Deficit Brand Building

We all know water is a valuable and critical resource for life. And although we may think the world is 90% water, less than 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. Less than 1% is drinkable (the rest is locked up in ice, for now.) Over the last couple of years in the sustainability community concern over water has been growing.

Brands have taken notice of that concern. Big brands like GE and Walmart have committed to water conservation. Brands that are perceived to use a lot of water, like those that make soft drinks, have been pressured to minimize their use of that resource, and both Pepsi and Coca-Cola have committed to water conservation. The latest brand to link itself to water is taking a unique approach—one I don't think I've ever seen when it comes to marketing.

According to Levi's, the average pair of jeans uses approximately 12 gallons of water in the finishing process. Its new Water less jean, however, reduces that amount by up to 96% (depending on the product—the average is a 28% reduction in water use). In addition, the company is encouraging their customers to reduce their own environmental impact by washing less frequently, washing in cold water, recycling old jeans and using clotheslines (remember those?).

All of that is great—kudos to Levi's for encouraging its customers to consume and waste less water and energy. The interesting part to me is that Levi's is using as a central marketing claim what's NOT being used to create the product (water). Sure we've got lots of green products that are using less harmful chemicals or more recycled material or will save the user energy or money. But this is the first time (that I can think of) where the differentiation of the brand is based on the manufacturing process and what isn't included.

It will be interesting to see how consumers respond. Perhaps consumers are thoughtful and 'holistic' enough to consider not just what's in the product, or how the product is made, but also what is saved by making the product in a different way. If so, marketers will have a whole new set of possibilities when it comes to creating brand differentiation, based on this new point of relevance with customers. And what's NOT in the manufacturing process could become just as important as what IS in the product.

Have I missed something? Are there other brands out there making claims about what's NOT used to make them?

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