CANBY - If they can get you to take a second look at what you're drinking, they're doing their job.
"We're not just a bottled water company," Randy Kamrath said. In fact, Randy and Susan Kamrath, owners of Water Billboards in Canby, said their business is more like an advertising and design company.
There's been a lot of growth at Water Billboards since the company opened a private label bottling plant in Canby in 2008. Last year, the company also expanded into a new market with customizable "green" materials. However, the core of the business is still the labels Water Billboards designs for its water bottles.
Photo by Deb Gau
Randy and Susan Kamrath and Greg Waltz pose next to a gallery of “water billboards” commissioned by customers. The custom-bottle label company has been expanding over the past two years.
Custom water bottles can be a good marketing tool, said Water Billboards staff member Greg Waltz, because they're both eye-catching and useful. After all, everyone gets thirsty.
"If you're at a convention or a sports tournament, that bottle's in your hand," Waltz said.
"People are going to read (the label)," Randy Kamrath said. Complementary water sends a good message as well. "It's a way of showing appreciation for people, and it's good for you too."
Kamrath added that some customers have said complimentary water was more popular than other promotional items they give away. "The Wood Lake elevator said they go through eight to 10 bottles of water for every (baseball) cap, and for a while, caps were the thing to have."
A lot can be accomplished with custom labels. Susan Kamrath said logos, digital photos and even scanned photos can be made into sharp, colorful label designs.
For businesses, she said, "We look at how they brand themselves," and incorporate that into a label.
The customized water bottles can also add a personal touch to family events. "People send in their ideas," Susan Kamrath said, and Water Billboards staff design a label around it. "We don't produce anything until it's been approved by them."
"In spring there are a lot of graduation receptions, and weddings," Randy Kamrath said.
Randy Kamrath said Water Billboards is also competitively priced and flexible with shipment sizes - customers don't have to order a truckload of water for a family gathering, for example.
So far, he said, the company has gotten good support from area businesses and several local school districts, as well as some orders from customers as far away as Florida and Arizona. However, they're still hoping to increase business by getting the word out about their products.
"Our main form of advertising is still word of mouth," he said.
The next big step for sending personalized messages on a Water Billboard is to go green, Randy Kamrath said. Water Billboards has been expanding its product lines into environmentally friendly materials. The company now carries plates, cups and platters made of compostable materials, and even bottles made from a corn-based plastic that breaks down in soil. Of course, the bottles and cups would also be customizable, Randy Kamrath and Waltz said.
"The biodegradable stuff is my passion," Randy Kamrath said. The ultimate goal, he said, would be to have an entire picnic's worth of plates and containers, plus the garbage bag, become compost instead of trash.
It's an idea that's gotten some attention. Water Billboards was featured in Enterprise Minnesota Magazine in February, and the company was also invited to be part of Earth Day celebrations at Disney World in 2009.
But the important thing, Randy Kamrath and Waltz said, is that choosing Water Billboards means customers get to send their own branding messages, while making a better choice for the planet. It's an unusual combination, but a good one.
"I think that's the uniqueness of the business," Waltz said. "There's not a lot of people doing it."