There are times when clear communication is not the goal, and you have to applaud the accomplished communicators at PepsiCo. They’ve struck a blow for bullshit.
Challenged by a group called Corporate Accountability International to make it more clear that the water in those Aquafina bottles is tap water, PepsiCo will now label their bottles with these mountain-stream-clear words: “Public water source.”
Can you see the meeting? “God, they want us to make it clear we’re selling tap water. What can we say, without making it clear we’re selling tap water?” “OK, how about, ‘hydration product sourced at natural liquid conveyance?'” The mind reels.
Public water source. Fire hydrant? Niagara Falls? That’s public. Street gutter after a rainstorm? A spring on public land? That’s public. The Mississippi River after the carp, tires and used condoms have been filtered out? That’s public. The beauty of “public water source” is that it could by any of those things, so it admits nothing. It’s brilliant language — blank ammunition. It makes a sound and does nothing.
The news story says PepsiCo will now offer “some clarity” about the source of its water “to spell out that it comes from the same source as tap water.” Some clarity indeed. “Public water source” provides not the least bit.
“The water you’re about to hand over $1.29 of your hard-earned dough to a rich businessman for is tap water — purified, but tap water. You can get the same thing at your sink or from the drinking fountain down the hall. Enjoy.” That’s clarity.
OK, most people get that if the bottle doesn’t say “spring water” it’s probably treated river water. The point is not that everything should be labeled to death. The point is how adroitly the PepsiCo folks, when challenged to come clean, came up with language that only obfuscates. It’s a thing of beauty.
— Bruce Benidt