Did Poland Spring Blow Its Big Close-Up?


Clearly, it’s not every day that a brand gets handed free exposure on a national television event with a profile and audience size rivaling Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

Actually, of course, Poland Spring’s big close-up (quickly labeled “water-gate” or “water-bottle-gate” by media wags) came during the GOP response after President Obama’s address, when official GOP spokesperson Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stopped in mid-sentence to reach awkwardly for a bottle of Poland Spring and take a gulp.

It’s not clear exactly how many viewers lingered to watch the GOP response, but Nielsen reports that 43 million watched the State of the Union address (no small feat, these days, although that’s about 39% the size of the Super Bowl’s nearly 109 million audience). Furthermore, the Rubio water-grab topic instantly began trending on Twitter, out-buzzing prominent phrases or memes used by the President during his speech, reported Twitter analytics service Topsy. 



But while Rubio was quick to respond with a self-deprecating tweet of a photo of the Poland Spring bottle, Poland Spring’s response was notably delayed and limited to a single effort.  

The Nestlé Waters North America brand, which has two Twitter accounts ( and stopped posting on these accounts as of July 2010 and January 2011, respectively. And the brand didn’t break the Twitter silence to comment on the Rubio moment.

As of late afternoon on Wednesday, the brand’s only mention on social media came around noon EST, when it posted, on its Facebook page, a photo (shown above) of a Poland Spring bottle in front of a lighted makeup mirror, with the comment: “Reflecting on our cameo. What a night!”

Much earlier in the morning, however (starting just hours after the broadcast), other social types had already been busy on the brand’s Facebook page. 

A YouTube video showing repetitive, rapid cuts to Sen. Rubio’s water moment, with background music by rapper Lil John, was embedded there for a time (the poster was identified as Emberwilde Productions), and drew more than 170 likes before it disappeared later in the morning. Beneath the video, a post identified as from Julio Fernandez, VP search marketing & analytics at, had commented: “Manufactured by a subsidiary of Nestlé and you were not able to get the marketing team to respond? Time to get a new agency!” (That post was also gone by late morning.)

Poland Spring’s Facebook “likes” stood at 208,415 as of 8 a.m. on Feb. 13, and were up by about 100 by late afternoon.

Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications for Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), told Bloomberg Businessweek’s director of social media, Jared Keller, “I had no idea we would get such a response to an impromptu sip of water.” Later in the day, speaking to Marketing Daily, she said: “We monitor and listen to a number of social media platforms, and we decided that the best way to engage with [Poland Spring] fans was on Facebook. So we’ve focused on building our relationships on Facebook, and it’s working very well.” 

NWNA and the brand are “thrilled” that Poland Spring happened to be the water that Rubio reached for in a “natural moment of thirst,” and also thrilled by the “enthusiastic response” on social media, as well as by “lots” of media inquiries and emails from others in the business, Lazgin said, adding: “It took a little while to put our [Facebook] message together.”

Other Marketers Weigh In On Poland Spring’s Response

On social media, in online columns and in comments to Marketing Daily, many marketers expressed the opinion that Poland Spring’s response was a missed opportunity. Lee Odden, CEO of online and social media services firm, praised the content of Poland Spring’s Facebook posting, adding: “Better late than never.” However, he believes that the brand’s lack of Twitter response was a “lost opportunity.”

While the moment was still a positive, rather than negative, for the brand, it’s a “cost of doing business” to invest in monitoring social media and having policies and procedures in place to respond and engage in a timely fashion, Odden says. “If you don’t, your customers -- and possibly your competitors -- will. You miss out on all of those social moments that are part of the brand experience, and risk possibly looking not very forward-thinking.” 

Poland Spring may have been fortunate, he notes, in that competitors seem to have opted not to seize the opportunity to use social media to “get snarky” about Poland Spring or try to capitalize with messaging for their own brands.

While a non-response can be one of the positions in a brand’s social media policy, a lack of response can be as influential in the social sphere as a response, Odden notes. His take is that Poland Spring would likely have benefitted by getting a humorous  -- non-political -- brand message (like the one it ultimately posted on Facebook) out sooner. Like others, he cites the enormous positive social brand exposure realized by Oreo through its instantaneous tweet during the Super Bowl: “Power out? No problem. You can dunk in the dark.”

However, some marketers note that the political context did add a layer of complexity in this instance.  

“While the Rubio accidental plug is a social moment, a brand like Poland Spring probably has no interest in being aligned with Republicans for fear of turning off their fans who are Democrats,” points out Drew Neisser, CEO of social media and marketing agency Renegade. “As such, they would need to find an apolitical way of amplifying the moment. This isn't the easiest thing to do, particularly if your social team isn't prepared for the random topical opportunity (à la the Oreo team).

“That said, Poland Spring could and should have a lot of fun with this, both creating their own memes and amplifying the ones popping up,” Neisser adds. “Carpe diem is high on the list of social media best practices. The trick is to do it in a humorous way that is still consistent with the brand's voice.”

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