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July 29, 2009

The Next Bottled Water

Imagine you’re at the gym and you just finished up really killer workout. You can’t wait to shower up, step outside and take a big breath of fresh...premium oxygen from that handy portable canister that you picked up at the 7-11 down the street.

Sure, it sounds ridiculous. But before Perrier kicked off the bottled water boom back in the seventies, the thought of shelling out good money for something that flowed freely from taps everywhere sounded the same way.  Yet today, despite mounting attacks against questionable purity claims and even more questionable environmental impact, bottled water is a multibillion dollar industry, churning out an army of options to line our supermarket shelves and convenience store racks. 

Now, I'm not going to talk about what happened.  This book and this article can do a much better job of that than I can. I'm just here to ask a simple question: what's next? If brilliant marketing convinced people to pay for something that had always been free once, maybe it could happen again.

Of course, these days, it seems far more common for the price pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. Things we've been buying for a lifetime--music, news, cable television, communication--now flow freely from the endless tap of the Internet. In the consumption friendly worlds of food, beverage, and even fashion, the DIY approach is now seen as cooler, more convenient and better for you--all the attributes that made us start ponying up for water all those years ago.

As we pay less and less for what we consume, are we willing to pay more and more for what we do or experience?

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