Fiji Water Lady: Marketing genius or one hit wonder?
Posted on Jan 8, 2019 by Brad McCabe

She's been dubbed the real winner of the Golden Globes, staring down the barrel of the camera with a wry smile behind Hollywood's elite, but was 'Fiji Water Girl' a major splash or a minor ripple in the marketing world?

As the Golden Globes red carpet coverage unfolded yesterday afternoon, one particular face kept popping up in what seemed like every shot.

Dubbed 'Fiji Water Girl' and carrying expensive bottles of water in a blue tiered cascading gown, she is seen hovering strategically to the side, or in the background, of many Golden Globes stars.

Media have named her as Kelleth Cuthbert, a Los Angeles-based Canadian model with a social work degree.

She created a wave on social media and has already been turned into a series of memes.

Apex Marketing Group president Eric Smallwood told Yahoo that Fiji Water saved almost $18 million in advertising from yesterday's exposure.

Vaughn Davis, the owner of Auckland advertising agency The Goat Farm thought the 'guerilla styled' marketing campaign by Fiji Water was a master stroke.

"It got people talking about it all over the world.

"Not only did it generate dozens of images from the red carpet itself, it spawned a whole lot of user created memes with Kelleth, the Water Girl herself, in the background of photos she never appeared in," he said.

Mr Davis said the campaign had all the ingredients for viral success.

"She was perfectly cast, almost that Cinderella Disney princess idea that you wanted to believe that some woman handing out water at the awards somehow ended up in the back of all these photos.

"Of course she didn't just happen to turn up there. Fiji Water is a sponsor of the Golden Globes, has been for a long time, this would have been carefully choreographed, all arranged, but we wanted to believe and that's what we did."

But Massey University head of public relations Dr Chris Galloway didn't see it the same way as Mr Davis, saying he thought the marketing campaign was a cheap marketing ploy.

"A stunt is designed to draw attention, obviously, but if you're going to do something to bring a brand or a company or organisation to the public's attention, it should be part of a programme of activity that is designed to reinforce attributes about the organisation in the mind of the public.

"You don't do things in isolation, if I were Fiji Water and I wanted to promote the brand, I would be wanting to do, by all means a stunt that gets attention, but do it as part of a programme that may involve TV commercials, online advertising, sponsorship, whatever, but you don't do something like this.

"I would think that next year, the organisers [of the Golden Globes] would be very reluctant, at the least, to have people pulling something like this again... because it kind of detracts a little from what the event is all about," Dr Galloway said.

Dr Galloway added that marketing stunts like this tended to have minimal impact long-term.

"Most people's attention spans are pretty short which is why it's important to have a planned campaign.

"So people may be talking for 24 hours about this stunt and then we'll forget about it, but if you're really wanting to promote a brand effectively you need to do it over a period of time and keep reminding people about the key aspects of your product or service that you want them to hold on to and ideally act upon."

Mr Davis did agree that attention spans may be short, but thinks in the age of social media, Fiji Water Girl could stick around for a while.

"We've seen memes going back five, 10, 15 years that are still in common circulation today and there's no reason this can't be one of those.

"Remember, Fiji Water is not paying one cent for every little Instagram post or Facebook picture with Fiji Water Girl in it, it's free."

Article as posted on Radio New Zealand.

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