Purifying Bottled Water Marketing

PepsiCo has said it is changing labeling on its Aquafina bottled water brand to include information that the source of the product is tap water. The label refers to the water source as “P.W.S.” (Public Water Source). The move comes in response to pressure from advocacy groups for bottled water marketers to refrain from misleading marketing practices. In the case of Aquafina, package graphics depicting a mountain scene creates an image that the product must come from a mountain spring. While PepsiCo has shown no signs of attempting to manipulate this brand association, it is a pre-emptive strike by consumer advocates to prevent such a tactic from being used.

PepsiCo should be commended for taking this action. It is not a grand act of social responsibility by any means, but acknowledging the source of the water removes any uncertainty in consumers’ minds and removes the possibility of being accused of misleading marketing practices. The market for bottled water is strong enough that PepsiCo or any other company does not have to walk a line between ethical and deceptive marketing practices in order to make the product more appealing to consumers. Link

Nike Benches Michael Vick

Nike has temporarily suspended Michael Vick from its roster of product endorsers in light of his indictment stemming from dog-fighting activity on a property he owns. Vick’s indictment was a case of very bad timing for Nike as it was about to launch a shoe endorsed by the Atlanta Falcons star QB. Perhaps the timing could have been worse if the indictment came down just after the shoe had been released.

The sticky situation in which Nike finds itself is a reminder of the perils of associating a brand with a person or entity outside the walls of your organization. The rationale for hiring an endorser is to take advantage of the endorser’s brand associations with the expectation that his or her associations transfer to the brand. Unfortunately for Nike, the associations transferred can be positive or negative. A “morals clause” can be written into endorsers’ contracts to shield companies from situations like the one that Vick’s indictment presents for Nike, but there is still a risk that a brand can be damaged or at least embarassed by an endorser’s actions.

The exposure and popularity benefits a celebrity endorser can bring to a brand must be weighed against the loss of control the marketer relinquishes by associating with someone beyond its direct control. The consequences are even greater when the relationship between the marketer and endorser go beyond name or likeness association and products or entire product lines are developed around the endorser. Link

Humor and Aging

A study by Washington University researchers published recently in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on the relationship between age and humor has implications for creative design of advertising messages. Researchers found that adults over age 65 have more difficulty getting the punch lines of jokes than young adults because of age-related changes in processing abilities. Link The researchers point out that their findings do not mean that older adults do not respond to humor, but rather that the reasoning and cognitive skills used to process humorous messages change with age. These findings are similar to those of a Canadian study published in 2003 that found humor comprehension among older adults is less compared with young adults. These researchers also point out that their findings do not suggest older adults aren’t funny or don’t appreciate humor. Link

So, what does these findings mean for marketers? Ad agencies involved in the creation of brand messages must take into account this phenomenon when developing messages aimed at senior consumers. Obviously, any copywriter or creative person would take into account characteristics of the demographic being targeted. But, these results suggest that it’s more than just recognition of age differences in the processing of humorous messages. When marketing to seniors, encoding humor into messages is still a viable option, but the approach taken to developing a humorous message must be different than that used to create humor for younger audiences.