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The Ask

The Richmond Ad Club sent out a call for students to submit a communications strategy to energize a mundane, everyday object or brand. 


I selected Nalgene, a low-cost, no-frills reusable water bottle brand that is popular among outdoor enthusiasts.  

1st Place | Excellence in Creative Education Scholarship Competition | Richmond Ad Club


​Initially launched as a resealable plastic pipette to be used in the lab, scientists quickly realized that this product was particularly useful for carrying their water while out in the field. They introduced the product into the outdoor community, with the help of a push towards sustainability in the 1970s, Nalgene was officially born as a reusable water bottle. Since then, Nalgene has grown into a no-frills low-cost brand that appeals to both hardcore outdoor enthusiasts and light campers. While their popularity has grown, they are still struggling to get the market share that their primary competitors have earned. 


There's a culture around the Nalgene brand that users know but the brand hasn't tapped into. They've been sold at retailers that are quite outside of what you'd expect — including Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Neither brands cater to either no-frills or outdoor gear. This showed that Nalgene has become a brand that is embedded into culture deeper than solely the function it provides to users.

More Than Function

Significant Sentiment

The emotions associated with outdoor experiences play a significant role in people's lives. After spending time outdoors, people are likely to feel closer to those around them and to have experienced a sense of awe. Awe is defined in science as a moment where you realize that there is something bigger than yourself. When Nalgene owners decorate their bottle with the places they've been, they're giving these memories a place to live.

Those with Nalgenes decorate them with stickers. But, this isn't a matter of personalization, rather it's a map of the adventures they've been on. In an interview, a person mentioned that they'd never decorate their Hydroflask (a $40 product) the way they do their Nalgene (a $10 product). A Nalgene carries sentimental value, and many people have multiple Nalgenes for different trips and periods of their life.

A Map of Their Travels


Nalgene is the souvenir from memories that leave you in awe.


Nalgene currently runs ads that are devoid of the emotional sentiment that their products have in the lives of their users. Additionally, they rely primarily on print media to reach their customers. To implement this insight, I suggest investing in a paid social strategy that highlights the emotional benefits of Nalgene so that those considering a water bottle see the benefit a Nalgene has beyond being a no-frills value brand.

The paid social approach helps them target their audiences more efficiently than they can with print, and is a natural space for outdoor enthusiasts to look for inspiration. 

By highlighting the unintended emotional benefit that a Nalgene provides to its customers and pairing it with a highly targeted media plan, Nalgene can elevate its brand from a low-cost water bottle into something inspiring.