Why Evian now spends 80 percent of its marketing budget on digital media

Evian is placing its bets on Snapchat, Instagram and influencer marketing in order to gain an edge.

It’s a departure for the brand, which used to be focused on how “pure” its water was, said Olivia Sanchez, vp of marketing for Evian parent Danone Waters. “We have evolved to lifestyle moments: Evian is served at high-end events, restaurants and hotels,” she said. “A bottle of water is an extension of who you are and what you talk about.”

Evian in the U.S. now spends 80 percent of its ad budget on digital, especially on social media and search, which Sanchez said are most cost-efficient in reaching the coveted millennial set that is likelier to reach for water than soda. “We are trying to steer away from traditional marketing channels,” she said.

Snapchat and Instagram are two platforms that Evian is most interested in at the moment. For instance, in its “Live Young” campaign this summer, Evian added Snapcodes to the packaging of millions of Evian bottles. When customers scanned the code, they were directed to a branded Snapchat lens that let them dance in a baby onesie. Around 27.3 million people in the U.S., or 42 percent of Snapchat users, tried this branded filter, said Sanchez. Today, in order to access this branded filter, people need to play a mobile game that Evian has developed, where they go through a maze and grab Evian bottles on the way by swiping left and right. When they earn 1,000 points they will unlock the Snapchat lens.

In the U.S., bottled water is estimated to be an $18 billion market this year, and that number will increase to approximately $24 billion, according to research firm Mintel. In the competitive water category, Evian’s competitors are not just other bottled water brands but also water filters and portable refillable bottles.

“I think Snapchat is a competitive platform if your goal is reach in a targeted market,” said Sanchez. “I wouldn’t say that Snapchat’s reach is more expensive than other platforms because it is extremely interactive and has very engaged users.”

Sanchez, however, said Evian doesn’t plan to test Snapchat’s new 3-D augmented reality lenses anytime soon.

On Instagram, on the other hand, Evian usually uses Stories to live broadcast its own events and sponsored events like the U.S. Open, along with partnering with fashion influencers on the platform. For instance, Evian recently worked with lifestyle influencer Chiara Ferragni — who has over 11 million Instagram followers — on limited-edition Evian bottles: 750 milliliter glass and 500 milliliter plastic bottles that feature Ferragni’s eyelash iconography, star motifs and Evian logo-inspired art. And a limited-edition 330 milliliter glass bottle is also exclusive to the water bar at retail concept store Colette in Paris, where Evian hosted a party to debut its limited-edition bottles. Sanchez declined to disclose how many limited-edition bottles Evian is distributing, but she said those bottles are available in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Sanchez thinks fashion is a natural connection for Evian because the water brand is served behind the scenes when models get ready for their shows and at upscale restaurants. The idea is to make the water you drink stand for something. “Water expresses who you are, just like fashion,” she said.

From a product development perspective, Evian won’t introduce water with flavor or functional benefits, although functional beverages are a growing trend in the U.S., according to Sanchez.

“Those functional claims will eventually have people question them,” she said. “In the end, the level of mineral and purity that water has still matters the most, so I think water with functional benefits is a trend that will eventually wear off.”