They were probably the most unusual job interviews we’ve ever conducted at DC Water. Each of the candidates was asked to don a large foam suit covered in blue fabric and – as the announcement described it – “showcase their talents and perform some non-verbal movement.”
That might not sound all that appealing to you, but it did draw about 2 dozen people who auditioned in late February to become Wendy or Wendell the Water Drop, the official mascot of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The tryouts also attracted a fair amount of media coverage including Fox 5 and The Washington Post.
The talent pool included a professional clown, a few folks with backgrounds in theater, dance and music, and several young men and women with previous mascot experience performing at high school and/or college sporting events.After all, mascots are most often associated with sports teams – even the Olympic games – not water utility companies. (Having said that, I’m confident our Water Drop would give any racing president a run for their money. Bring it on Teddy!) But mascots are about marketing. Professional teams use them to put more paying customers in the seats. We deploy Wendy and Wendell to entertain children and adults at community events, and to educate them about our product, tap water. Marketing.
So, while the interview process was unorthodox, the job is an important one. The Water Drop mascot is a continuation of the effort we launched 3 years ago to rebrand the authority with a new name, logo, tagline, website and image. We are working to win the hearts and minds and palates of the District’s residents, workers and visitors and tout the benefits of DC tap water: it is high quality, convenient, environmentally friendly and affordable.
We’ve made great strides by upgrading our aging infrastructure and adopting innovative technologies to ensure we are consistently providing clean, safe water to our customers day in and day out. Our product is excellent, but still, not everyone knows or believes that. The lead controversy at the beginning of the last decade had a lasting impact on the public perception of tap water in the District. Turning around that perception is an ongoing effort and requires innovative approaches to promote tap water.