Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Minorities Reach for Bottled Water Over Tap & How Marketers Persuade Them

August 11, 2011 | by Nadia Arumugam,

Research has shown that minorities consume bottled water more often than white Americans, and spend a greater proportion of their income (about 1%, compared to the 0.4% white Americans dole out) on this superfluous commodity every year. 

A recent study in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine confirmed this trend – finding that Latino and black parents were three times more likely to sate their children’s thirst with bottled water, compared with white parents. What sets this study apart from previous ones, is that it pinpoints the reasons why minority parents perceive bottled water to be superior, and thus a necessary expense. 

They genuinely believe it to be cleaner, safer, healthier, and more convenient than the stuff that pours out of the spigot (virtually) gratis. Health experts and tap water advocates heartily disagree and will produce reams of data revealing tap water to be pure, healthful, and entirely sanitary. In fact, authors of the recent study note that the reliance on bottled water may contribute to dental issues in minority children who don’t benefit from the fluoride purposefully added to tap water to maintain the nation’s oral health. What’s more, a National Resources Defense Council investigation discovered the 17% of bottled waters contained unsafe levels of bacterial loads, and 22% were contaminated with chemicals, including arsenic.

Still, with 10 billion gallons of bottled water imbibed annually in the US, bottled water brands have been actively courting the minority market.

Here are four strategies they’ve used to convince black and Latino consumers to swig from their bottles.

Latino-specific Bottled Water Brands 
What better way to attract the attention of a minority group than by putting out a product that is aimed directly, if not almost exclusively, at them. Paul Kurkulis founder and president of Las Oleadas, an Aspen-based company, has been hawking a brand of mineral -enhanced bottled water called Oleada in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California, with his focus being the Hispanic market. Loosely translated Las Oleadas means “the momentum that drives a wave.” The text on the labels were originally only in Spanish, but they now also feature English, since Kurkulis found he had inadvertently garnered some non-Spanish speaking customers. In 2006, Ravinia Partners, launched AguaBlue. After years of research, they put out the bottled water that sought to pull at the emotional heartstrings of the Latino consumer. The striking, full color label features the flags of Latin American countries, and bilingual production information. Perusing the water aisle, the Guatamalan, Columbian or Puerto Rican shopper spots his or her flag, and swells with pride and warm feelings. Naturally, this makes him or him opt for a bottle of AguaBlue over another generic brand.

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