How Sustainable Is Your Brand Story?

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by: Karl Long

In many cases when people buy products they are buying into a story, in many cases a narrative that has been crafted by marketers to tweak your heartstrings in the right places, to push the right buttons. in some cases the brand story is very closely aligned with reality, so there are few incongruence’s, or contradictions of the brand story. Take Patagonia for instance, everything they do in the way they run that company and the people they hire aligns with their brand story, from the frisby world champion that works the front desk, to the wet suits and surf boards they’ll lend to visitors if the “surfs up”.

In other cases the brand story is a wonderful window dressing that hides some ugly truths. Take Fiji water, or should I say Fiji Artisan Water. Their brand story is something like this:

Far from pollution. Far from acid rain. Far from industrial waste.

There’s no question about it: Fiji is far away. But when it comes to drinking water, “remote” happens to be very, very good.

Look at it this way. FIJI Water is drawn from an artesian aquifer, located at the very edge of a primitive rainforest, hundreds of miles away from the nearest continent.

That very distance is part of what makes us so much more pure and so much healthier than other bottled waters.

Now i’m a fan of Fiji water, nothing rational about it, it was always the most expensive, but there was just something about the brand and the packaging that made me think it was a bit better than all the other waters, especially that cheap crap from Maine (I may not have thought that explicitly but why else would I choose Fiji over Poland Spring?).

So what’s the problem? Well I was just reading the Fast Company article about bottled water and I just could not get past some of these facts:

  • The Fiji water bottling plant churns out 1 million+ bottles per day, but Fiji is so remote the bottles are actually manufactured elsewhere and then shipped in, before they are then shipped half way around the world to the US
  • The Fiji bottling plant runs 24 hours a day and because the Fiji electrical grid can’t supply it, so they have 3 big diesel generators to run the plant, all located in one of the worlds last pristine eco systems
  • Half of Fiji’s population doesn’t have clean water to drink
Uncontaminated and uncompromised. Preserved and protected by its source and location, FIJI Water’s aquifer is in a virgin ecosystem at the edge of a primitive rainforest, a continent away from the nearest industrialized civilization.

This is probably the first time i’ve thought about the sustainability of bottled water, but it has had an effect. I certainly won’t be buying Fiji any more, and if I do buy bottled water it will probably be based upon how close it is sourced.

In another related story Chez Panis, a restaurant famous for pioneering the local food movement in an extremely swanky restaurant setting, recently announced it will no longer be serving bottled water due to it’s lack of sustainability. Instead they will be serving filtered tap water, which in the end tastes just as good, and is much better for the environment.

With the bottled water industry hitting 16 billion a year it’s no wonder it’s starting to have an environmental impact, the irony of course the messaging is almost always about the purity of the source.

IMHO i think Fiji could probably use a blog to start talking about these issues, as it is now it is not part of the conversation.

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