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Trendsetters: Evian's Olga Osminkina-Jones Shares How to Make a Classic Brand Contemporary
Olga Osminkina-Jones has come a long way in marketing—literally. A native of Siberia, she is currently working for a French conglomerate in the United States as Vice President of Marketing for Danone Waters of America with responsibility for leading marketing strategy and execution for North America across the company's premium water portfolio that includes Evian, Badoit and Volvic.
A well-traveled internationalist who speaks English and Russian, as well as French and Italian, she has over 15 years of experience in marketing and business development in the consumer packaged goods and retail sectors, and has lived in and worked in Western Europe and Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, as well as the United States. Prior to Danone, she served as Senior Brand Director for Heineken. Her earlier roles included Global Executive Director at Estee Lauder and Senior Group Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble in Geneva.
Most recently her work on the classic Evian brand, garnered Olga lots of attention as she strove to make the brand more contemporary and also more profitable in the US and Canadian markets. In doing so, she has been able to demonstrate how bottled water can indeed become recognized as a "prestige" brand, while commanding premium prices and customer loyalty.
In fact, Olga is an advocate for redefining commodity as luxury, and she has shown how to revitalize a brand's value through both consumer and cultural insights and by creating disruption. The core of her thinking is based on overturning the common misconception that Millennials don't care about image.
She says, "This is untrue, especially among socially active, affluent Millennials, who put brands they love on a pedestal and will gladly pay a premium for them. However, it is true that Millennials are not impressed by name recognition alone. To them, ‘premium' is a combination of image and substance. A product needs to be authentic, rooted in deep and meaningful values and well-made, or the brand name itself is immaterial. Today's world of social media makes everything and everyone transparent so brands, like people, need to be true to their promise in everything they do"
Transitioning any established brand into a new space is a risky endeavor, as it could potentially alienate existing fans of the brand. Olga understood, though, that for Evian to remain viable, she needed to find elements of the brand's essence that were relevant to Millennials and present them in "today's language." The brand partnered with young, well-known fashion designer Alexander Wang to create a new design for the Evian water bottle. The campaign featured a bold, high-fashion video ad without words or text, presenting the new bottles in a visually stimulating way. More importantly, evian became a "friend" of Alexander Wang fashion house present in his stores, show room and shows alike, physically and in social media. The campaign was a major success for the brand, as the total number of campaign impressions dwarfed previous bottle launches, and the brand experienced a significant double-digit change in penetration among consumers 25 to 34 over the previous year.
She also believes that social media needs to be considered first in today's new marketing era; however, it should be used as a conversation vehicle—not as a broadcast medium. She has also shown how social can shift what she describes as a campaign's "center of gravity" from being ad-centric to purpose-centric.
Her #EvianBottleService intiative showcases just how social—used right—can connect with elusive Millennials. "Social," she says, "is at the heart of the Millennial consumer. Their constant fear of missing out (FOMO) has them glued to their networks as a way to keep updated on the newest trends, a channel to voice themselves and should serve as a key touch point to reach them. FOMO motivates this group to show up, share and engage. Combine that with the fact experiences are what matter most to them and help shape their identity. According to Millennial research done by EventRite, 72% say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year."
Leveraging these insights and drawing on her background, she also knew that sampling is often the most effective way to get consumer to consider a brand. As a result, #Evianbottleservice was launched as the brand's first-ever, real-time marketing project to deliver water to thirsty New Yorkers via a Twitter-enabled service. Consumers just had to use the hashtag to tweet Evian a message with their current location to trigger a team of bicycling brand ambassadors to hand-deliver a bottle of water within five to seven minutes. Even tennis great Maria Sharapova took part—no doubt on her way to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens. (Evian has been a sponsor of the U.S. Open for 30 years.)
The engagement on Twitter exceeded the benchmark for Consumer Packaged Goods /CPG brands by 80 percent. In the summer 2014 Evian has become the #1 water brand in Duane Reade, New York's largest convenient store, and has seen an increase of 46% in on-premise locations. The initiative was the start of Evian's ongoing journey back to the top of the Premium Water category, with learnings to be applied to more cities throughout the world.
Olga Osminkina-Jones was named an Internationalist of the Year for these efforts.