Strategy. Innovation. Brand.

Water Bras and Multiple Sclerosis

It's not a water bra. It's a cooling vest.

It’s not a water bra.
It’s a cooling vest.

When we discuss brand extensions in my branding class, we like to look at both successes and failures. Successful brand extensions include Honda lawn mowers, Hershey’s chocolate milk, Jeep strollers, and Dove shampoo. Failures include Harley-Davidson wine coolers, Kleenex diapers, and Bic perfumes.

Perhaps the most notable failure that we discussed this quarter was the Evian Water Bra. Yes, Evian actually designed a bra that you can fill with water – Evian, one supposes. Why Evian did this, no one seems to know. The company has been skewered on many branding and marketing websites. Everyone who can write a snarky sentence seems to have done so. When I first saw the bra, I thought, “What were they thinking?”

Then I considered  mashup thinking and multiple sclerosis. It may seem like an odd combination but, well … that’s the point of mashups. As Frans Johansson notes, the best innovations come from the intersection of very different ideas.

People with MS don’t process heat very well. They become overheated quite easily. They often need to wear cooling garments to disperse the heat and keep their MS symptoms under control. And those cooling garments are often filled with … water.

My friend, Cathey Riechers, maintains an online store to sell cooling vests and similar garments. Roughly three-quarters of those who live with MS are women, so many of the garments are in women’s shapes and sizes.

Cooling garments work well but – let’s be honest – they’re not very fashionable. They’re like orthopedic shoes. They’re helpful but you wouldn’t want to wear them to the prom.

I’ve occasionally wondered why we couldn’t design fashionable cooling garments. As I pondered the Evian water bra, it struck me that Evian has done exactly that. Only they called it a water bra. That’s bad positioning. Let’s re-position it as a fashionable cooling garment for women who have MS. There’s a market there. And perhaps it’s the tip of an iceberg … perhaps there are many other women who don’t have MS but still would like to stay cool.

Here’s my proposal. Let’s ask Evian if they will re-position their product and allow it to be sold as a cooling garment. This could be a huge PR bonanza for Evian. They can take something that was widely mocked and convert into something that helps millions of women. It was a product searching for a problem to solve. Now we’ve found the problem.

If Evian will do that, I’m sure that we can find distribution and sales outlets throughout the MS community worldwide. We probably can’t pay much for the licensing but we can sure talk up Evian and buy lots of Evian product.

So, what do you think Evian? How about it?

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