Seeing your company and brands in 20/20: why a clear vision is the only path forward

 

Seth Hillstrom (SH): 

What do you think is most paramount in turning great products into great brands?  I’d say having a focused vision and making a real commitment to innovation is a great place to start.  And that’s why we’re chatting with Reza Mirza, CEO of Icelandic Glacial, for today’s edition of our eBev Global Interview Series (https://lnkd.in/d8MCg2t). Please don’t hesitate to join  in yourself, and Reza, thanks so much for being with us today! 

Reza Mirza (RM):

Happy to be here.

SH:

Reza, as anyone in our industry knows, one of the hallmarks of Icelandic Glacial is your ability to maintain a close relationship with your group of loyal, passionate consumers. This type of relationship with a water brand doesn’t happen by accident. Let’s start from the beginning – can you tell me about the vision for Icelandic Glacial, and how that may (or may not) have evolved as you push into a new, multi-brand era.

RM:

When I started with the company nearly 4 years ago, Jon Olafsson, Kristjan Olafsson and I had a conversation about what we’d like to see Icelandic Glacial evolve into. We shared a similar vision of Icelandic Glacial as the engine of a multi-brand beverage company in healthy, good for you categories. Icelandic glacial will be the premium brand for all ones hydration needs from Still to sparkling to flavored sparkling. We will be launching our flavored sparkling in March 2018 at Expo West

SH:

Very exciting! I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the flavored sparkling line next month.

To bring such an incredible vision to life (while maintaining your leadership role as the first bottled water to ever be carbon neutral), you have to have a plan, and you have to be committed to innovating along the way. From your early dedication to sustainability, to offering one of the first major DTC programs, to your consistently creative and powerful use of marketing technology, and now becoming a global, multi-brand beverage company…it’s clear that innovation has always been at the core of what you’re doing at Icelandic Glacial. How have you fostered this culture, and why is innovation so near and dear your leadership style?

RM:

Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization. Unless you constantly innovate around your core consumer promise, you run the risk of becoming stagnant. We want to be the complete hydration partner to our core consumers who love the taste of our water. First, we launched a line extension with our sparkling water, and now, we are getting ready to introduce sparkling flavors, giving consumers the goodness of Icelandic Glacial in different forms. Like I said, without Innovation that is relevant and addresses changing consumers taste, one dies. Innovation keeps our brand exciting.

SH:

So you have this clear vision, you have this culture of innovation – but it takes a lot more than that to win passionate fans and motivate/inspire not just brand loyalty, but brand advocacy. From your last keynote at eBev, I know you put the consumer at the center of everything you do. Tell us a little more about your consumer-centric approach to building your brand.

And how does that extend beyond marketing – is it pervasive to the goals you’re setting and strategies you’re putting in place for the rest of the company?

RM:

Let me introduce you to our consumer, Ali. Ali is a 27-year-old female who values emotional and physical health and wellness. She is forward-thinking and cares about the environment & sustainability and has a thirst for unique experiences finding happiness in taking the road less traveled.

Everything we do is in an effort to connect with Ali. In terms of strategy, we must ensure we are available where Ali shops and we are easy to find. Additionally, we must have products that Ali will want to drink. It is crucial we connect to her on an emotional level to encourage that purchase. All our marketing strategies are around connecting with Ali on an emotional level. That the brand resonates with Ali.

SH:

This last fall we all experienced a great deal of heartbreak watching the desperate images coming back from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – and you were driven to get involved, partnering with Ben Stiller & Stiller Foundation, Cher, and Save the Children International to deliver of 600,000 bottles of water to those desperately in need. This was incredible, but it’s not the first time Icelandic has reached into the coffers and made an impact in people’s lives. In fact, it’s not even the first time you’ve done this in partnership with Cher – whom you worked with to help the residents of Flint, Michigan. Tell us why you feel so strongly about corporate social responsibility and global citizenship – and how you envision Icelandic Glacial carrying this torch into the next generation.

RM:

When Jon and Kristjan started this business, from day one, they were focused on sustainability and making a difference to the world we live in. That is what Icelandic is about. We are fortunate to have a source that is 100% sustainable and a team of dedicated, passionate people, giving us the opportunity to step up in times of need. We were one of the first on the ground in Haiti following the devastating earthquake and have since made large donations to the people of Flint in partnership with Cher and most recently to the people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in partnership with Cher and Ben Stiller. We will continue to provide water to those in need when we are able to and are currently working on a new program to help reach even more of those people in the near future. Its small droplets that make an ocean.

SH:

Okay, so we’ve heard quite a story – one of a brand that’s just as authentically artisanal as the water that’s actually in the bottle. And we’ve established that you built quite a culture of innovation in the process. So my final question to you, on behalf of our BMA members and brand marketers everywhere, is: what applications of innovations and technologies do you see being most drastically impactful to your business over the next 5-10 years? Wow us with something exciting!

RM:

Number one is speed to market. Advances in technology have allowed us to work incredibly fast, reaching consumers with new products and new packaging more quickly than ever before. For example, we utilize 3D printing which allows us to create bottle shapes and test out new packaging with an extremely quick turnaround time.

We also leverage technology to connect with consumers in real-time. Something we are excited about and are exploring now is the opportunity to communicate our brand message through VR. I don’t want to give anything away, but what I can say is you will see things from Icelandic Glacial that you’ve never seen from another brand before. Exciting time ahead!

SH:

It certainly sounds exciting! Reza, thank you so much for joining us today. And for everyone else, please don’t hesitate to chime in with any questions or ideas in the time to come.

RM:

Thanks Seth!

 

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