You could say that AquaBall Naturally Flavored Water is one of those unique beverages with two distinct family members in mind: The one who holds the purchasing power, and the one with the power to point at the shelf from the shopping cart. After all, what’s on the inside of AquaBall—all-natural ingredients like Stevia sweetener instead of high-fructose corn syrup, and Vitamins B6, B12, B3 and Vitamin C—will especially appeal to moms. While what’s on the outside—a cool-looking ball-shaped PET bottle wrapped with Disney or Marvel characters—is designed to grab the attention of the target market of kids between the ages of 4 and 12.
The owner of AquaBall, the Irvine, Calif.-based True Drinks, Inc., says the sphere-shaped package is actually a critical component of the brand, helping it to gain a loyal following in the crowded arena of kids’ drinks. True Drinks purchased the rights to the spherical package in early 2012 from its original developer, GT Beverage Company, LLC, and has since come up with the new name and logo. The company then hired Kerker Murray Design to devise the eye-catching labels, which in turn works in close collaboration with Disney and Marvel, who have final approval for the label designs. (AquaBall inked its licensing agreement with Disney/Marvel, which is only for the U.S. market, last March 2012.)
We recently caught up with True Drinks CEO Lance Leonard and its vice president of marketing, Kevin Sherman, to delve into this creative process a little deeper.
Beverage World: Can you describe the working relationship between your company and Disney/Marvel?
Kevin Sherman: True Drinks currently has a licensing agreement with both Disney and Marvel to utilize their trademarked characters on our patented package design. Consequently, I work directly with the Disney and Marvel creative teams. Many of the evergreen and newer characters are featured on our packaging. True Drinks also has the opportunity to utilize characters from yet-to-be-released movies such as “Monsters University.”
Marvel and Disney have both shared their enthusiasm around the unique packaging design. The spherical package design acts as if it is a mini-billboard for their many well known characters. When a typical kid’s juice box is sitting on the table it only allows the consumer to see one panel, which could be the nutritional panel with no images at all. The spherical design, however, displays greater surface area and actually leads the eye to the next image. It invites the consumer to turn the bottle and look at the design all the way around.
The actual label design work is done in concert with the Disney creative team. So, for example, when we’re going to be launching the (Disney characters) Phineas and Ferb around February 2013, we will get access to all of the approved art from Disney, and then decide on which characters we choose to feature on the bottle design. The same process is followed for our Marvel licensing arrangement. Once we agree on what character art to use it is up to us to best display the characters on the bottles.
Perhaps the greatest design challenge lies in the vast array of characters from which to choose at any given time. The Disney and Marvel character catalogue is enormous and contains many of the most beloved children’s character art. It is important to take note that Disney and Marvel have final say in the approval process for both design and layout before the product reaches retail shelves.
BW: Given, as you said, the Disney catalogue is so enormous, how exactly do you decide which character to feature on future versions of your drinks?
Sherman: I will work closely with Disney and Marvel in order to put a retailer calendar in place designating certain characters over the course of the year. It is critically important that we are very clear to the retailers about what character art will be available when, including new movie releases we might take part in.
BW: How often are new labels being designed and added?
Sherman: The evergreen properties such as Mickey or Minnie Mouse, or the Princess line including Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana and Rapunzel or Spiderman will always have a significant presence with our retailers since there is a tremendous familiarity with these characters; however, as mentioned earlier, new movie releases make available to us an original set of characters. We will then mutually decide whether or not to pursue using these characters on our bottles. The key is our ongoing communication with Disney and Marvel in making those decisions.
BW: Does the unique shape of the product present any production hurdles?
Leonard: While sleeveing and filling this round bottle design bring complexity to the production of the AquaBall Naturally Flavored Water, it also gives us a point of differentiation at the point of sale.
BW: Are there any sustainable or green qualities about
Leonard: We believe the unique bottle, and licensed entertainment, will not only attract consumers to our product for healthy hydration, but the collectability of AquaBall will create a ‘second life’ and keep the bottles out of landfills and the waste stream.
BW: So overall, just how important would you say the packaging is to AquaBall?
Leonard: We believe that the unique, patented designed bottle we are using for AquaBall Naturally Flavored Water captures the fun and excitement that kids are looking for and uniqueness that will drive creative merchandising at retail.
But no matter how eye catching and unique the AquaBall Naturally Flavored Water bottle is, we will never get away from the fact that it is what is inside the bottle that really separates us from the competition. We are offering the healthiest beverage alternative in the category with a great taste, no calories and a beverage that is enhanced with essential vitamins. At the end of the day the package will attract shoppers but the product will keep them coming back.