July 18, 2008 in Seven

Water marketing reaches new low

’Perfect’ still can’t beat tap
Rebecca Mack Hard 7 Staff writer
 

Handy access to gobs of terrific consumer info on the internet hasn’t really diminished the power of snappy product promotion. People are just as susceptible to the siren songs of advertising as they ever have been.

Case in point. My sons, who have been deeply inculcated in the virtues of gleaning bargain threads at Value Village rather than succumbing to fashion victim lures such as Abercrombie, pride themselves on their savvy consumer skills, and healthy skepticism.

Yet two of them, both teenagers, found themselves lured to the rocks by the modern equivalent of a snake oil salesman. They each ended up shelling out their hard-earned money for a product called “Perfect” that touts itself as “The Ultimate Fluid to Empower Your Body and Mind.”

You might know this fluid by its more pedestrian name: Water.

Stefan, the 20-something huckster who bleated his siren song and lightened my son’s wallets, definitely had some advantages. He was clever enough to stage his performance in a pulsatingly hot, sun-drenched side street during Hoopfest. And my sons were thrashed and thirsty from playing multiple games. They said later that they were so parched, they probably would have paid a buck and a half a cup for lukewarm hose water.

But the guy with the water put on a hell of a show. He had a gimmick that sucked my sons in like trash into the goat’s maw at Riverfront Park.

He tantalized them with his hip, opalescent cylindrical bottles, chillin’ in the frosty ice. Then, he invited them to participate in a demonstration, not unlike the salesmen of yore, who beckoned for volunteers from the audience. Step right up! And step right up they did.

He invited one of the boys, Henry, to stand perfectly straight, feet together, hands at his sides with his hands cupped, fingers pointed backward. The water peddler then came from behind and warned him that he was going to push downward on his right hand with all his might, and this 6-foot-4, 230 pound teenager was supposed to resist, and not let him tip him over.

Henry said he fought against it, hard, but the little water guy prevailed, and Henry lost his balance and broke his stance. Henry then sheepishly bellied up to the table where Stefan theatrically poured about an ounce of Perfect water into a miniature sampling cup. He gratefully quaffed the measly sip and, at Stefan’s urging resumed the ready position for the second part of the tipping demonstration.

Stefan pressed down on the same hand, this time considerably harder, but Henry didn’t budge. The water peddler exerted his whole weight, and Henry reports that he was able to stand firm without much effort.

All present attributed this amazing feat to the astonishing power of Perfect water. How else to account for it?

According to Stefan, Perfect water has had its hydrogen and oxygen bonds rearranged. He told the boys that this allows the body to absorb it and receive it faster and more efficiently than that those inferior brands sold in cheap, glistening bottles huddled together under shrink wrap, or heaven forbid, the kind that actually issues forth raw from the tap.

The “purified, remineralized, ionized, microstructured, oxygen-rich” water did its trick! It teased out a mini quench for Henry’s giant thirst. It surged into his frame and “empowered” as the label says “the world’s most advanced machine”. In thrall of the power of the “synergistically balanced” water product that provided “optimum hydration,” each young man bought a bottle and promptly chugged it.

Two bottles and six dollars lighter, they sat on the curb at the corner of Sprague and Post, waiting for a ride home. Henry said he was going to buy regardless of the demo, but the gimmick bugged him. After a little thought and experimentation, they nailed it. Henry figured they could credit the amazing feat to simple muscle memory.

I’m not picking on just Perfect. I think that the whole bottled water thing is a colossal waste of resources. With its outlandish claims and pretentious packaging, Perfect just happens to be the latest example of a huge extended marketing coup that has gotten seriously out of hand. The amount of energy consumed to put those millions of crackly bottles on the shelf is shameful.

And just when you think people are starting to come to their senses, like a growing group of environmentally conscientious restaurateurs who refuse to sell bottled water, some entrepreneurial geniuses take the ridiculousness to new heights.

This new drinking water is in a stratospheric new realm with its hefty price tag which tops out at three dollars for about sixteen fluid ounces. That works out to about $24 per gallon, and makes gasoline and milk look like a bargain.

The whole Hoopfest marketing caper bugged me, so I called the company that makes Perfect water. I asked them where their water came from, and the nice lady who answered the phone said it was municipal water from a city in Utah. But, she also told me, this ordinary city water had been put through twelve separate processes to create a water product that “tastes smooth and natural.” Why they felt compelled to strip out the water so it resembled the distilled stuff my mother put in her iron, just to add it back in, seems ludicrous.

Funny, the water that comes right out of my tap tastes smooth and natural. And, I just got a dowdy little brochure in the mail from the Spokane Water Department that says the water from the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer is so pure when it comes out of the ground, it needs no processing. I was struck by the simplicity and importance of these words, which were buried in the text of the report, not emblazoned in groovy font with a marketer’s flair.

Here’s a pitch. If the taste, quality and usefulness of our tap water isn’t enough, perhaps you will be persuaded to drink it because, at less that 1/10 of a cent per gallon, it also happens to be a phenomenal bargain.

Hard 7 is a weekly opinion column on local politics and culture. Rebecca Mack can be reached at mackhard7@gmail.com. You can also comment on this column at spokane7.com/blogs/hard7.


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