Evian Seeking Return to Relevance, New Head Marketer

Brand's Dancing Babies Have Been A Hit, But Share and Sales Have Slipped

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Evian may have made a splash with its dancing, roller skating babies but the brand is still struggling for relevance in the U.S.

Evian's new bottle
Evian's new bottle

Awareness of the brand is strong and the "Live Young" campaign has been extremely popular, said Eric O'Toole, president-GM at Danone Waters North America, which imports and markets Evian. Between 1978, when distribution in the U.S. began, and 2000, the brand grew consistently. But in the decade that followed, Evian's relevance tapered off -- it's stabilized in recent years thanks, in part, to the launch of the Baby & Me advertising effort.

"The brand allowed other brands like Fiji and Smartwater to define the game and keep the pressure on. They innovated on bottle shape and the use of influencers in the space," said Mr. O'Toole. "While they gained steam, Evian was quietish. Share began to swing and the brand now finds itself No. 3 behind Fiji and Smartwater."

Mr. O'Toole, who last year moved over to the water business from Danone's dairy division, has ambitious plans for rebuilding Evian, as well as beefing up the presence of Badoit, a sparkling water brand, which recently gained national distribution in the U.S. On his to do list -- hire a VP-marketing for Danone's water brands in North America.

He predicts Evian's sales could double or even triple in the next five years, given the proper attention and investment. In the 52 weeks ended July 14, Evian recorded $94 million in sales, down 4% from the prior year, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. The brand controls just 12% of the premium bottled water segment in the U.S., though it's the market leader in many other countries, according to Mr. O'Toole.

First up, a new bottle design. Mr. O'Toole says bottle design is one of the arenas "where the game is played in the beverage business." Evian hadn't done an overhaul of its bottle since 1999. The new bottle is simpler. The contour grip is eliminated in favor of straight lines, making a ridge of mountain peaks ringing the top portion of the bottle stand out. The label was also redesigned, with the wrap-around sleeve -- similar to what consumers see on soda bottles -- replaced by a more streamlined sticker. The brand's story, including information about the source, Evian-Les-Bains, located in the French Alps, is highlighted.

"For consumers today, authenticity and source are reasons why one would develop an affinity for the brand. We tell that story now," Mr. O'Toole said, noting the design will roll out in Japan and select international markets in 2014. "We had gotten away from that in the previous 10 years."

A two-page spread will run in lifestyle magazines from August through October to promote the change. There will also be sampling in select markets. Evian spends about $1 million on measured media annually, according to Kantar Media. Mr. O'Toole said that budget will increase in line with the growth of the brand. Evian works with BETC, Paris on creative and Havas on media. Syndicate handles public relations, while MKG is responsible for events and promotions.

Beyond Evian, Mr. O'Toole is also working to develop Badoit and Volvic, the other two brands in Danone's North American water portfolio. Badoit, the leading sparkling water brand in France, is looking to carve out a niche in fine dining, competing primarily with San Pellegrino. Volvic, a still water that hails from the volcanic region of France, focuses on distribution in upscale grocers like Whole Foods.

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