Categorized | design, seriously dumb

When a brilliant product idea marries a bad package design

Summit Springs Raw Water
I did not make this picture up. Some designer and ad agency thought it was a good idea to make “raw water” look caca brown like this.

In today’s “I wish I thought of that department,” we present for your amusement and bemusement . . . raw water.

At a premium price, no less. What, as the saying goes, will they think of next? Pet rocks?

Now, really, folks. If you’re scratching your head over what kind of new and different product you can make your fortune on, well, you’re probably thinking too hard.

And now, for a few helpful tips on package design and advertising for all you aspiring and perspiring entrepreneurs. If you do an image search for “raw water,” do you know what you’ll find? Thousands of pictures of water tanks filled with brown, sludgy water. You know . . . mud, fish, caca, rotting leaves, mafia corpses, and all sorts of organic and soil oddities we don’t want to know about. We all know instinctively that “brown water” is “dirty water,” so you would think it would be nearly impossible to find a package designer who thought that a product called “raw water” would look good in a diarrhea-brown package.

You would think. Even if you could find such a designer — and they obviously exist — you would think it would be astronomically impossible to find an ad agency and a photographer that would believe photographing a bottle of water against the backdrop of this brown packaging — thus making the water look brown — would be a good idea. And then calling this brown water in big block letters, “Raw Water.” Congratulations to Summit Springs for finding the only hash-heads on the planet who thought we’d all rush out to buy “raw water” if it looked like it came out of a septic tank.*

But, seriously. The alpha and the omega of effective product development is identifying a consumer need and then meeting it. Sure, you could sit down and throw millions of dollars at the next generation server or cancer drug. Or, if you’re in a shoestring venture or small business, you can be sensitive to changing attitudes and beliefs. As we surround ourselves with a veritable jungle of artificial chemicals designed to make our food last, our teeth grow, and our bacterial tenants at bay, we also find ourselves subject to all sorts of odd an exotic new diseases, such as cancer, ADHD, autism, and a plague of Cluster B disorders (caused by freeway driving, I’m sure).

So, on the one hand, our super-saturation in man-made and unpronounceable organic compounds has given rise to a big-money market in purgatives, from chakra tuning to colon cleansing. And, on the other hand, to another market of chemical-free foods and toothpastes, deodarants and diapers. It was only a matter of time before people would begin to suspect that the chemical firebombing we perform on water to rid it of some truly nasty and naughty substances and organisms would eventually spawn a backlash.

And so we have . . . raw water. Safe to drink (but they have to test it continuously) and chemical-free.

It’s all a part of what I call the “third generation” environmental market. And 3G environmentalism is making a lot of folks very, very rich . . . folks with some of the simplest product ideas you can imagine.

But 3G environmentalism is a subject for another day . . .

Heads up to Mistah Charles for catching this one!

*Of course, creatives can always surprise you. Many, many moons ago, I worked on a marketing campaign for a series of oral care products called Dr. Ken’s. Great stuff, really. Well, Dr. Ken (he really did exist) wanted packaging that “stood out on the store shelves,” so the creative director in charge thought it would be a great idea to make the toothpaste packaging black, as in, ink black, dead-of-night black. “You never see toothpaste in black packaging,” he said at the presentation to the client. “This will really stand out from everyone else!”

He was right. You never see black toothpaste packaging. Three guesses why.

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One Response to “When a brilliant product idea marries a bad package design”


  1. [...] In a recent post, I noted that Summit Spring’s new product, “Raw Water,” was a brilliant new product which in reality is a very old product (untreated water, which has been with us for five billion years), but that consumer attitudes and proclivities have caught up to it. Back to the future, indeed. [...]

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