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San Pellegrino - watered down?
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  San Pelligrino
San Pellegrino
watered down?
by Preeti Khicha
August 24, 2009

From the streams of Fiji and the foothills of the Himalayas to the mountains of France, man has gone to great depths and scaled great heights to source the purest form of water. San Pellegrino, from the province of Lombardi in Italy, is one such brand, with origins in the area’s deepwater springs, rich with minerals, that emerge from 40 levels below the earth’s surface.
This 110-year-old brand, named after the Italian town San Pellegrino, is enjoyed by ardent sparkling mineral water consumers across the world. Besides regular sparkling water, the brand retails flavored carbonated beverages Limonata (lemonade), Sanbitter (bitters), Aranciata (orangeade) and Chino (chinotto). A regular in upscale dining restaurants and cozy cafes, the brand truly lives up to its tagline, “lingering at tables for over 100 years.”

For a brand that is drenched in more than a century of history, San Pellegrino’s online presence takes on the important challenge of successfully representing the brand’s past, present and future.

With its unique packaging, San Pellegrino proudly stands apart from a pack of bottled drinking water on a supermarket shelf. But, sadly, the website does not reach the same level of differentiation online.

Entering the homepage, for example, visitors wouldn’t be alone in wondering if they had accidentally typed in the wrong address. Scattered images and a camouflaged logo against an oddly titled menu bar all conspire to offer a muddled and confusing first impression of the brand. If these idiosyncrasies aren’t enough to make visitors scratch their heads, then the floating pop-up on the homepage—adorned with alternating images of a lemon and an orange—certainly will. It is a distracting eyesore and a lame and amateurish-looking attempt by the brand to publicize its two different flavors.

However, chances are San Pellegrino’s strong brand equity offline will convince any e-visitor to explore the site at least once to see what the recognizable and much-loved brand has to offer online. In other words, its branding allows it a brief pass on any minor branding insufficiencies online. But how long can that last?

Browsing through the site, visitors soon realize that it is filled with content related to Italy. Online guests can also learn about saffron, a spice indigenous to the region, or an Italian art event hosted in Venice on a site that promotes bottled water. This information is perplexing and, considering the brand is bottled water, comes across as filler material not relevant to San Pellegrino’s brand positioning.

However, the site does have some redeeming and useful features. For instance, the Water Codex section allows the novice to learn about the art of tasting mineral water and how best to serve water. Details about the “50 Best”—an annual event that recognizes top restaurants across the world—is also available on the site. The brand takes care to highlight details about each restaurant, an initiative that goes a long way in fostering good relationships with these restaurants, which are primary distributors of the San Pellegrino brand.

San Pelligrino Taking this initiative to another level is the World Map of Stars section, which directs visitors to a sub-site that outlines the best fine-dining restaurants across the world. In the The Lily and The Star section, the brand highlights where San Pellegrino and sister brand Acqua Panna participate in promotional events.

In general, the site needs refinement. Though some of the content is compelling, much of the information is inconsequential to the brand, and the overall presentation and delivery are poor. Also, the entire site is Flash heavy, which makes browsing cumbersome, as each page takes time to load.

From a branding perspective, San Pellegrino should crystallize its online branding message. The brand should capitalize on its rich heritage and provide information about the evolution of the brand. Also, information on its product range—more than the annoying pop-up ad—as well as its parent company, Nestlé, warrants mention. San Pellegrino could take some lessons from competitor Perrier, which has creatively displayed the brand’s heritage on its site through engaging visuals.

To ensure that the brand is not drowning in its own branding bubbles, San Pellegrino needs to seriously revisit the content, design and navigability of the site. To begin with, how about including at least a drop of the brand’s signature green color on the website?


Preeti Khicha currently lives in Mumbai, India. She graduated from the University of Bath, UK, with a master's degree in management, specializing in marketing. She holds an undergraduate degree in economics and psychology from the University of Virginia, USA.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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