how this trend came about, we need to look at possible catalysts that may have triggered greater demand. One case involved a study done in the seventies by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study identified a number of chemicals and minerals in our municipal water supplies which are unhealthy. The study was set up to define guidelines for the Safe Drinking Water Act, which had recently been created. Instead, the results from the study caused fear and near panic in some areas of the country. This in turn increased demand for bottled water (Ruesink 1).

An often-repeated recommendation coming from the health field is that we should be drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Thinking that this sounds like a good idea, most people are drinking more water for better health and looking to bottled water as the source. However, experts are beginning to question the eight-glass-a-day rule. Susan Barr, a University of British Columbia nutrition professor, says, "Nobody really knows where it came from…. [It can’t] be traced back to a legitimate scientific source" (Bryan 33). So who started this recommendation? Could the bottlers have anything to do with it? Vals Water, a French brand, states that its water is "known to generations for its purity and agreeable contribution to health… reputed to restore energy, vitality and combat fatigue" (Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype 2).

Bottlers have jumped on the fear bandwagon by advertising slogans such as "all natural," or "bacteria free" and "no artificial ingredients." Pictures on water bottles such as glaciers and snow-capped mountains evoke a clean, pure, chemical-free environment from which presumably the water was obtained. They use this stimulating imagery to create the impression of refreshment, purity and satisfaction. As Thomas Hine states in "What’s In a Package," "Sophisticated packaging is one of the chief ways people find the confidence to buy. It can also give a powerful image of products and commodities that are in themselves characterless" (Hine 71). As in the case of selling something as nondescript as water, using the correct package is very important.

Along with captivating scenery displayed on water bottles, there are also descriptive words. The words are designed to grab our attention away from other brands while convincing us their product is better. One such example is the brand "Alasika". The caption on the bottle reads—"Alaska Premium Glacier Drinking Water: Pure Glacier Water from the Last Unpolluted Frontier, Bacteria Free." This water was discovered to have come from a public water supply ("Bottled Water" 2).

Bottlers and their advertisers have gone beyond emphasizing water’s health benefits to the next level: water as a fashion statement. It is becoming increasingly important to be seen with the correct brand and their signature bottle. Ty Nant is bottled water from a Welsh spring in the Cambrian Mountains. Its trademark is a classic blue bottle, which has been seen in several movies. It appeared in the latest James Bond – "Die Another Day," where James trades in his trademark martini for a Ty Nant (Williams 1). It is no mistake that marketers are connecting their products with famous people -- it sells more product.

Paris now has water bars where you can select from more than 70 varieties of water from all over the planet (Water – "Worth Bottling?" 2). The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York has a water sommelier who can recommend the correct water to go with your meal (Water –"Worth Bottling?" 3). These establishments provide free advertising for bottlers simply by sending the message that water is as significant as wine.

Bottlers have found it important to get their fashionable image well know over the Internet. One such bottler that is transforming its image in an effort to be more hip is Perrier. In an attempt at reaching the 20- to 30-crowd who use the Internet regularly, Perrier is opening a new web site. The developers of the site say it will provide the "trend-conscious" viewer the best information on where to be seen, the correct clothes to wear, what the celebrities are up to, and how to host a great party (Bubbling Over with Interactive Effervescence 1). More and more sites are going online in an attempt at connecting their product with the largest target audience, the 20- to 30-year-olds. By transforming its image, Perrier has put a fresh new face on what was one of the first bottled waters to be marketed.

The water craze will continue to evolve and expand, because humans will find new ways to sell water. Growth is dependent upon a consumer’s willingness to fork over their money for a commodity that is still available for free at public drinking fountains. Bottlers and their marketers have invented an enigma designed to attract the masses. Water’s image has become sophisticated, fashionable and downright hip. If marketers can do all this with plain water, I wonder what’s coming next?

Works Cited

"Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?" 29 Apr. 1999. Clean Water & Oceans: Drinking Water: In Brief: News. Natural Resources Defense Council. 28 Jul. 2003

Bryan, Helena. "Eight-Glasses-a-Day Rule Might Not Hold Water." The Georgia Straight 24 Jul. 2003: 33.

"Bubbling Over with Interactive Effervescence." 19 Nov. 2001. The Bottled Water Web. 28 Jul. 2003

Hine, Thomas. "What’s in a Package." Signs of Life in the SUA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. Eds. Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 69-79.

Mayell, Hillary, and Pat Murphy. "The Bottled Water Craze." 13 Nov. 1999. Environmental News Network. 28 Jul. 2003

Ruesink, Lou Ellen. Oct. 1980. "Business is Booming." Texas Water Resources Vol 6. No. 8. 28 Jul. 2003

"Water – Worth Bottling?" 8 Oct. 2002. The Age Company Ltd. 28 Jul. 2003

Williams, Eifion. "James Bond Film Boosts Welsh Water." Jan. 2003. The Celtic Connection. 28 Jul. 2003

Copyright 2003

Doug Koloszy


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA