When ‘Padi’ is dissolved into a Bottled Life Liquid, by Ikem Okuhu –

How do you turn the world’s most common commodity, water, into a strong and compelling proposition? For many people, water is nothing more than water.

At best, one can prepend the word “clean,” usually as far as one can go to enhance the value of water.

But if you consider that when it comes to health and consumption, water only deserves its name if it is clean. This is the only way it can be safe for the consumer.

Given this scenario, it becomes difficult to brand this liquid, which scientists say makes up 60 percent of the human body. So far, companies like Spring Waters Nigeria Limited, maker of SWAN bottled water, Ragolis and Eva from the Coca-Cola stable have risen to the top of the water-food chain thanks to effective distribution. But apart from the ubiquity reinforced by the merchandising, the creation of a definitive offer in this sense has not happened.

Since “clean” isn’t a compelling argument for water, players in this category will need to look for something much stronger to remain not only relevant but also a leader. The bottled water market in Nigeria is large. According to www.marketresearch.com, the bottled water market in Nigeria was worth US$1.15 billion or N900 billion in 2015 (calculated in retail prices). This is projected to reach US$7.52 billion (N4.5 trillion), growing at a CAGR of 16.89% per year for the period 2020-2025.

The numbers here are staggering, far exceeding the valuation of the beer market, which stood at $1.99 billion from N1.19 trillion (calculated at retail prices) in 2015 and grew to $6.20 billion (3, 2 trillion N) is estimated by 2025.

So when you see the “watermakers” in a frenzy for stronger positions in the market, including, as we’ve seen in the case of Aquafina, you know there’s something in the crystal ball that’s spurring them to make significant investments in perception building .

Aquafina has been relatively quiet since its inception in 1994, relying primarily on 7Up Bottling Company’s strong distribution network to maintain its share of the market. Aquafina appears poised to claim a good chunk of the trillions slated to hit the market by 2025, and recent moves suggest a deliberate, game-changing strategy for that money pie.

There was a storm in Tweetdom recently when the brand unleashed Nollywood sensation Kate Henshaw on social media with a teaser that caught many netizens by surprise. Kate has been single since the Nuttal suffix left her name a few years ago, but this teaser led many to believe she was about to get hooked again.

Kate created her post with what appeared to be a carefully crafted hashtag, #PadiOfLife, and with everyone immediately hooked on the marriage, the buzz was spreading like wildfire across Twitter and Instagram long before the reveal.

Choosing #PadiOfLife was quite a creative suggestion, cleverly woven into a simple hashtag. In Nigerian street slang, padi conjures up the images and emotions of true friendship, and when a person is said to be their ‘padi of life’ the message is usually a lifelong friendship, usually marriage. It’s no wonder many people rushed ahead to congratulate Kate on finding love again.

The secret to successful social media marketing isn’t bombarding the media ecosystem with a barrage of content, it’s creating a very simple hashtag that connects to the “streets.” The more everyday and conversation-related it is, the more effective. Not only does Padi of Life fit perfectly into the everyday conversations of the fun-loving typical Nigerian, but it also creates a strong connection and tells the story of what Aquafina wants to be seen for – a brand that serves people unto death.

When the human body is 60 percent water, and Aquafina says it’s the “padi” of life itself, that assumes many people see the brand as a crucial ingredient in maintaining a good, healthy lifestyle.

There’s no doubt that a campaign like Aquafina’s launched will pay dividends and propel them high up the category charts. Owning the phrase Padi Of Life, or at least sharing it with the Nigerian youth who use the phrase in everyday conversation and banter, will be a surefire means of doing little or fair in a market largely dominated by brand names no sales arguments compete that form the additional reason to buy.

The average water consumer often walks into stores to ask for “bottled water” and cares very little about the brand. But with such a unique selling proposition, consumers have an extra reason to ask about Aquafina as a brand. Along with this comes the recall and actions that result in stock units remaining in stock and the brand being prominently featured as consumers make specific demands.

With Kate Henshaw and a host of other celebrities, Aquafina has carved out a space for itself, perhaps as the first water brand in Nigeria, to hire celebrity ambassadors to further its marketing. Kate Henshaw’s choice is even more strategic. Ever since her rise to become a key figure in Nigeria’s film industry, Kate has maintained a very healthy lifestyle. Aside from acting, many love and respect her for staying mostly scandal-free and maintaining a consistent exercise regimen that keeps her looking young and healthy.

Her role on the television drama Do Good also created an image of a humble, supportive woman who loves cooking, an exercise strongly and complementarily linked to water. Kate is a good fit for the role if there ever was one. Aquafina’s brand story for the campaign is also driven by Aproko Doctor, who has built a reputation on social media as a crusader of water intake. He regularly shares tips with his followers on the benefits of good water intake, making him another perfect match for the Aquafina brand.

Nollywood actors Jemima Osunde, Jide Kene and Munachi Abii are other notable faces of the Aquafina brand. A model and presenter, Osunde rose to prominence after playing Leila on the television series Shuga. She also starred in the popular film Quam’s Money. Jide Kene, known professionally as Swanky JKA, is a model best known for his portrayal of Nnamdi Okeke in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free. Munachi Abii, who won Nigeria’s Most Beautiful Girl in 2007, is a rapper, songwriter, TV presenter and model.

Prior to this campaign, Aquafina had established itself as the leading brand in the bottled water category. In addition to the extensive distribution with which it reaches the nooks and crannies of the country, it also prides itself on a filtration process that includes a reverse osmosis process to remove dissolved solids and organic compounds in the water. It also undergoes carbon filtration, ozonation and ultraviolet light to provide water that is truly pure. To claim a leading value position, Aquafina also undergoes a purification program that exceeds National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) requirements, as well as other global minimum standards.

Backed by a campaign with such a strong response, Aquafina’s language ability will improve significantly and with it, the consumer preference scale will steadily increase.

. Okuhu, a brand expert and journalist, writes from Lagos.

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