My customer asked me…

Porter Airlines water bottle“How did Porter Airlines get its own water brand?”

Promotional items are one great way to gain exposure for your brand. You’ve probably seen items like shirts, key chains, pens, water bottles…wait water bottles? Now there’s an interesting choice.

Why of all the things would a company choose a water bottle as a promotional item? To begin with, it’s more unique than being handed a pen, or perhaps, a t-shirt. Secondly, it may be more effective. Think back for a moment and remember all those promotional shirts — while their intention is to gain more street exposure, no one really wears them. Pens are useful, but they have little impact on anyone but the user, given their size. Water bottles, on the other hand, are highly useful and larger, giving you more brand real estate. This combined with the fact that, on average, a person drinks at least one bottle of water a day, making bottled water an inspired choice.

Handing out promotional water bottles at events, such as trade shows, is a great idea. Everyone there needs to keep hydrated and purchasing water at such venues can become expensive. Your audience will appreciate the gesture, while you are literally driving your message into their hands.

When deciding to promote in this unique way, you can choose from many different types of bottles. The pre-filled, single-use bottles are always appreciated, but have a short life span. The reusable plastic and stainless steel bottles, on the other hand, guarantee more use, a longer life span and more exposure for the brand. They can also help project a more environmentally-friendly image to your audience.

Some places you can use water bottles as giveaways include conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, training seminars, health clubs, sports events, concerts and more. The life of this promotional item can very easily extend beyond a one-day event, increasing its value.
So, who does it? Many companies can be found with a quick search on Google, so I will highlight a few I found interesting. For companies that produce single serve water bottles, Muskoka Spring Water, Private Label Water and Bottle Your Brand are strong examples of companies with lots of client experience and many product options.

Muskoka Spring Water is a Canadian company and their labels are UV-coated and printed flexo. They explain that these labels are well-liked by their customers for their bright colours and resistance to damage in water and ice. However, if you were looking to purchase reusable plastic or steel containers, ePromos in the U.S. and My Next Promo in Canada offer a large selection of bottles along with other promotional materials. The sites feature an easy-to-use quote service.

It may have crossed your mind that such an endeavour must be expensive, but it isn’t true. Pre-filled 12 oz bottles with a 4-colour process label average $15 for a case of 24 or $0.63 per bottle – for an item that offers more “message space” than a pen. The reusable variety runs at a higher cost of $7 – $11 for a 22 oz bottle with a 2-colour label. This is balanced, however, by the longer lifespan of the product and the environmentally-friendly message, thus making reusable bottles a worthy marketing investment.

Now, you may ask what companies would use this service. The answer is everyone! Companies such as Volvo, Sony, Porter Air, SC Johnson and more. Porter chose to give pre-filled bottles to their customers for use during and after the flight. SC Johnson chose to go the refillable route when giving out bottles to their staff on Canada Day to commemorate their recycling initiative.

Wendy Holtom of Berkshire-based Genius Marketing Communications, who design and develop marketing material for the Sony UK brand, says: “The sports bottles are ideal for conferences and events like this to literally drive the message into the hands of the audience. We have an active role contributing to the label design to tailor messages for each occasion.”

Muskoka Spring Water explains why the product is so strong. “Water bottles are a strong promotional item because people actually use them, and in a lot of cases, refill them, and the company’s message is still there.”

Now, what would a printer need to do to get into this market? The quickest route is to get yourself a channel partner. For the printer considering the pre-filled bottle market, you want to have a digital or flexographic press, keeping in mind that the majority of the orders would be shorter run projects. You would then partner with a water bottling company, which can apply the labels in-line. Given this is their area of expertise, they would also be able to guide you on food label regulations and shipping needs. If the decision, on the other hand, is to go with reusable bottles, then screen or pad printing it is. There are many entry-level options of this equipment available, as it has had many years of success in the small copy shop market. Whether you choose to offer this as a pre-filled one-time use solution or a refillable, remember it is key that the offering is easily accessible on your Website.

Promotional companies do a great job in the online store market, so it is important that as a printer, you are not too far behind. One option may be to launch an individual URL for your new product.

So, I hope this has shed some light on the matter of branded water bottles and you haven’t become too waterlogged with information.

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.