Fiji Water, a branding success story

Written By : MARTIN ROLL. Fiji Water is one of the newer examples that testify to the fact that competent branding can elevate even the simplest commodity to celebrity status.
07 Apr 2009 12:00

image Written By : MARTIN ROLL. Fiji Water is one of the newer examples that testify to the fact that competent branding can elevate even the simplest commodity to celebrity status. In a category dominated by France’s Evian, Coca-Cola’s Dasani and Pepsi Co.’s Aquafina, Fiji Water has come to occupy fourth place within the short span of 10 years.
By following nontraditional methods of marketing, a very distinct positioning and a high-end pricing level against competitors, Fiji Water has been able to establish strong brand equity among the top tier market segment.
The Fiji Water brand came into life in the early 1990s when David Gilmour, a businessman with interests in hotels, real estate and gold mining, secured a 99-year deal with the Fijian government to tap an aquifer discovered by government-contracted geologists.
One may say all water tastes the same, thus branding in this category is not product focused but story focused. This means that the company that tells the best story and backs it up with credible facts wins the day.
Fiji Water seems to have understood this underlying truth extremely well. The Fiji Water brand is built on three pillars: creating an exciting story, precision marketing (including personal relationships and product placements) and a controlled distribution strategy.
As the physical attributes of the product do not allow it to differentiate itself from competitors, Fiji Water has resorted to creating a very powerful story behind the product.
Originating from a 332-island nation in the South Pacific, this physical inaccessibility has allowed Fiji Water to speak of water extracted from a virgin ecosystem far from acid rain, herbicides, pesticides and other pollutants, which is filtered naturally for years through layers of silica, basalt and sandstone.
This is backed by precision brand marketing. Fiji Water did not resort to the usual mass media advertising for its product launch, instead it formulated a two-pronged strategy:
1. Building personal relationships with the chefs of leading restaurants, resorts and spas to promote the buy-in of the brand
2. Placing the product in leading Hollywood movies and other high-profile events to attract attention and to create buzz.
Gilmour used his contacts in the hotel industry to pitch his product to top-end hotels, resorts and restaurants. By coming out with an award-winning slippery silver bottle design, Fiji water has been able to replace Evian in many of the top-end restaurants.
Fiji Water has resorted to product placement as a major channel of promotion and brand building. By hiring Creative Entertainment Services, a Hollywood marketing consulting firm, Fiji Water has been able to place its bottles in scenes of many major Hollywood movies.
Fiji Water has also sponsored many elite events such as golf tournaments, sailing regattas and musical concerts.
Another important aspect of Fiji Water’s branding philosophy has been its controlled distribution strategy. In line with its positioning as a high-end product, Fiji Water has ensured that it is available at hotels, resorts and spas frequented by leading stars. It has also managed to get chef’s recommendations.
Future Challenges- The problem of basing the brand heavily on a story is that it does not create any barriers for any new entrants to come up with some other equally exciting story. Fiji Water should focus on building customer loyalty in the light of impending competition.

q Martin Roll is a Singapore-based business & brand strategist and author of
“Asian Brand Strategy.” He has a Web site at www.martinroll.com, and you can
e-mail him at roll@venturerepublic.com.

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