Water - the last luxury of our civilization

WATER SIGNIFIES LIFE, even “life plus”. These days it has become an undeniable, established fact that water is always the silent companion at a business meeting or spontaneous meet-up with friends, a serious meeting or a “fun event”. Most of the time it is even an expensive brand of bottled water, which highlights at once what you do or do not want to be. This was not yet the case five years ago. Water used to be the raw ingredient for the washing machine, for the toilet, for cleaning dirty pans and plates. If you went to a meeting, you were not given water, at best a mediocre filtered coffee from the coffee machine. Water until recently was a functionalised substance, cheap, at best it was used for the needs that we dealt with quickly and without giving them much thought. For instance, the morning shower with an anonymous soap or the mouthful of water from the municipal fountain if we were thirsty when passing.

The perception of water is changing slowly, continuously, consistently. Water is changing into the generator for deliberately staged everyday rituals. Today in many niches these no longer only express a new understanding of culture but even a cult. Water is also now being ennobled in German to “aqua”, evident also in the naming of top restaurants. Water is being discovered as the cultural force and increasingly venerated as a cult. Water rituals are a cult and depending on the context are being converted into metaphors for purity, originality, vivaciousness, naturalness, and in the wake of the great storm, also the expression of divine power. They ultimately demonstrate human dependence not on themselves but on the unavailable. In our everyday lives bottles of mineral water, now even something profane and non-aesthetic, dominate the course of events. Water has become the silent companion – everywhere.

Mineral waters are the clearest expression of development. And even of its excesses. Bottles of mineral water, whose contents, seen realistically, are of much less importance than the staged design of the container, demonstrate the power of the placebo effect. We have had Perrier, Evian, Badoit, but France alone does not have the power of the future. Today water must come from the Fiji islands to achieve validity as ambassador of civilised purity or even be bought as rainwater from New Zealand, as demonstrated by Colette in Paris. Today it seems this is the only way to produce real added value and people are willing to pay a small fortune for it. The same is true of the bathing sphere – the more that can be done with the physical condition of the water, with temperatures, with sensory and tactile differences, the more modern it is. We can assume that the prestige value of water will continue to rise.

An unavoidably more global world will not value the material content of goods, but the immaterial message they convey!

Mineral water will be the water of the middle classes of the future as it represents a standard that not everyone can afford. We differentiate ourselves through the better basics – access to better water, to better air, to a better environment. The shell – the design, the formation of the channels of the message – will be the brands in the battle of differentiation in communication and in advertising. The intensifying struggle for the best mineral water brands is a good example. This is where the game of distinction of the middle class takes place. The rich or even the very rich will want to differentiate themselves by being able to show off their own personal water source on their property which they will use for water for the housekeeping tasks, as their personal drinking water, and the water for entertainment in their park with a pond, a fountain, waterfalls and many other ideas. They will no longer need brands as they are their own measure. True luxury is always very elusive and is always outside established terms of reference.

Let us just take a last element: In the western world we are experiencing the transition from a “birthing culture” to an “aging culture”. No longer the giving birth, the emergence, the “always new”, but growing old, slowing down and maturity are the central themes. This is where economic added value comes into play. This is where the force of the elementary, the search for the essential gain importance. Interest in anything merely fleeting, like high-performing, fashionable products, is lost. Instead there is a deeper layer of longing for the simple, symbolic and valuable, that promises stability. Imagination blossoms and that stimulates business. Water with minerals, salts, essences and so on become more important and there is a booming market of cosmetic products. The yearnings can be tempted ad infinitum, there is no end in view.

Water is a cult and perhaps this cult will also reawaken the consciousness that water is an element of our lives.