I’m Sorry, This Water Is Reserved For Special People

voss water“I don’t understand why you would buy Fiji water Melanie, it supports a fascist government.”

My roommate comments on my purchasing choice after I come back from Whole Foods, carrying in a 1L bottle of Fiji water. I think to myself, she’s right. Why would I spend $3 on a bottle of water that doesn’t even have any good cause to it? Does it even taste any different?

I notice a specifically strong force within me that screams when I roll my shopping cart into the bottled water aisle. The sticker of tropical leaves and bright flowers in a uniquely shaped bottle catches my attention. Ooh, I think, brought straight from the islands of Fiji. And plus, after reading an article like this I definitely want to stick to my bottles of exotic water.

After closer examination of my purchasing behavior, I notice that it is not in fact a brand loyalty I have to Fiji water, but good design in general: enter Voss water.

Voss water is only available in some specialty stores, namely in Whole Foods. An admirer of good minimalist design, a bottle of Voss water costs around $3.14 plus tax. If I was to consumer just one bottle a day, that would amount to $1,146.10 a year. A thousand dollars a year on a small bottle of water in a glass. What insanity! But look at the bottle, with its sleek, elegant design. The embossed “VOSS” lettering on the bottle with a silver screw on top. With my love for gray and minimalist design, Voss water is my savior in a world of strange colors and comic sans lettering.

Bottled water in any form also carries an image in each of their bottles. Fiji and Evian carry a sense of exotic faraway-ness that watch and car companies also embody. Aquafina, the official sponsor of the MLB carries a pure, water-for-athletes image that may appeal to people who are more active. Companies place stronger brand identity to everyday items like bottled water than products that speak for themselves like Midol, Kleenex, or Crayola. This branding effort does not go unnoticed for marketing majors like myself. I want to become one with the luxury and exoticism of Fiji and Voss water, because carrying around bottles of water with a brand, associates myself with it.

Photo Credit: tnarik

Melanie Wong Melanie Wong is the Managing Editor for the Brands section. A senior at Emerson College in hopes of a B.S. in Marketing Communications: Advertising and Public Relations. She also carries a Entrepreneurship minor. Melanie is in the process of developing a business plan for a Social Media Consulting Agency based in San Francisco hoping to package social media to small local businesses. She loves writing about technology (avid WoW player and Xbox 360 devotee), social media, hot trends and cute things (see blog). Her favorite blogs include Mashable, Copyranter, and TheDieline.com. Twitter: @melanieswong

View all posts by Melanie Wong

20 Responses to “I’m Sorry, This Water Is Reserved For Special People”

  1. maxCohen

    cool. if you see Flow please write a review, i would love to hear your perspective!

  2. ChristinePeterson

    Sorry, Melanie, I refuse to buy bottled water in general. It’s such a waste of money and the plastic is bad for the environment. I usually just drink tap. And if I cared about quality, I’d much sooner buy a Brita than waste money on bottled water, even if it does have a fancy design.

  3. MaxSilver

    I somewhat agree with Christine, but unfortunately sometimes bottled water is so convenient – especially when living in LA with subpar tap water. But when I do buy bottled water I refuse to buy anything but the cheapest kinds. To me spending three dollars $3 on water is a huge waste of money, especially as a broke college student. I also feel a bit like an ass walking around with expensive water, I would rather not have people see me with a Voss bottle.

  4. Jason Potteiger

    This is a really great info-graphic about some of the issues regarding bottled water (http://www.onlineeducation.net/bottled_water/). There are a lot of good socially responsible/ financial reasons to stay away, but for me what keeps me from drinking that stuff is the quality.
    As part of a class project a friend of mine found varying degrees of fecal matter in Desani, Aquafina and other bottled waters (the levels were alarmingly high as you’d expect/hope for 0, though I should note they were all still within an “acceptable” range). Most of it’s just filtered river water in the first place. Further, by law companies only have to check their water quality once a month, whereas municipal water departments must check the quality every day. Bottom line, your tap water is probably better quality (plus it costs less and is WAY better for the environment)–at least that’s why I go for the re-usable water bottle.

  5. Dan Delany

    So, wait, let me make sure I’m getting this… This article basically says that purchasing bottled water is essentially useless, provides no tangible benefits or value, and is ridiculously expensive, but that the author will continue to do so because it’s pretty & sexy, because it feels luxurious, and because she likes the exotic image she projects by drinking it?

    Pardon my cynicism, but Jesus Fucking Christ. This is exactly what is wrong with consumerism in America. I thought we were supposed to be proud of our generation for changing things.

  6. Dan Delany

    Sorry if I came off as abrasive, but this article really chafes my ass. Here’s a couple slightly more logical arguments.

    As a taxpaying citizen, YOU ALREADY PAY for purified water. Your local tax dollars either pay for a pure municipal water supply, or you pay for it with your monthly water bill. You wouldn’t pay your rent or your tuition twice, why in God’s name would you pay for your water twice?

    Some people think it’s cleaner. In fact, a 1999 study found that most bottled water contains *more* contaminants than tapwater, and several of them in fact *exceed* EPA-regulated limits on bacterial and heavy-metal contaminants. (http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/bwinx.asp)

    Dasani was actually pulled from the UK market after UK authorities found concentrated bromate, a carcinogen, in bottles of Dasani. Also, the additives in the new “Dasani Plus” line have been known to trigger alergic reactions such as swelling of the tongue, hands and face. Damn, that’s hot. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasani)

    Some claim it tastes better. In fact, several double-blind studies have shown that most people cannot tell the difference between bottled water and almost all tapwater. “But what about LA?” I hear you ask, “Their tapwater tastes like piss!” That’s just a psychological bias – people complaining about the taste of the water actually affects your perception of it. On the “Bottled Water” episode of their TV series “Bullshit!”, Penn and Teller showed that, even in LA, people can’t tell the difference between tap and bottled. They will even give glowing, bubbly reviews of LA municipal water – all you have to do is tell them you got it from a pristine iceberg in Switzerland. It’s true. Youtube that Bullshit.

    But my biggest problem with bottled water is its environmental effect. It takes more than 17 million barrels of oil per year to produce the exotic and luxurious pieces of trash you carry around – and that’s not even counting the oil burned trucking it around the country to your local boutique grocery store. And even worse – producing one liter of bottled water uses 3 liters of water. We’re already dealing with a clean water shortage on this planet, and you’re actively making it worse. (http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/bottled_water_and_energy.html)

    Please consider placing the welfare and public health of the rest of the world above your own desire to be trendy on your list of priorities.

  7. Kate Vander Wiede


    I really appreciate your well thought-out and researched response. It’s very easy to hope that the things we see in the supermarket and in stores as thoroughly vetted and socially responsible. But as we know, that isn’t always the case. I knew bottled water wasn’t any good, but after your response I have even more of a reason to stay away from the stuff. I think bottled water has a place (like in crises where a clean water supply is not available) but I think that most of us spend too much on something that, as you said, is absolutely horrible for the environment and maybe for ourselves.

    I think the problem is one of complacency. How much easier is it to grab a pre-filled bottle of water than it is to fill a glass ourselves (answer. both are easy.) But the perception is pre-filled bottles are way more convenient. Maybe the argument you give will convince more people to opt out of this ‘trend’.

  8. JennaMitby

    I really like all of the debate here, but I am in the same boat as Melanie. If you guys follow the current problems with “purified” tap water in a bunch of cities, you’ll see that they aren’t meeting the requirements to be safe. I still drink my tap water, but when I walk to past the bottled water aisle, I can’t resist. Most of the time I don’t drink bottled water, but I have such a weak spot for Fiji. My friends didn’t believe me when I claimed bottled water tastes different, each brand does as well. We argued over the water bar in Europe that serves only bottled water at ridiculous prices. So, they blind folded me. I have crazy taste buds, but I didn’t get a single one wrong. I see bottled water as a treat to myself.

    The environmental argument is a good one, but I justify my Fiji purchases because they are becoming the first drink manufacturer to be carbon NEGATIVE, not just neutral. Also, I don’t buy the environmental argument because most of you drink soda. What’s the difference? I don’t drink soda, so my few bottles of water doesn’t seem bad when I see people buying two or three bottles of soda a day. We all have weak spots, and water can be one of them.

  9. bork

    Want to make drinking water luxurious? Drink it out of some fucking Waterford crystal.

    Water does not need to be taken from some faraway, near-depleted aquifer, put into disposable bottles, and shipped thousands of miles by plane just so you can feel a frisson of “luxury and exoticism”.

  10. edwardboches

    What a great conversation. I look at it a little differently. What Melanie actually gets at is the effectiveness of marketing and packaging in its ability to sometimes get us to neglect our fiscal sense and environmental responsibility. We could make an argument that its Whole Foods that should be condemned for carrying products that are, in fact, adding to waste, packaging disposal, manufacturing that probably pollutes the environment, etc. Classic argument of what comes first, consumer need and demand or the creation of an artificial one. There have been all kinds of public water problems that have driven people to “believe” this stuff is safer, which, of course it isn’t. But once you’re into the category, of course the brand matters. Same as the beer you drink. Heineken says something different than Bud. Kudos to Melanie for the honest self assessment and to all the others for some great debate and conversation.

  11. McKenzie Lawton

    I totally agree with Edward. Melanie wasn’t trying to convince us all to drink just bottles water. Basically, she’s talking about how something as simple as a cool water bottle design can affect how we spend our money as a generation. I understand that overall we all seem to be “going green” and trying not to buy bottled water. Personally, I use a Brita filter and a metal water bottle. At not point was I offended by this article and frankly, I’m a bit surprised at how people have been reacting. Melanie was trying to say how brands have created strong images for something as simple as bottled water. Everyone calm down.

  12. Melanie Wong

    Thank you all for the comments on this post!

    Lets starts re-assessing my post. There was no intent on my behalf to create conversation saying that tap water was any less of a drinking water than bottled water, but because of the marketing and millions of dollars spent in design and packaging one product over the other, my mind and purchasing behavior is swayed towards bottled water.

    Christine and Max- thank you for your comments! Bottled water is expensive! Although it may be hard to grasp, 15 billion dollars are spent on bottled water annually. I think this definitely goes towards my point about how although unnecessary, there is still a huge appeal.(http://digg.com/business_finance/Americans_spent_15_Billion_on_bottled_water)

    Dan- Thank you for your comments! I’m reading into those links that you have posted. However I think you are misunderstanding the point of my post. The point of this blog post was to identify the appeal that I feel towards something as generic as water in a bottle. The fact that it is bottled does make it seem more appealing, not something that I can deny, but is that my fault for wanting to purchase something? Although I am aware of the environmental implications that bottled water has on the environment, I can make the same argument with clothing. The product of child labor and sweatshops are plaguing almost every store in the United States and I would love to see your passionate words towards how that is affecting your decisions to purchasing clothing as a consumer. You are more than welcome to e-mail me at melanieswong@gmail.com if you want to continue this debate privately.

    I agree!! The fact that Fiji water emphasizes their “different taste”, along with other bottled waters, i guess, makes it even more easier for brands to target people with a moderate to large amount of dispensable outcome because it creates a need that was previously not there.

    In fact, I think companies have helped create a psychological change in our head about tap vs. bottled and they fact that they taste different.

  13. Common Cent$

    I’m hoping this post was a joke, and was suppose to get us to think of how we are turned into consumers at a young age be it the Fonts, Colors
    Colors, or good old fashioned peer pressure. I don’t drink bottled water much and here’s why look on the side and you’ll see HOLY S#%T! there’s an expiration date that is right they messed with water so much it can expire..ugh. If you leave it in the bottles for awhile it’ll either turn a misty yellow or a rusty red color this scares the ever loving horse pucky out of me. I understand everyone is worried what the government is putting in the water and with this Prez rightfully so, but buy a PUR or Brita filtration device and say 2 hail mary’s and you and God can call it even. If you had soda or your leisure drink of choice pouring out of your faucets would you then still go out and buy it in a store also? This is all a way for stores to make money on a insipid rich person not us industrious working class that have some good common sense next they’ll put pre mixed kool aid in tiny tubes and sell it at triple the price for half the product…oh wait they’re already doing that lol Brighten up and lighten up. Look at someone with a bottle water and pull out a canteen or your water holding reservoir of choice drink and say wow can you believe they bottle water and ppl buy it lol Everyone have a nice day, clean up the water isles in your grocery stores and refuse to pay for bottled water you’ll see these companies implode in months not years.


Leave a Reply