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HomeNewsCause MarketingJosh Cliffords, of FreeWater, on creating the world’s first “free beverage company”

Josh Cliffords, of FreeWater, on creating the world’s first “free beverage company”

Josh Cliffords runs FreeWater, an innovative advertising platform that uses premium spring water — given away without charge — to carry advertising real estate on its bottles. Consumers pay nothing for the water in the bottle or the bottle itself. Advertisers carry the freight, in exchange for the inevitable attention paid by consumers as they use the bottles.

Ten cents earned from advertising on each beverage bottle is donated to WellAware, an Austin based non-profit that builds water wells in East Africa. Advertising costs are – according to Cliffords – competitive with traditional direct mail.

As FreeWater’s website states, “We are the opposite of traditional advertising because we are not annoying. Instead of making the audience cringe or run for cover, we put a smile on their face, and from that state of happiness is when they’ll be excited to support your brand.”

I wanted to catch up with Josh for two main reasons — first, because I consider myself a kindred spirit, having my hand in cause marketing and philanthropy for some time, and second, because FreeWater utilizes QR codes on its water bottle packaging to perform much of its magic, and not only am I a big fan of these handy codes — whose usage soared during the pandemic – but my team has recently created Inceptor, a powerful technology that adds custom QR codes to every piece of mail, reducing friction on landing pages, and integrating with CRM, resulting in a “Glengarry” lead powerhouse.

My interview with Josh covers topics including the following:

FreeWater’s inspiring origin story.

  • The versatility of QR codes, including enabling augmenting reality, allowing brands to create immersive experiences for consumers.
  • How the company’s platform works, using the example of a bottle of water with a QR code that directs users to the advertiser’s website for more information.
  • How the FreeWater platform’s functionality will advance in the future, with multiple layers of transactions, including the physical wrap, QR code, and AR, allowing for more bidding and revenue opportunities.
  • The degree to which there which may be “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for distribution of FreeWater from a fixed location, such as a stadium or concert venue.
  • How relative costs for advertising using FreeWater’s model compared to those seen in traditional direct mail.
  • FreeWater’s plans for future growth of their company, including reaching critical mass and expanding into new areas, such as groceries.

FreeWater has future plans to expand beyond giveaway water: as a post in its social media feed puts it, “FreeWater is paving the way to create a world where everyone has free access to whatever they need.” If you’re at a brand interested in testing FreeWater, the company’s website provides a form allowing you to quickly obtain a quote here: freewater.io.

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