Each quarter, Ad Age and The Harris Poll release a Gen Z Brand Tracker, ranking the top 20 brands in brand equity growth among Gen Z consumers. Brand equity data is collected from QuestBrand. Earlier this month, Ad Age published the results for the top growth brands from Q1, 2022.

Glacéau Smartwater ranked 12th, with a +9.3 increase in brand equity from Q4 2021 to Q1 2022 (Q4: 42.4, Q1: 51.7). Brand equity captures the overall value that consumers see in a brand. The brand’s growth in popularity with Gen Z can be attributed to multiple factors, including product placement, celebrity partnerships, and on-going sustainability efforts.

Building awareness of the Smartwater brand

A brand must build awareness before it can hope to grow its consumer base. While many viewers forego traditional TV commercials in favor of uninterrupted streaming, advertisers are increasingly turning to product placements within TV shows and movies.

Smartwater strategically got in front of young consumers by positioning their recognizable bottles in several TV shows and movies at the start of 2022 – Billions, Killing Eve, WeCrashed, and Studio 666. This allowed for consumers to subtlety engage with the brand without feeling overtly advertised to. 

Studies have shown that product placement can pay off, increasing viewers’ awareness of and positive feelings towards the promoted brand. Product placements are also more likely than traditional commercials to make consumers talk about the brand.

Partnering with pop icons

Smartwater launched in 1996, but continues to feel fresh and relevant today. This may be partially attributed to partnerships with popular celebrity talent.

Most recently, Smartwater has been releasing a series of commercials with recognizable Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, showing how Pete uses Smartwater to make smart choices.

Pete is popular with Gen Z, helping bring more young attention to the brand. Several new spots with Pete launched in early 2022, including “Pete Davidson gets smart: Bouncy House.”

Sustainability efforts that align with Gen Z’s values

To reduce waste, many consumers have tried to stop purchasing single-use plastic water bottles. Smartwater has prioritized sustainability efforts and addressed this concern. Since 2019, Smartwater bottles have been made from 100% recycled plastic, and are 100% recyclable.

Smartwater’s dedication to sustainability aligns with Gen Z’s focus on protecting the environment. Gen Z is highly socially conscious, concerned about protecting the environment and combating climate change. The brand’s efforts towards sustainability would make buying this product more enticing to Gen Z consumers.

While no single factor can explain Smartwater’s increase in popularity with Gen Z, the brand is clearly gaining attention from this highly sought after consumer demographic. This is a smart move for Smartwater since it is only a matter of time before Gen Z becomes the dominant spending power in the economy. Like Pete, the brand’s marketing execs have clearly been drinking a lot of Smartwater.


Catherine Ake

Senior Marketing and Content Strategist

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