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What's in a name? Branding reclaimed water

Ellis, Sean F., Savchenko, Olesya M., Messer, Kent D.
Environmental research 2019 v.172 pp. 384-393
common names, consumer acceptance, cost effectiveness, surveys, taste, wastewater treatment, water shortages, United States
Reclaimed water is often presented as a cost-effective, reliable, and safe solution to increasingly common water shortages in the United States and across the globe, but studies have shown that consumers tend to object to the use of this water. Broad adoption of this technology will require consumer acceptance or at least tolerance of it, and studies have suggested that better branding could minimize consumers’ concerns. In this study, we first test twenty-one potential branding names for reclaimed water using survey responses to identify the top-six most favored names. We then determine whether an opportunity for consumers to try reclaimed water can change their preferences. The results suggest that the common names for this water, such as Recycled, Reclaimed, Nontraditional, Treated Wastewater, and Reused, are the least appealing, as they all scored at the bottom. In contrast, names that invoke desirable characteristics of the water—Pure, Eco-Friendly, and Advanced Purified, were viewed significantly more favorable than the others. Having an opportunity to taste reclaimed water treated to a potable standard seems to clarify consumers’ preferences by increasing the differences in favorability between the names. Based on these results, it appears that while there are a couple of appealing names, the most consistently preferred is Pure Water.