This past Christmas season, mass retailers across the country spent millions promoting low-cost drinking water appliances as timely “giftable” purchases for friends and family. Key marketing ingredients included consumer advertising, low to moderate pricepoints and appealing cosmetics.
Thousands of people found Point-Of-Use (POU) products under their trees on Christmas morning, in colorful cartons labeled Brita, Pollenex, TapWorks, Copco and Regal.
Brita stresses “gift theme” in ads
Brita featured its Standard and Ultra pour-through carafes in a multimillion dollar consumer advertising campaign, running from August through December. Brita TV spots ran on national cable as well as on network affiliate stations in major metropolitan markets including New York, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas. Brita also put forth “gift theme” ads in a number of national consumer magazines, including “gift guide” sections of Time, Life, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, and TV Guide.
According to Brita’s president, Charlie Couric, “One West Coast chain saw Brita sales multiply nine times between the first week of November and the week before Christmas last year.” Filter sales double, sometimes triple during the holiday season, according to Couric.
Pollenex also found the fourth quarter to be the most profitable period for its Bottled Water Maker and PureWater 99 lines, said Marketing VP Ira Pruzan. “The fourth quarter is our heaviest, and we hope retailers recognize that.” Pollenex’s fourth-quarter TV schedule featured a spot in which comedian George Burns touted the health benefits, ease of use and economy of the faucet-mounted Bottled Water Maker.
Regal’s VP Jerry McNab feels that the company’s Purewater countertop unit, which sells between $79 and $89, “is a good gift item because of the pricepoint.”
Omni’s Total Water Filter countertop unit was featured as a promotional pricepoint in JC Penney’s Christmas Catalog, alongside air purification products, under the heading, “Gifts For The Holidays To Help Improve Health and Well-Being.”
Major retailers feature filters for holidays
Other major retailers including ACE Hardware and Atlanta’s Rich’s featured water filters in holiday flyers. ACE offered “special purchase” prices to load up its dealers for the holiday selling season. The chain’s assistant buyer, Judy Petrovic, said, “We see this type of item as having more potential with upscale customers.”
In spite of the heavy print and TV advertising support, some major Brita dealers reported that the company’s “water wall” merchandiser display did more to spur holiday sales than anything else. EcoWater dropped the price on its carafe pour-through unit, that once sold for $40 retail so that retailers could offer it before Christmas at $19.99 to $24.99. Said Sales Marketing VP John Layton, “We think the category is sensitive to pricepoint… especially during the heaviest buying season.”
How to turn POU gift-receivers into tomorrow’s customers
Are you losing sales of serious POU systems to low-cost “giftables” purchased at retail? Perhaps immediately, but not in the long run if you stake out a strong strategic position and stick with it.
Instead of fearing mass merchant competitors backed by high-powered advertising budgets — you just might wind up thanking them for preselling your future customers on the benefits of quality drinking water!
Current consumer buying habits suggest that value is a more important consideration than pricepoint. When customers bought during the hard times of the 1970’s, they traded down. Thanks to the still-recent prosperity of the 1980’s, they reversed course and started trading up. Now, as the 1990’s start out looking very much like the `70’s — will customers again begin trading down? Not likely, at least not as far down as they did 20 years ago. Armed with their new buying strategies, today’s “smarter, tougher” customers are more than a match for the U.S. economy of the 1990’s, says Joseph Smith, chairman of Oxtoby-Smith, Inc., a research/consulting firm. They are “more reflective, deliberate, skeptical and careful — and less impulsive.”
Sell-Up Customers waiting to be sold serious POU equipment
In other words, what we have is the profile of a sell-up customer, waiting to be sold a serious POU system by a professional water treatment dealer. Why should a person who recently received a gift POU system be interested in purchasing a better system? His limited POU drinking water experience has qualified him for something better.
• Have now experienced better-tasting drinking water
• Have discovered a more convenient alternative to bottled water
• Have recently shared their newly acquired appreciation of quality water with friends
• Have nothing invested to keep them from shopping for something better
How can you target these pre-qualified owners of “starter” systems — and successfully sell them up?
Advertise to them with targeted appeals which directly address their situation:
“Trade in your small water filter for a serious drinking water system…$50 TRADE-IN ALLOWANCE ON ANY FILTER!”
Hoover vacuum dealers have successfully mined the “trade-in offer” for years, to sell-up present owners of competitive appliances — and get past customers back in the market for “something better.”
Or, because present POU users are always curious about the performance level of the system they already own, try promoting to their sense of curiosity:
“No low-cost water filter performs at the level that (BRAND NAME) will…CALL NOW FOR FREE IN-HOME WATER QUALITY COMPARISON!”
Back up this offer with an in-home TDS comparison of product water from their system and yours to justify the higher price of your RO or distillation system. Use an RO meter to conduct your comparison. When they see the difference in TDS, they will see why it may pay to invest in a serious system.
“When you want to get serious about quality water, call us… A SERIOUS DRINKING WATER system like THE (BRAND NAME) CAN’T BE BOUGHT AT THE CORNER DRUGSTORE.”
Any approach that sells-up will also appeal to those who delight in getting “one-up” on their friends who already own “starter” filters and systems. (I may not be the first in our circle to own a water filter — but I’m the first to own a really good one!”) And, remember, people “in the know” don’t want to buy serious equipment from a drugstore or discount store. They will want to buy from a water treatment professional who takes water quality as seriously as they do.
Don’t sell pricepoints. Sell value.
Value is the basis on which all customers ultimately make their purchase decision. The level of value is defined through a comparison of the benefits customers receive when compared to the price they are required to pay.
Leave the “pricepoints” to the merchants. Sell value instead. Show legitimate removal data on the system you sell, published data provided by recognized third-party testing organizations.