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Can Google juice contaminate bottled water?

26 May

Metro_water_hpEver since I read an article about branding sand — I think it was this one– I have been fascinated with what differentiates a commodity from a brand.

Sand or silica is such an abundant mineral  that it’s amazing how much value it holds. Other commodities such as coffee or wheat seem to pale in comparison with what we do with silica.

But the water business comes close. Branding H20 seems commonplace today, but it is a highly competitive business.

Which is why I found this package for Metromint –a cross between a bottle of shampoo and an energy drink– irresistible when I was in the grocery store the other day.

The company has an interesting tone of voice. It is part of the Soma company, that calls itself  ‘an innovative group of beveragistas.’

The Metromint blog is full of consumer-driven stories, contributed by folks like Chocolate Snob and The Karin.

The packaging is simple on its front end (busy at the back) with something called the Chill Factor. There’s a number for every variant. The bottle I picked up, Spearmint, had a factor or -6. On a day like today that’s inching up to 104 degrees, I long to try it.

But…

Just as I was about to chill and try it out, I stumbled on a piece of news. Damn Google! This particular variant had been subject of a health alert and was recalled late last year. Bummer!

Suddenly all the packaging, online presence, promos and social media-enhanced branding didn’t matter. Here was the prospect of ingesting bacillus cereus staring in my face. It’s one of those food-borne bacteria that probably won’t kill me, but it contradicts everything about bottled water — being safer than the stuff off the tap.

I don’t bring this up to denigrate the Soma brand. It is probably as susceptible as any restaurant or packaged food. But it highlights how branding in today’s world is a completely different task than what it was less than a decade ago. The mere presence of negative ‘Google juice’ –the ability for any and every mention of a brand to be preserved for eternity– is something every brand custodian has to keep in mind.

Outside of bottled water, any service (any ‘branded’ business for that matter) is vulnerable. That’s the reality that I have to face up to as well in my job, using a slew of communication tools to get people to interact with the Decision Theater. I am sure you do too, whether you are nurturing your personal brand or one of your clients.

And it’s not just Google’s memory we have to think about.

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