How Fiji Water Got 25,000 Consumers to Try Its Product

By Mitra Sorrells September 10, 2012, 3:36 PM EDT

Brand ambassadors rode customized bikes mounted with coolers to carry the water.

Photo: Courtesy of Fiji Water

For Fiji Water, it’s all about the story. The company’s marketing strategy is based on the premise that if consumers understand that the product comes from a remote aquifer in Fiji, creating “untouched water with untouchable taste,” they’ll be more likely to make Fiji their bottled water of choice. In developing the brand’s “Discover Summer” campaign, which ran in three markets from July 14 to September 2, the company focused on creating opportunities to share that story in a personal and memorable way.

“Our intent is not to randomly hand out water, it’s to engage the consumer,” said David Bowman, vice president of marketing for Fiji. “We wanted to reach consumers in an authentic way that wasn’t a generic hydration pitch—‘You’re hot so drink this and feel better’—but really talked about the story.”

To do that, the company worked with A.D.D. Marketing and Advertising to train four teams of two brand ambassadors to interact with consumers in three regions: Southern California (including Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego), Chicago, and the New York/New Jersey area. Riding Fiji Water-branded bicycles, the teams visited popular summer gathering spots such as beaches, farmers’ markets, and shopping districts to talk to consumers about the water’s origins, hand out samples, and offer branded items such as beach towels and sunglasses.

“Context is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects of a successful experiential marketing campaign,” Bowman said. “It has to do with the consumer mind-set: why they are there at that moment in time, in that place, and what positive associations by your brand being there do you hope to borrow. So in that light, we are going to places where people are doing things unique to summer—things they enjoy with friends—that are in the context of a memorable summer experience that Fiji is available to access and insert a trial experience.”

The messaging is such a critical piece of the program that the company used “mystery attendees” (undercover shoppers) to audit the process. At the start of the campaign, Bowman found some of the ambassadors were not always sharing the Fiji story before handing out the water. “We talked to the agency and said let’s make sure there is no misunderstanding: the most important thing we are doing is telling the product story with the sample. So don’t make the consumer ask what makes Fiji the finest water on the planet, make sure that as you are handing them that bottle, you are doing that,” Bowman said. In each of the three markets, organizers scheduled multiple events every week, with each lasting about two hours. The company expected to hand out 25,000 bottles of water.

“If I had done this in a back-the-truck up, drive-by trial-type program, I probably could have distributed 100,000 bottles of water if I wanted to,” Bowman said. “But I don’t want this to be a 1.1-second trial experience. I want it to be a 30-second, 90-second, three-minute trial experience—so the consumer actually remembers something. I believe strongly if you can achieve a high-quality trial experience with the consumer that is memorable, they will internalize the unique selling proposition of Fiji water, and they become the brand ambassadors.”

To spread the “Discover Summer” message beyond these three markets, the company created a contest that awarded a Fiji Water beach towel each day to one person who posted a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #DiscoverSummer. The company promoted the campaign primarily through Facebook. A custom tab linked to a Facebook event for each sampling location, geo-targeted Facebook posts notified local fans about the sampling, and Facebook ads were targeted to fans in relevant locations. The Facebook tab was also shared on the Fiji Water Web site. In just 10 days, the campaign received almost 2 million impressions via social media, including 500 formal Facebook RSVPs to events and 200 Instagram photos tagged with #DiscoverSummer.

“We are hoping to achieve 25,000-plus very high-quality trial experiences,” Bowman said. “How they then decide to engage via social media is important, but we have so much confidence that our product story is different, unique, and desirable, that at the end of the day, that is our true measure of success. Everything else that happens in terms of engagement and social media is an added benefit.”

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