Nestle's New Scam: Marketing “Electrolytenment” Water For Affluent Women

The project runway crew roasting marshmallows in a fancy campsite

From Project Runway’s current season: Oh God, the glamping!

During its 12 seasons, Project Runway, Lifetime’s reality competition show with fashion designers angling to be “in,” has earned its exasperatingly accurate moniker, “Product Runway.” Product placement is part of the program, and hearing presenter Tim Gunn attempt to make a product sound relevant to a challenge is part of the spectacle.

Except this season, and oh especially August 22’s episode, “Let’s Go Glamping!” Glamping—a word that would send Samuel Johnson to the ale vat—is camping but, you know, “glamorous.” (Maybe they wanted to scale down the use of “camp” with so many gay male designers around?) But fair enough, and actually a really good concept for a challenge. Except that the sponsor was Resource Water

Resource Water, for those who till now have been lucky enough not to know, is yet another of the Nestle coven brand of environmentally catastrophic ways to sucker the gullible thirsty out of their cash. It debuted earlier this year with an ad that featured what looked like female members of Cirque du Soleil on an underwater yoga retreat. What really sent eyebrows soaring was that Resource positioned itself as a “premium, high-end” still water for “trendy,” affluent women. It’s actual, insufferable tagline is “Discover Electrolytenment.” Those women can afford and should prefer a top-of-the-line and much more attractive reusable bottle, but Nestle wants women to drink their Kool-Aid instead, and is pushing hard to sell them on the drink-and-discard model. 

As if telling women to spend money on what they don’t need, for a health that will in fact be compromised, wasn’t repellent enough, the chairman of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, made a video stating that the idea of humans having a right to water was “extreme.” He continued: “Personally, I believe it’s better to give a food stuff a value so that we’re all aware it has its price.” Rousing words from a man who’s never had to walk seven miles to pump water into a pail just to survive the day.

It’s not news that bottled water, sold in all the parts of the world where wonderfully drinkable water flows from any given tap, is the greatest marketing hoax since Dr. Isaac Baker-Brown determined that a clitoridectomy would cure hysteria. Annie Leonard’s video, The Story of Bottled Water, clearly explains why bottled water is not only unnecessary, it’s wreaking economic and environmental havoc. 

But that doesn’t stop people from pouring money into corporations’ pockets, rather than turning on taps or demanding more water fountains. With the emphasis on “health” bottled water especially targets women. As brain-bendingly nonsensical and offensive as Bic’s Pen for Her is, at least you do need pens. Telling women that bottled water is better for them is the exact opposite of healthy, both in the immediate for their bodies—plastic leeches into the system—and in the long-term, because that plastic is poisoning the ocean apace.

Resource Water bottle

But Nestle has never cared who it poisons and trusts that its products are so ubiquitous, and the people who rail against it are just hemp-wearing, granola-mainlining maniacs, that the profits will keep cascading in. So much so that they can afford to sponsor a season of Project Runway, with its enormous female fan base, all for the pleasure of seeing the contestants repeatedly slug down its product. One of this year’s prizes is a “year’s supply” of Resource Water—most people would probably be far more grateful to have their water bills paid for one year.

That not being enough, there was the glamping. When the contestants arrived at their wilderness grotto, replete with fairy lights, they were greeted by Tim Gunn, with Seona Skwara, Resource’s “Head of Activation.” (presumably Nestle hosted an “invent the job title” contest) She presented the standard patter: It’s a “100% natural spring water” (which likely means it was tapped from a poor community’s groundwater). Then the message turned inspirational: Resource believes in a “sense of discovery,” which it insists nature encourages.

No one should be surprised that Nestle would spout hypocrisy—this is the company that famously pushed formula over breast milk in poor countries. But folding in this idea of “discovery” and “nature” hides the reality of how Nestle products damage nature and bilk consumers. It is blatant greenwashing, the sort of advertising lie even Don Draper at his most cynical wouldn’t stoop to. It’s corporate sexism. Advertising has always told women they aren’t good enough just as they are, preying on the insecurities it builds in them in the first place. Asking women to spend their hard-earned money on what they can, and should, really, really should, get for free is an insult to all the people who fought for access to clean and safe water in the first place. Never mind a calorie-free drink, it’s really nifty to be cholera-free.

We can laugh at Nestle’s ad and its chairman—Stephen Colbert didand it’s too late to ask Project Runway to abandon them now. But it’s important to recognize that sexism in advertising isn’t just about the image, it’s about the product. And we can tell Nestle to insert its “high-end” water up its own end – we’re going to do what’s right for our bodies internally and externally, and turn on the tap. 

Sarah-Jane Stratford is a freelance writer and author of two historical fiction vampire novels. You can follow her on Twitter!

by Sarah-Jane Stratford
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3 Comments Have Been Posted

I agree, but it's easier said than action

... and I love Annie Leonard's "Story of ..." projects to pieces ... true food for thought ...

But that all said, the unfortunate reality is that too many water systems in too many communities are unfortunately treating and maintaining water that results in processed water being unhealthy for human consumption. Too many people right now are relying on bottled water out of necessity because many water systems treat what is considered ... and supposed to be ... safe, "healthy" drinking water with too many unhealthy, even dangerous chemicals in their water treatment processes. In my community I have a problem with tasting sodium in my water at times. That indicates that the water is being treated with sodium (salts), which, if consumed in mass quantities, is very unhealthful for humans and even other living creatures. Given how our even "healthy" food diets are sodium-laden, drinking sodium-tasting water as a part of these diets adds to the problem.

We, as a community, have tried in vain to complain to our water service provider about the excess sodium in our drinking water. But all they do is reply to us saying that sodium is a component of a necessary part of their treatment system, and if they did not use it, our water would be even more unsafe. B.S.!

I am not at all a "shill" for the bottled water industry. I personally feel guilty for drinking bottled water sometimes because I cannot personally stand the taste of excess sodium in my own tap water that I pay our water service provider every month to have come out of my faucets.

Sure, there are those in-home "filtration" systems one can buy at the store and bring home to use. But those items are expensive, overpriced (in my opinion), and cumbersome to use - a pain to maintain for busy people and people of lower incomes. It would be nice if my water service provider would sell them for a nominal or minimum charge. But they don't. Buying pitchers and replacement filters at the store every so often adds up.

But what I am trying to say here is that there is a bigger picture ... and problem ... to the status of water on our planet, and the very real issues of accessibility and an industry that is runaway-profiting from the sales of not just bottled water, but also of corporations profiting from community water systems - the privatization of water that is absolutely critical for the survival of not only humans, but of all living creatures. This issue of water is beyond just not buying bottled water. Tap water in any community should be as good, if not even more healthful, than the bottled water that is on the market.

Why don't you do some proper research?

"As if telling women to spend money on what they don’t need, for a health that will in fact be compromised, wasn’t repellent enough, the chairman of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, made a video stating that the idea of humans having a right to water was “extreme.”"

What he actually says is that extreme water use - i.e. to water golf courses or wash fleets of cars is 'extreme', I'm no apologist for Nestle, but I don't think he takes issue with the basic human need for water to fulfill day-to-day needs as a right. But don't let the the facts knock you off your high horse, eh Sarah-Jane?

I can't believe

I honestly can't believe the previous commenters are defending nestle. I guess radical ideas can be intimidating if you like your creature comforts, i.e, bottled water, internet access, kitchen appliances and all the other bullshit people would undoubtedly defend until the end for no good reason. Think a little, humans.

Sarah-Jane, Thanks for a wonderful article. Its nice to see environmentalism tied to feminism. Recognizing inter-connectedness is so important.

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