Bottled water, eyeglass repair kits, kids, Wal-Mart (and construction marketing)

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Wal-Mart Get on the ShelfThis blog’s topic is quite an odd headline, eh.  Yet there is a link here, based on Wal-Mart’s “Get on the Shelf” initiative, which combined some social media marketing techniques with good-old-fashioned emotional appeal to propel three product-makers to coveted high-profile space on the discount retailer’s shelves.

In the program, 4,000 potential suppliers entered the competition and invited the public to vote.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the top two winners — a bottled-water supplier and eyeglasses kit maker — won their spots because of charitable initiatives, especially relating to children.  The third, a device to cover food on plates, probably had enough mass TV-type appeal to get there without the generosity of supporting kids-based charities.

The Get on the Shelf grand prize winner truly warmed our hearts and showed us that the Wal-Mart customer cares. Humankind Water is bottled water with a mission: providing clean water to some of the 1 billion people without it. 100 per cent of Humankind Water’s net profits go to ending this global crisis.

Ahh, perfect for mass appeal and social media likes, email support campaigns and a degree of viral marketing.  Who wouldn’t spend nothing but a few clicks to help third-world kids have safe drinking water (by purchasing water bottled in Pennsylvania?)

CNN Money reported on the competition:

“I am thrilled,” said T.J. Foltz, president of HumanKind Water, which sources its product from the Poconos Mountains. “We knew people were voting for us like crazy. But we had no idea we’d win.”

Scoring a deal with the world’s largest retailer is like hitting the jackpot for a small business vendor. For Foltz, it’s especially significant since his product just launched last October.

More important to him, though, is the exposure he hopes this win will bring to the cause behind HumanKind Water.

Foltz said 100% of net profits from its sales will go toward developing clean water wells, water filtration systems and rain catchment systems in underdeveloped communities in Haiti, Africa and Asia.

“Ten thousand kids die every day because of lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation from contaminated water,” he said. “Every one of these deaths can be prevented.”

We can argue about the social and environmental issues of bottled water, but we can’t question this marketing success.  Wal-Mart hasn’t decided if it will repeat the contest; a spokesperson told CNN that the company will assess the results of the first competition.

Generally, in construction, we aren’t selling to mass consumer markets.  Even retail contractors generally work with (for individual consumers) rather high-ticket purchases, but we can see how aligning with causes and issues relevant to popular perception can be of value.  This is why children’s hospitals and related charities are so popular.  I could argue that supporting less popular causes might be more effective.  Good deeds often translate to practical working relationships (or result from them).  Local contractors might raise millions of dollars for the local hospital or community college — but the hospital is on a building spree and the community college is enhancing its construction trades training programs.

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