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Archive for the ‘parents’ Category

Well it rhymes with trouble and strife, but no-one really wants to read of another’s woes, so I opted for the more palatable headline… We too have the day to day pressures of running a growing business, late paying customers and un-cooperative banks, but in the wider scheme of things, we’re winning down here at AQUAPAX head office, with both our customer base and distribution network moving in the right direction. More importantly, as an entrepreneur with a reasonably healthy ‘macro’ perspective, we remain healthy and happy as a family during those precious (few) hours we spend together.

Someone bought my attention to a hydration article recently which is worth sharing… Recent research has uncovered habitual dehydration among 96% of the UK’s office workers, which has prompted a campaign by one of the more worthy natural juice companies (Juice Doctor). It’s designed to educate the nation and encourage healthy hydration habits, urging people to check the colour of their urine as a matter of course and setting the nation a goal to ‘keep it light’.

Apparently two in every three Brits are dehydrated and while our bodies offer an accurate visual detector to understand our individual hydration level, there’s a distinct lack of understanding of what the campaign refers to as ‘simple biology’. Their findings show that 93 percent of office workers either don’t check and/or don’t know what the colour of their urine indicates. For those who didn’t study biology, the lighter your urine, the better you’re hydrated!

The ‘Keep It Light!’ survey polled over 1,000 UK office workers and apparently a shocking 75 percent of UK office workers cited their first response to a headache as taking headache pills rather than drinking more water. This coincides with my observations at the fabulous designer label Theatre de la Mode’s Olympian Exhibition in Brompton Rd last week; we allowed a significant quantity of water for consumption on a hot evening, only to find a majority seeking hydration in vodka punch. It was a nice punch, but moderation went out of the window! Still, the wise ones would have been grateful for their AQUAPAX experience next morning…

Back to the report, which claims the majority of folk surveyed, 60% believed they drank enough water, less than 4% were actually getting the recommended 7+ glasses of water per day. Shockingly (from my perspective) almost three-quarters of the respondents admitted to drinking either no water at all or only one to two glasses.  I find it’s a good discipline to keep my AQUAPAX on my desk at work. I can then re-fill it from the water dispenser (aka tap) and put the lid back on to keep my water cool inside the pack rather than sitting in an open glass warming while awaiting colleagues to cough in it… (bad image but that’s the reality!)

It’s proven that a mere 2% drop in hydration can lead to a massively disproportionate 20% drop in concentration. This leads to the ‘Keep It Light!’ campaign crux which warns a habitually dehydrated worker can be wasting up to one day per week in loss of concentration. Staggering statistics!

Enough of the public service broadcast for one blog, what’s happenening at AQUAPAX head office I hear you ask… Yes that was a typo if you looked closely, but if it’s good word for a 4 year old, it’s cool by me!

AQUAPAX has commenced the long awaited launch into the first 60 Tesco stores, primarily across the south east of England, but some as far afield as the midlands where we’re in Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon. It’s an ambient listing in the first instance, which means the AQUAPAX will probably be on the shelf rather than in the fridge, however, that’s the way it has to be before we can roll out to a more accessible store base within a more prominent front of store location.

We’re awaiting the wider scale roll out before making noise and generating attention to our presence, which we’re planning to coincide with our new website – running a little late but live before the Summer’s out.  On that note, it’s time to start the week – well it is almost 07:00 so the week has officially begun. Keep smilling 🙂

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I went to the eThursday event at the Corn Exchange in Brighton yesterday evening where Dr. Alex Krotoski (aka the high priestess of social media) revealed herself as a genuine guru in her field.

She is one seriously nice person with a charming and disarming honesty that you can’t help smile at. She spoke generously about her background influences as well as all the tech stuff people were expecting and answered all the questions thrown at her with a considered and full explanation.

I’m pleased to know that I’m not the only one who believes facebook is on its way out and that a real friend is someone you talk to instead of ‘throwing sheep’ at – it’s apparently a facebook thing which I wouldn’t bother with if you haven’t heard of it…

She didn’t necessarily explain why social media has taken off the way it has; no-one asked that question specifically, yet still I wonder…

Social media is a term I didn’t grow up with. There again, we hadn’t ever heard of bottled water or mobile phones in those days (even the new fangled cordless phone versions were pretty chunky) and computers were something banks used instead of calculators… note to self – stop rambling Neil.

But I do remember that when we walked anywhere or went on holiday as a family, my parents would acknowledge neighbours or strangers with a polite greeting and encourage us kids to do the same – not quite as clichéd as in ‘The Truman Show’ but there were definite human acknowledgements and interactions with passing strangers.

I genuinely believe the passing of one of the age old customs of ‘tipping one’s hat’ to a stranger is in some way part of the reason why social media has become so popular today. I believe we all need interaction with our fellow man and that by and large we’re not ‘getting it’ in our daily lives. Talking to strangers on a train or bus puts me into a very small minority category of the populace – hence many of us sign-up to blog or twitter and worse to ‘follow’ strangers; somehow connecting with them and commenting on their musings, without ever meeting.

I do know that ‘harnessing’ (a word that used to have an association with a horse) social media is important for any challenger brand like mine. I do so want to embrace (even hug) the wonderful people who demonstrate their individuality every day by buying AQUAPAX, but it’s sometimes very challenging to find the time to ‘blog’ at the end of a full shift. Keeping up with ‘doing social media’ has become something of a chore for me, rather than the creative release that it started out as. I’m more of a people person than a pc person.

I confess I’m a user and fan of twitter – as the hopefully not too outrageous 140 character musings on the right will testify, and I wonder whether the longer term trend and an increasing workload will move me away from blogging to more cryptic tweets as a way of saying hi… The fact is that I want to tweet a lot more than I do, but I don’t. This is strangely out of a respect for those people who are following me, a lot of whom I’ve never met, who probably don’t want to know every time I have a cup of coffee or what my personal political jaundice is.

My favourite moment of last night was when Dr Aleks (she likes being called ‘Dr’) made the following random (and clearly heartfelt) statement as the microphone was moving around the room: – “man I’m loving this AQUAPAX water – isn’t this great branding?”

I told you she was nice with her self proclaimed ‘funny accent’ she pronounced it in an odd way, but she certainly made my evening with her human connection to ‘my baby’.

Have a wonderful weekend whatever your doing; whoever you are… 😉

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Opportunities I mean – you wait forever for the one you want and then 2 come along at the same time… it’s certainly been like that lately, hence my absence from writing.

We partnered with Estethica for their press day at the London May Fair hotel on 11th November. Estethica is officially the British Fashion Council’s eco sustainable initiative and it’s now in its seventh season. During that time it’s evolved to become the epicentre (and the collective conscience) for London’s ethical fashion industry and it was an honour that they asked AQUAPAX (the conscience of the bottled water industry) to partner with them for this prestigious and premium quality event.

The day was a tremendous success showing there’s no need to compromise on design or style while remaining true to one’s personal and professional ethics. Despite some seriously ‘off-piste’ questioning at the start of the open press session, everyone agreed it was sensible for Estethica to maintain a separate stance to the core BFC press day, where they otherwise risk being marginalised by the big name classics.

I even managed to meet my son for a ‘pie and mash’ dinner near London Bridge later in the evening, which is something we haven’t done for a long time.

As if that wasn’t enough activity for one day, I’d started the day in Lewes (East Sussex), where the students at Sussex Down College were presenting the output of their Digital Media ‘motion graphics’ module. These incredibly talented individuals used AQUAPAX as their challenger brand to support with a series of viral ads, created to spread the word of our more sustainable mineral water against the corporate communications might of ‘the big boys’. At this point I’d very much like to publicly thank both the students and their tutors, particularly Sue Bamford and their professional animation tutor Sarah Bird – her work is awesome if you have the time…

The videos are now posted on you tube and if you search for AQUAPAX, you’ll see there’s quite a quirky collection gathering… (or click & follow this link) They range from seriously professional to… well, make up your own mind. Some students got a little close to simply condemning plastic bottles as opposed to actually promoting AQUAPAX, but as the group were kind enough to do this work for my brand, I wasn’t going to try and influence or control their output.
As a brand owner, this loss of control to a group of students could be perceived a brave (or foolish) decision, but I believe a brand exists in an open form, to be embraced (or not) and ultimately shaped by its consumers. How else would our brand have ended up within a ‘monty python’ style wacky but imminently watchable video?

Sure advertising can try to control consumer perception of a brand, but as a marketer, I’m conscious that brand interaction becomes more intimate once the ‘buy’ decision has been made; during the consumption phase or post purchase remorse as we were taught when I was a student.

Appreciating this isn’t a normal experience with a consumable like bottled water, it’s the iconic AQUAPAX design – thanks again SunHouse – which helps us build an emotional connectivity with our customers. As the retail price points for AQUAPAX and the plethora of plastic bottled stuff are broadly the same, our design led brand image has become our real brand attribute.

Anyone who’s read my blog (or tried our water) knows our product quality is superior but providing it can at least live up to and reinforce initial consumer perception of our brand promise (which it absolutely does) I believe that’s a more important brand attribute than me trying to tell consumers what their brand perception should be. Perception is reality as my friend Chris used to say.

Our French distributors have a slightly different perspective to my ‘let it be’ approach and you can see their incredibly professional animated video film in the same ‘you tube’ space if you type in our brand name, or follow my tweet link on the right. I respect the wonderfully collaborative creative work from Drinkyz and their partners at Scorpio Music and love both the funky imagery and the music itself; yet at the same time, there’s a shorter video from a Sussex Downs student called David Rosser which absolutely nails brand AQUAPAX in just 15 seconds!

Speaking of busses (I was in the beginning) I’m off to see Vegan Routes tomorrow in Brewer St. Soho, where AQUAPAX is the beverage of choice in their fine new vegan restaurant on board a renovated and quality converted 1967 Routemaster bus… Maybe we can meet there for lunch one day 🙂

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7 day weeks are no fun anymore. The Sussex Show was busy enough (although not as busy as last year) and working with my son on father’s day was a reward in itself; but my feet hurt a great deal more than they ever have in the past and beating the break even point at around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon hardly made me smile.

Maybe it’s a simple draining of energy because I’ve always believed how old you are is not as important as how you are old. 😉 Certainly working with my son taught me a few things about myself this weekend and admitting I’m wrong (now and then) is my own modest way of showing I’m becoming wiser with the passage of time.

There was, as always, one potential ‘ace’ contact from the weekend and it proves my adage to treat every customer with respect and the ‘enthusiasm’ as if they were your first and only customer that day. Whether or not anything comes of this particular ‘ace’ is down to the follow up meeting we’ve scheduled for next week, but my intuition is strong that Aquapax on ‘prime time’ is drawing nearer and maybe ‘Robert’ will be a catalyst to help lead us there.

With hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t sign-up to do Glastonbury this year. I know the weather forecast is better than they’ve had in my recent memory, but there are times when one has to accept that 5 days of work by day and party by night is a tough gig! 

Besides that, now Aquapax is being enjoyed equally by the illustrious world champion England cricket team and by the beautiful people at the prestigious St. Tropez Polo Club, maybe it’s time my weekend sleeping arrangements were upgraded from a tent…

wonderful cricket players drink wonderful water

wonderful cricket players drink wonderful water

 

Beautiful people drinking beautiful water in a beautiful setting

Beautiful people drinking beautiful water in a beautiful setting

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As it’s officially earth day, and in consideration of a successful first ever VAT inspection, I figured 2 blogs might be forgiven at this (special to me) time. Besides the video going up on youtube (see the blog below) or check it out on the right – whatever – it’s a great time to talk about nitrates again.

Nitrates are the stuff that differentiates Aquapax from the majority of other bottled waters, mainly because Aquapax is virtually nitrate free (trace elements only) – why, because the water comes from under a nature reserve and there’s no commercial farming in the area! (you mean you haven’t read the package?)

Most of my other references to nitrates have been from very dry and gradually becoming outdated documents from the world health organisation (WHO) or the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) – isn’t inspectorate an odd word?

Check this out for some easy to read self education from those clever folks at Colorado State University, on what nitrates are and why you should probably avoid them. OK there’s no cure for stupidity, but at least try to protect your kids if you have any…

Colorado State is historically an agricultural school, so it’s incumbent on them to be on top of things like this and make it relevant to the public. I do hope you can take the time to read this – and perhaps pass it on to any parents you know who buy bottled water without reading the ingredient list.

‘Think inside the box’ or just drink Aquapax still applies if this is all getting too technical… 🙂

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OK, hardly a press announcement, but it is ‘earth day’ after all and this is our contribution…  Can only hope the site condron picks up on it and we get some ratings for our efforts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTH0GZLRo_M

stay happy – it is a beautiful earth after all and it’s down to you (and me) to keep it this way… 🙂

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Not quite sure what’s going on when a relatively small business like ours attracts a call from a VAT inspector but that’s exactly what we’ve got booked in for 2pm tomorrow. I guess it’s because we asked for some money back last quarter (legitimately) but there’s still an anxious feeling about having to go through as much as someone  might care to see in order to satisfy them we’re legit. The worst fear is how long I might have to spend on the subject and what if they don’t have any sense of humour? I’m not sure I know how to be serious for much longer than 2 hours…

On the video front, my pal Al recommended a fantastically talented individual called Maximilian Mortimer to shoot the Aquapax video showreel for the imminent IOD Annual Convention at the Royal Albert Hall. The Institute of Directors conferences are always pretty excellent events and I do hope a certain ‘Sir Stuart’ in the audience ‘gets it’ this year, considering our response from last year’s sponsorship when ‘Sir Bob’ was there, was pretty uneventful.

It’s not so much that people don’t get it, it’s that they consciously choose to trade down to the lower cost plastic option which really gets me. I know it’s laboring the point a little, but it’s the same mentality that keeps sweat shops in business around the world; businesses who don’t care enough to read beyond their own immediate bottom line.

Back to Max, he’s been a pleasure to work with and I’m chuffed with his production which I hope you can link to from here soon. I’ll also pop a link across on the ‘blog-roll’ on the right, in case you might care to help share the video around society. Considering a lady from the valleys has had a hundred million hits with her apparently excellent singing voice, It’s going to be hard to impress anyone unless Aquapax can get a video viewing hit rate at least above a thousand – not counting the 2,000 who will see it at the Albert Hall…

Keep smiling – Friday’s just around the corner… 🙂

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