The formerly state-owned brand was bought out by the local Cartellone Group in 1994 and now the food, wine and construction conglomerate is spending around $5m a year on advertising, which includes a two-year contract with the high-profile model, says Villavicencio Product Manager Ruben San Martin.
As part of a "comprehensive" campaign which includes TV and billboards, the mineral water also accompanies Mazza during her European fashion shows, makeovers and aerobic work-outs. "We believed it was time to add a few new concepts to the brand so we started thinking about who could embody the ideas of freshness, naturalness, pureness, and transparency and Valeria was the only option for us," says San Martin. "She is a model but she lives her life a little differently; she is associated with health and healthy living rather than the nightlife and frivolity which often characterizes the modelling world in Argentina. And she is the most well-known face of Argentina today."
Since discovering advertising and marketing with the Cartellone Group, Villavicencio sales have grown by 40% to reach an annual volume of 40 million gallons, making it the market leader. The brand now controls 30% of the hotly contested mineral water market, up from 20% two years ago, due in part to a reorganization of its distribution network which now includes 100,000 sales outlets across the country, and popular new packaging.
Villavicencio, the most expensive brand on the market, has continued to grow despite the harsh economic times following the crash of the Mexican peso in 1994, and the potential remains great with Argentines only drinking 3.74 gallons (17 litres) of mineral water per capita a year.
San Martin is aiming for a 40% market share. "There are macroeconomic variables that don't favor increased growth," he says, "but we are betting on the fact that the more consumers know about our water, so more will choose Villavicencio."
Copyright October 1996, Crain Communications Inc.