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Bottled-water brands look set to suffer as a result of Thames Water’s push to get Londoners to behave sustainably and drink more tap water. How might bottled-water brands rethink their strategy?

‘Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.’ I do know, for hundreds of millions of people, many of them often surrounded by floods and infected by typhoid, that getting clean water is still a life-threatening problem. Most tap water in the UK, although billions of litres is wasted, is relatively safe to drink. What should the water bottlers do? Keep their brands and businesses going while they can, and gracefully transmogrify, as fashion, common sense and decent-enough tap water slowly drown them out.
Michael Wolff, Director, Michael Wolff & Company

Water is water, whether from bottle or tap. Bottled water is a lifestyle statement. It’s all about brand and packaging. But being Green is becoming chic, and soon it will be sexier than any water brand. The moment being Green means eschewing the bottle, consumers will eschew it. Were I Evian, I’d diversify into detox products and spas. That said, consumption ‘on the go’ isn’t going away and smaller, recyclable or refillable bottles will survive with branding redefined to reflect nomadic lifestyles.
Jasmine Montgomery, Managing director, Futurebrand

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Thames Water should fix its leaky pipes before it has a go at water brands. It’s a cheap, media-exploitative shot and reflects badly on the company. What all brands need to do is not pander to media hype and consumer confusion over the right thing to do, but simply do what is right for them. They should aim to be as sustainable with their brand offer as they possibly can, regardless of perceptions. Maximise sustainable and recyclable resources and minimise excessive waste and environmentally unsound practices.
Jonathan Ford, Creative partner, Pearlfisher

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There are two London-centric opportunities. First, better distribution on the Tube would open up new drinking opportunities. It’s highly unlikely that busy Londoners will fill their own bottles at home, so more airport-style water vending machines in ticket offices and on platforms, or tie-ups with Evening Standard vendors, would be a start. Second, there are huge NPD opportunities to deliver added value to a highly stressed and virus-prone community, particularly via health supplements.
Crispin Reed, Managing director, Brandhouse

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