Watsons Water markets itself as blue blood

Six months ago Watsons Water underwent a marketing revamp shifting gears from its previous functional campaigns, which boasted about its distilling process and 105-degree boiling temperature, moving to more obscure branding pushes featuring Olympic-medal cyclist Sarah Lee.

“We’re building on what we have already. The idea is still the same: it’s still about persistence of quality, best of the best, strive for perfection and dedication,” said Watsons Water general manager Kim Siu.

“Before, consumers may see our functions and go ‘oh, you did this, this and this to your water, so?’ But now, if we put a human face to show how much we care about what we believe in, it’s much easier for people to establish a connection.”

Watsons Water’s most recent TVC, which launched last October, opens with Hong Kong-born Olympic gold-medalist Lee Wai-see with her bicycle. Throughout the commercial, she is seen in action while delivering a voice over monologue on persistence, support and concentration.

Doris Au, business director of Grey, which handled creative on the campaign,  said the image and message are aimed at establishing rapport.

“There’s no better way to bring out that message than with an athlete. Watson’s is a local brand, and Lee is a local athlete – this brings out the connection with our consumers.”

Connection or not, Watsons Water’s strategy is clear: it's labeling itself as a luxury within a category, where it was previously happy to be a functional player.

This move is further evident in Siu's criticism of boiled in the home water – whether pointing out the pollution of the water in the Dong River (where Hong Kong’s drinking resource usually comes from), rusty pipes in old buildings or unclean water boilers in the home.

“What Watsons Water is trying to do is to raise awareness of good water and that consumers need to demand higher-quality water,” he said.

“One of our biggest challenges is pricing: we can’t set our prices as low as our competitors (due to the processes involved), so we need people to understand what happens behind our water to justify that price: it’s higher quality, it’s cleaner, it’s purer.”

Siu also said the company will make further investment in sports-related and environment-related events as well as charities, though he didn’t disclose details.