Communicating the Value Proposition: Tap Water Advertising

We all have those moments where you have an excellent idea while having a shower. This morning it dawned on me that water utilities don’t sell water; they sell experiences.

Water is a service with a high level of tangibility. The consumer can see, feel, taste, hear, but hopefully not smell the water. Tap water is, what marketers call, high in experience qualities.1 These are the aspects of a service that consumers experience while consuming the service. The value of water is, however, not located in the physical qualities of the water—the value of water is located in the need the for water, as expressed in these mock advertisements.

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Tap Water Advertising

Marketing wisdom dictates that communication for services that are highly tangible, like water, should focus on the intangible aspects.2 So instead of focusing on technology or emphasising on the physical qualities of the water, tell customers what intangible benefits they get from their tap water. Most discussions about water focus on its life-sustaining properties, but tap water is so much more. Using tap water is an essential part of modern life and is used to maintain the lifestyle we have come accustomed to.

Having a shower is a perfect place for generating inspiring ideas; water is an essential ingredient in virtually every single recipe; water performs a crucial role in some of the most intimate moments in our lives.

These ads are designed to communicate the intangible dimensions of water and show that using water is not about the water itself, but about the value that water adds to our life. Advertising is not about convincing people with logical arguments but about communicating the value proposition that the utility provides beyond plants, pumps and pipes.


  1. Rushton, A. M., & Carson, D. J. (1985). The marketing of services: Managing the intangibles. European Journal of Marketing, 19(3), 19–40. doi:10.1108/EUM0000000004748.
  2. Shostack, G. L. (1982). How to design a service. European Journal of Marketing, 16(1), 49–63. doi:10.1108/EUM0000000004799.

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