Behind the Campaign, with John Doe and Highland Spring’s Natural 10 Challenge

Pam Scobbie, CCO of the John Doe Group, explains the thinking behind a Highland Spring campaign that encourages people to check their hydration by creating a Pantone colour chart for pee.

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

There’s a simple way to check whether you’re hydrated. We all do it, we just don’t talk about it. But why not?

To launch the brand's biggest-ever pack, we took a counterintuitive idea to Highland Spring. Instead of simply concentrating on the drink itself – soft, Scottish water, drawn from organic land – we decided to literally start at the end.

We linked up with Pantone to create a colour chart for pee. Then we invited people to use it.

How did the idea come into being?

Highland Spring is a gift of a brand to work on. Where it’s made, how it’s made, its commitment to the future – it’s a business packed full of stories. When we pitched last year, we developed ideas that brought its reasons for being, from healthy hydration to sustainability, to life in ways that weren’t immediately obvious.

A new brand platform, ‘Be your natural self’, had been created. That led us to think about how water makes things better – energy levels, sleep, concentration. Even still, most of us don’t drink enough. We knew there was a story about why we ignore our bodies, even though they tell us so much when we go to the loo.

Alongside the colour chart, we ran a survey that revealed people are confused about how much to drink and when. So we kept the call-to-action simple: drink 10 glasses of water a day. Do it for 10 days. Check your pee. Feel good.

Buying the new 10-litre pack offered an easy way for people to do this.

What ideas were rejected?

Nothing was rejected – they really ran with it. But there was one note of caution. It would have been easy for this to have strayed into literal toilet humour. The quality of the brand needed to shine through.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process.

We had to get Pantone on board first, but they loved the concept and came on board relatively quickly. We also approached Lily Soutter, a nutritionist, who guided us on hydration and wellbeing.

Underpinning the media story was a study that found 40 per cent of us are confused about how much water to drink, which we briefed and managed.

Alongside the pee chart, there was the Natural 10 challenge – a ‘drink more water’ advocacy piece that lived mostly on Instagram. We agreed paid deals with creators, including CiCi Coleman and London Dad, and planned product drops to other accounts. We worked in partnership with Highland Spring’s digital agency to make sure content and plans were aligned, and spent time making sure all stakeholders agreed messaging.

What were the biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?

The two main challenges were health messaging – we had to show the benefits of drinking water without presenting it like a miracle cure – and doing the actual colour-matching when urine is transparent. But Pantone did an amazing job.

How did you measure the results, and what were they?

Driving brand consideration was key, as was awareness of the new 10-litre pack. Results are interim but, anecdotally, sales of the 10-litre pack are performing strongly, ahead of expectation, and feedback from the business has been brilliant.

Visibility was a big driver and so reach and engagement were important metrics. We secured coverage in the likes of The Sun, Metro and The Independent and The Mirror, reaching about 290 million consumers in the UK.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Working with clients who take risks and invest in telling stories about why they matter is what we love most as an agency. Campaigns grounded in truth naturally get better results – and are more rewarding all-round.



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