PUR Uses Self-Important Water Critic In Major Push

There's nothing like an eccentric mascot to help consumers remember a packaged good or home appliance brand. Most consumers — depending on their generation — can rattle off a short list of beloved characters that have become irrevocably linked to products. 

That approach, however, has not been tried in the water filtration category until now. PUR Water Filtration has made a sanctimonious "water critic" named Arthur Tweedie (played by an actor) central to its first rebranding since the Kaz division of Helen of Troy Ltd. acquired it from Procter & Gamble  in 2012. 

Tweedie's self-appointed role in the world is to teach lesser beings why water purification is the sine qua non of good health and proper water responsibility, and why PUR is the brand for the job, whether the vehicle is pitcher filtration or faucet mount. The character — who might actually benefit from several gallons of unfiltered water from eastern Oregon, which is loaded with lithium — has a propensity for sudden bouts of rage directed at competitive brands and morons who just can't get with the program. 

He appears in three TV spots, and a host of digital elements that call out competitive brands. In one spot, he is in a company break room, giving a lecture on the benefits of filtered water, PUR and the MAXION filtration technology employed by the brand's devices. His boss comes in and asks him to go back to work. The unfiltered fireworks go from there.  

The character also holds forth on a social channel @ArthurTweedie, and his Tumblr site ArthurTweedie.com, where one can find short, really odd GIFs, like one where he's watching archival footage of an atomic test on YouTube (a metaphor for his personality quirks?), and longer videos from which the TV spots are snipped.

The effort is by Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, which Kaz tapped late last year to handle the PUR brand after the brand parted ways with TBWA\Chiat\Day. 

"We are trying to re-imagine what the brand can be," says Brian Carboni, marketing director at Southborough, Mass.-based Kaz Inc. He tells Marketing Daily that part of the challenge is to build awareness and consideration in a category that isn't exactly sexy. "We needed to be fun and different to break through. We also want consumers to think about the quality of their drinking water. And we want to establish ourselves as superior." Which points to the turf battle for share of the $1.5 billion category for mostly pitcher-based filtration led by Brita. PUR leads in faucet-installed filters.

And, says Carboni, there's the bottled water competition, which has put a fence around home filter market growth. "Filtration has a very interesting relationship with bottled water," he says. "As bottle sales go up, filtration can be flat. Over the past year and a half there has been a bit of softening in the [filtration] category for a couple of reasons: one is decreases in competitive media, and increase in promotional levels of bottled water. But we think a campaign like this, with its eccentric character, will help a lot." He says PUR's market budget is in the neighborhood of $15 million, slightly up from last year.  

The rebranding effort includes new packaging and logo for the brand, and a spotlight on the MAXION branded name for the product's filtration technology. The company has also redesigned its website with a focus both on product and a "why filter" delineation of category benefits: incremental reduction in human-made geology -- i.e. plastic bottles; savings from not buying water in plastic; reduction of contaminants; and the salubrious influence of good hydration.

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