July 30, 2014
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August 1, 2011

HL Group-Move Collective Product Launch for Bobble Offers Alternative to Single-Serve Water Bottle

By: Jim Bucci

When tasked with launching bobble in the United States, HL Group knew capturing the attention of consumers with another new product would provide a hearty challenge, especially since fresh offerings flood store shelves each week. The marketplace is saturated and consumers overwhelmed with the amount of items now available to them. Only a truly unique product would do. Good thing bobble fits that definition.

Created by Move Collective, bobble is a reusable, recyclable, fashion-meets-function water bottle made from recycled plastic and similar to that of Brita or Pur with a carbon filter built into the cap. Pour standard tap water in and the filter removes chlorine and other contaminants as your drink, improving the water's taste and leaving you with clean water that is indistinguishable from single-serve water.

The intention of bobble is to encourage consumers to drink more water and to wean them from single-serve plastic water bottles, which line retail shelves, are on sidewalks and fill landfill and the ocean.

Though single-serve plastic water bottles are an environmental menace, they are very popular. Americans spent $17 billion on them last year despite the availability of free, healthy tap water in every home and office across the country.

HL Group would not only have to contend with the glut of other products, but consumers' habit of buying single-service plastic water bottles. Designed to resemble a single-service water bottle in size and shape, bobble offers an easy transition for drinkers.

"Bobble is not so far removed from normal water bottles that consumers have to make a stark decision," explains HL Group vice president Devon Nagle. "When you move from daily Evian to a SIGG, for example, you are replacing a convenient water bottle with a military canister. With bobble, the transition is more organic. You can carry it with you; it fits easily into bags and car cup holders. You have all the ease and convenience of everyday single-serve water bottles without their financial or environmental cost."

Even with such an innovative product, the water market is one of the more tightly contested consumer segments. Everyone sells the same product. The PR team would have one opportunity to introduce bobble to consumers who had shown ambivalence towards the free tap water available to them.

The Strategy: Introduce bobble By Way of Influencers and High-Profile Events: To acquaint bobble with consumers, the PR team sent the reusable water bottle everywhere—to editors, producers, celebrities, models and fashion designers. They placed bobble in locations where influential people would notice it, such as the Global TED Conference, the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored Conference, the Design Leadership Summit in Italy, in the front row at fashion shows and Fashion's Night Out events and at the Mercedes booth at the US Open.

"Some of these opportunities we pursued and some came to us," says Nagle. "But, the more we put bobble out into the world, the more the world reacted. For example, we gave bobbles to the publicists who work for Diane Von Furstenberg. Actress Kristen Bell spotted bobble when she met with them, and suddenly Kristen Bell was on the cover of Lucky Magazine, talking up bobble on Lucky's 'At the Photo Shoot' page."

"We sent bobble to an editor at Men's Health and he brought it with him to the 'Today Show,' as one of his favorite new products," continues Nagle. "The campaign has been filled with lovely moments like that, some planned and some unexpected. The strategy to get bobble into the hands of influential people was pretty straight forward."

The Challenge: Compete with the Massive Amount of New Products Released Each Week: With every new product release, the first and most obvious hurdle to clear is the fact that new products arrive on American shelves each week with all of them hoping to capture the attention and pocketbook of consumers.

"Editors and producers are overwhelmed with new items to consider and review," offers Nagle. "We were patient and thorough and kept after people. We had the confidence to do this because the reaction to bobble was almost uniformly positive. This is a product that is easy to like, so if an editor doesn't write about it on the day she receives it, she may do so a month or two down the road."

An important aspect of bobble is the environmental impact—consumers switching from single-serve plastic water bottles to a recyclable and reusable one. The challenge for public relations efforts was to not hammer the environmental value, but allow it to be a secondary message.

"Almost everyone knows that when you buy a bottle of water at the store, drink it and throw it away, that bottle is likely to end up in a landfill somewhere, or in the ocean," says Nagle. "You can't make people like a new product by lecturing them about the horror of the product they're currently using. The product has to be better and something they would seek out on their own."

The campaign's primary message was bobble's beautiful design, inexpensive price and widespread availability. "We had a gorgeous collection of imagery for our use," offers Nagle. "We played up the colors, shape and the utility."

The Results: Bobble Buzz Builds Prior to Retail Release, Leads to Top Media Placements: When the date finally arrived for HL Group to unveil bobble, the product was not yet available on the shelf due to retail and shipping logistics. Only available for purchase on the bobble website, the campaign's direction turned entirely toward the media.

HL Group quickly regrouped, issuing a press release to an array of media and seeding them all with the product. They introduced bobble at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the Design Leadership Summit in Venice, Italy and to fashion designers throughout New York. The designers frequently kept bobbles in their showrooms and passed them along to other celebrities and influencers.

Before bobble was even available in stores, the product had received placements in top pubs, creating a storm of word of mouth buzz. The media placements continued to pour in even after bobble hit stores, including two different segments on "The Today Show" and articles in Men's Health, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Popular Science, SHAPE, Lucky Magazine and InStyle.

Secrets of Success: Read on as Nagle offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Gold in "Best Campaign Under $50,000" at the 2011 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations & Publicity.

  • Keep your message straightforward. "Avoid the temptation to oversell," he advises. "Do not shout to make yourself heard. The copy in your press release should be clean enough so that a blogger or a reporter can feel free to use it or a version of it. Go through your press release and lift out the adjectives you would feel weird saying to a friend at a party. I have never called anything 'revolutionary' in my personal life, other than an actual revolution, so why would I call a product that in a pitch?"
  • Use bloggers to build initial product interest. "The first thing to do is to get it out there and into people's hands," he says. "Let them tinker with it. Bloggers in particular help drive awareness. Our first coverage of bobble occurred online and it fueled the more traditional print and television coverage."
  • Practice patience because everyone is busy. "Be patient and persistent because the world will not open right up," he explains. "The people whose attention you want are busy. We came quickly out of the gate with bobble and some influential editors spotted bobble, wrote it up and caught their colleagues' attention. Media attention did not all come at once though. The New York Times wrote up bobble months after we launched. This was a thrill, but it was two full seasons before we caught their attention."
  • Be judicious about product pitching. "We didn't say 'yes' to every opportunity," he says. "We fought that urge, aiming for a tight and regular flow of public presentations at conferences and events that drew a cool and eclectic crowd. When we donated bobbles, we asked the organizers for imagery from the event, and we circulated that imagery in social media."
  • Best pitching practices always rule. "We just used straightforward pitching," he states. "We called, emailed and met with countless people. It was a steady and everyday push and nothing fancy. Intrinsic to the success of any campaign is the basic legwork and thoroughness."

Winner's Profile: With offices in New York and Los Angeles, HL Group is a strategic marketing, communications and media relations firm. The company's portfolio includes fashion, retail, beauty, consumer product goods, technology, travel and hospitality brands as well as corporate, media, civic and philanthropic concerns.

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