Telling consumers to drink tap water instead of purchasing its own bottled water may seem like a huge commercial risk, but it was one worth taking for Cool Ridge.
With the need to create environmentally sustainable products swiftly becoming a major priority for companies that seek to appeal to the increasingly socially conscious shopper, in 2020 Cool Ridge underwent a major brand repositioning.
Along with an ongoing ad campaign to communicate the brand’s shift in business and attitude, big plans are under way for Cool Ridge hydration stations. In addition, Cool Ridge’s owner Asahi Beverages and its joint venture industry partners will soon open their multimillion-dollar purpose-built recycling facility.
In the first step of its long-term plan, the Australian spring water brand transitioned to 100 per cent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) packaging in February last year, alongside launching the When You Can, When You Can’t ad campaign from its agency TBWAMelbourne.
Head of category at Asahi Lifestyle Beverages, Jarrod Dooley, said the repositioning of the brand was a unique opportunity to develop a brand strategy and purpose that led to sustainable hydration and made “actual” change for good.
“Committing to sustainability has required total business leadership, key customer support, industry change, partnerships, innovation, investment and higher-cost materials,” Mr Dooley said.
“It’s not just about great brand strategy or creativity, we need to deliver change and there is still much to do. It is operationally very challenging and requires extensive collaboration.”
TBWAMelbourne managing director Ricci Meldrum said water was becoming a commoditised category with a lack of differentiation and increasing concerns over plastic.
“We needed to make people care about the bottled water they chose,” Ms Meldrum said.
“Cool Ridge had to continue evolving its brand to be relevant to consumers and protected from price-driven competition, all while leading the category on sustainability.”
The When You Can, When You Can’t ad campaign, under its broader mantra of “Do good, feel good”, saw “When You Can” written under a reusable bottle and “When You Can’t” under the new recyclable Cool Ridge bottle.
“Our message to consumers encouraged them to use their own bottle when they could, but when they couldn’t we told them Cool Ridge would have their back with 100 per cent recycled plastic (rPET) bottles,” Ms Meldrum said.
While the first step of the ad campaign launched initially across print, out of home (OOH) and YouTube, phase two in November last year saw the campaign boosted to include more diverse OOH, such as station dominations and on-the-go spots including petrol stations, as well as social, display and experiential marketing activations.
The latest campaign phase, rolled out in January this year, in which campaign media channels swelled to online video, radio, Spotify and mobile, coincided with a mass giveaway of more than 15,000 reusable keeper bottles.
Ms Meldrum said being the brand that asked consumers to consider other options such as multi-use water bottles helped it lead the category on the sustainability journey by encouraging consumers to change their behaviours.
“In a category like bottled water, we asked ourselves what better way was there to be disruptive than to encourage people not to buy the advertised brand – to ultimately change the way consumers viewed Cool Ridge,” Ms Meldrum said.
Mr Dooley admits it was a commercial risk to ask consumers to drink tap water first before purchasing its product in 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles. However, he said making change for good, backed by strong consumer insights and guidance from TBWAMelbourne, was the right way to go.
Former Deloitte analyst Mr Dooley, who has been at Asahi Beverages for 12 years, said by analysing its feedback loops – which included sustainability audits, consumer testing and groups, customer surveys, employee committees, conferences and social and media listening – the company was doing its best to deliver change each year as it strove to meet and exceed growing consumer expectations.
Results and testing after phase two saw baseline sales growth outperform convenience and category and messaging resonance was up 80 per cent among younger demographics.
After phase three, volume and sales growth were achieved versus budget and compared to 2020, and Cool Ridge also secured further support and re-signing of major water tenders thanks to its aligned commitment to sustainability.
The campaign has led to discussions with Asahi Beverages’ customers on new ways to keep hydrated on the go without them always having to buy a bottle of water. Next year, a trial is set to begin with a major convenience customer group to install Cool Ridge hydration stations. The move will allow consumers to refill with their own bottle or Cool Ridge keeper bottle.
Asahi Beverages, with its joint venture partners Pact Group and Cleanaway, will also soon officially open its $45m PET recycling facility. It will recycle the equivalent of 1 billion PET bottles each year.
Asahi Beverages group chief executive Robert Iervasi said: “Creating a sustainable business is a key priority for Asahi Beverages and we are taking tangible steps to achieve our ambitious sustainability agenda.”