Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leaping Into the Void

Over at MarketingProfs Ted Mininni has a piece on Filling the Soda Void. It's a good summary of efforts to convince kids that milk and water are as much fun to drink as soda.

The tactics being used are all sound, it'll probably be successful, and that is of course a good thing. Except... why do marketers need to come to the rescue and get kids to want healthier drinks?

When it comes to kids, there’s a golden opportunity in the marketplace right now. No doubt about it. Several factors have recently converged to create a “perfect storm,” and that always opens the door to new, unprecedented opportunities.

The perfect storm: Childhood obesity has been steeply rising. Obesity rates have more than tripled in kids aged 6-11 over the past 30 years. Carbonated soda and sugary drink machines are being expelled from schools due to public outcry. Parents are pushing for better options to meet their growing children’s nutritional needs.

It's a funny metaphor, because storms are things that happen to us because of nature, outside of our control, and we have to deal with them. This "storm" is, of course, entirely of human origin: kids want to drink soda because we taught them to. Through marketing.

And what about H20? By brand packaging water in unique, rocket ship shaped 11 ounce bottles, and naming it “Aquapod,” Nestle may have hit on something big.

Nestle is clearly committed to this concept, it has allocated serious resources to the launch of Aquapod. Aquapod’s tag line: “A blast of fun” is being utilized in highly animated advertising and deluging Nickelodeon and other popular kids’ channels with spots.

On the company’s own web site, kids are invited to “Pull here for a blast of fun,” enabling them to see an animated storyline and participate in games.

Aquapod ads are full of fun and action, decrying any idea that drinking water is... well, dull. Aquapod’s packaging has been specifically designed to make drinking water cool, enjoyable and fun. This is clearly a take-it-anywhere package, from the ball park to the beach, school lunches and every other venue where kids used to bring soft drinks. Suddenly, it’s cool to be drinking water!

Great. Now, instead of drinking water from the tap like kids used to, the water can be put in expensive, environmentally questionable packaging and then shipped around (using up fuel) so that it's cool enough to drink. Are you feeling proud of your profession right now?

Now, it's still better that kids drink fun bottled water than fun bottled soda. But let's face it - trying to put the slightest "marketers help kids get healthier" spin on this is just an appalling thing. Perhaps "marketers help undo their damage" would be more apt. And too much excitement about "golden opportunities" makes marketers sound like trial lawyers circling the site of a car crash.

If this were a public service, phase two would be "Take your cool AquaPod bottle and refill it at the kitchen sink!" Somehow I'm not expecting that.

Everyone's professional lives are full of ethical gray areas. When your profession is involved in manufacturing demand - especially among children - it's really worth stopping to think about those gray areas. I realize that others might come to different than conclusions than I have. I just wish I had more sense than they'd actually given it much thought in the first place.

1 comment:

Minter said...

We give water and a very diluted tea (warmth is the key ingredient) to the kids. No soda. And strictly against fast food too.

I applaud the 'green' efforts in California and New York to encourage the service of tap water at restaurants. Not great for the bottled water business, but a good message--especially since the tap water is perfectly drinkable. Bloomberg spent $700K of NYC's money this summer encouraging tap water using the obesity argument too.