A conversation with Benjamin Gott – Founder of Boxed Water is Better
Interview by Justin Li
Benjamin Gott is a busy, creative guy. Online, he’s the founder of blogs The Brilliance – which happens to be on Kanye West’s blog roll – and Snak Snak. Offline, he’s just launched clothing label, Benjamin Edgar or Whatever, and founder of Boxed Water is Better – a better, bottled water brand. You’ve perhaps come across it if you’ve ever stayed the night at The Standard hotel in LA, Hollywood or Miami, or perused the pages of Fast Company, I.D. Magazine or CNN.com. Behind the simple, beautiful packaging of Boxed Water is a deliberate purpose and mission, we caught up with Ben for a quick chat to talk about his idea born out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
So Ben, every idea starts somewhere, what was the "ah-ha!" moment for you when you decided you were going to get into water?
It was April 2008 - I feel like it was toward the end of the month if I remember correctly. It was one of those "lunch" ideas that you're just kind of popped up - like most ideas they happen in the shower or at lunch. And to be completely honest we really didn't know what it was going to turn into.
And water is a huge issue at the moment, what with high profile programs in place like Tap Project and One Drop, and documentaries like Tapped, is the message behind Boxed Water about clean water, the environment, or both?
That's a good question. Both. The packaged water market is pretty huge - roughly $15-16B a year. It's this really ubiquitous product. It’s simply everywhere. There are the ultra-affordable players and the super high-end ones as well. From the environmental standpoint, we wanted to take the approach of doing it with a more sustainable package that we could send to our filler more efficiently. So, we ended up with the carton we use today for that. In regards to clean water - we think that being able to buy boxed water for $1.75 is a luxury. You could argue that everyone who buys one doesn't truly need it - but again - the market is just huge and behaviors are changing very slowly. So we wanted to setup a company that could give back to the well building, and other water related, charities.
But there’s also an environmental aspect to it. Is the environment something you've always been conscious of?
I'd like to think so - but the reality is that almost all of us could be better. What interests me the most about the move towards more sustainable and efficient living is minimalism and reduction, which are things I'm simply a fan of personally in my life. I think sometimes environmentalism has a certain vibe about it that it means out experiences will be lessened by the changes we need to make - when I hope that eventually we see it as a less-is-more way to live which should end up being a more enjoyable life as a byproduct.
What I love about Boxed Water, is that it goes against everything bottled water is, aside from being in a carton, the label has no image of an iceberg or waterfall, no blues, even the name is quite literal. Can you go into a bit of you thinking behind your packaging and branding? And what came first, the decision to get into water, or the decision to box it?
You know, they were really closely tied together. When the idea came up I feel like I almost instantly designed it - or at least the idea of this very much text only look/feel. I'm a bit obsessive so we spent looks of time tweaking it before the first round were made. But yes, we were super deliberate in not following the whole mountains, waterfall, glacier, etc. We felt like we were a totally new idea/approach and that we should look the part. This was also my first foray into a physical product as much of what I've done in the past is technology related and I knew physical advertising was way out of our budget to launch the brand - so we knew we had to make something that grabbed peoples attention on the shelf instead of paying to grab their attention.
Yeah attention wise, this thing spread like wild fire online it seems right from the start and then moved onto mainstream media, was that all a part of the plan?
Indeed it did! I remember sitting in the office with Kevin the week after we were featured on Lovely Package and The Dieline blogs - which are still the only site we sent press releases to if I'm not mistaken - and being completely inundated with emails. It was nuts. We didn't expect it and really weren't ready for it. I think we were featured on Good Morning America while we were only in about 8-10 stores here in Grand Rapids, MI. I thought that was pretty funny. Was it our plan? I think we thought the product would grab attention but you really never know. Again, we didn't have a marketing budget, we decided to spend our time getting it into new stores and grow it literally by hand.
Who or what inspires you?
Maybe a boring answer - but I'd say its creativity. I'm extremely lucky to have some insanely creative people around me who make and work on amazing stuff. Being around them is what inspires me.
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