Trendspotting: Tea category witnesses sea change in communication

From focusing on functional aspects like 'strength, taste and aroma', advertising in tea category has metamorphosed into capturing consumers' heart and mindshare

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Updated: Jun 1, 2015 8:19 AM
Trendspotting: Tea category witnesses sea change in communication

Tea is not only the national drink of India, but one of the indispensable elements of our lives. Even though, people have their own preference of brands, enjoying  ‘tea time’ is universal in our society.

Over the years, advertising in this category has gone through many changes. To explain this, Harish Bijoor, brand-expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults said, “Communication has changed as per need; in the very old days it remained functional- ‘taste, strength and aroma’ were spoken about. Those were the days when the advertising tone, tenor and decibel stuck to the basics with integrity. The idea was to promise the functional, occupy a specific high ground and enjoy leadership, brand recall and consumer franchise on that count.”

He goes on to recount how things morphed after this and the category penetrated markets deep and wide, and competition grew. “Tea therefore started moving from the ‘functional’ to the ‘emotional’. Then came the tea that promised a lighter feeling after you drank it, which was the ‘relaxant tea’ that showed your entire sofa floating up like a flying carpet. Then there was the ‘energetic tea’ which was your work-mate and got you energetic. It also became the functional tea that helped you drive 500 kms without asking for another recharge. In between there was also the tea which helped you falling in ‘love’, the ‘connoisseur’s tea’ and the ‘tea for the society’. And today is the day and age of the tea that is ‘socially conscious’. The tea that wants you to wake up in ways more than one and brings out bold topics out of a closet,” he cited.

It all started with Tata Tea’s ‘Jaago Re’ campaign which has been seen as one of the most successful marketing initiatives by a brand to spread awareness and education on important issues. Over the years, it has supported issues like ‘One Billion Votes’- ignorance of Indian citizens about basic facts like credentials of electoral candidates, ‘Khilana Bandh, Pilana Shuru’- aimed at establishing the fact that corruption can be tackled, if the citizens don’t engage in bribery. Then there was the ‘Soch Badlo’ campaign which aimed at bringing the positive stories to light. The ‘Choti Shuruaat’ where actor Sharukh Khan took a pledge that he would put the names of the actresses in his movies, before his own and finally the on-going one ‘Power of 49’ which encourages women who forms 49% of voter base.

Watch the ads here::

Power of 49:

Choti Shuruaat:

Khilana Bandh, Pilana Shuru:

Soch Badlo:

The campaigns have been handled by Lowe Lintas and commenting on the change in the communication in this category.

Amer Jaleel, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas highlighted, “Today brands are taking cues from the thought leadership of those brands that have already done which is correct for the category. When we did Tata Tea ‘Jaago Re’ campaign eight years back, we stumbled upon the idea of awakening the society at large. After which we held on to it and evolved various themes which would go with the legacy of the brand. Actually, through tea we got introduced to a new genre of work. The point of social awakening wave guided us and we went with the flow. It seemed right for the time and then a lot of digital and social media also fanned this entire thing.”

Coming to the last two communications from Brooke Bond’s Red Label, they have highlighted issues like ‘Hindu-Muslim neighbours’ and ‘live-in relationships’. The campaigns conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather spoke about how tea helped to bridge the gap and make the situation easy.

Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather said, “Red Label tea is about warmth and togetherness and in both the films, tea plays a role in melting awkwardness and bringing people closer. The nature of the story might be different, but the soul of the brand ‘hospitality melts hostility’ is captured in the similar manner.”

Watch the ads here:
Hindu Muslim neighbours:

Live-in relationship:

Wagh Bakri campaign ‘Rishton Ki Garmahat’ won the Best Ad Film at the 5th Dada Saheb Phalke Awards few days back. It was done by Scarecrow Communications and it highlighted the growing gap between a husband and a wife owing to his busy work life.

Manish Bhatt, Founder Director, Scarecrow Communications, commented that the brands have gradually realised that they will have to have a role in people’s life. Wagh Bakri always spoke about relationships, but the challenge this time was how to communicate to consumers the rejuvenation in relationships. So the insight was using tea as a catalyst to bring two people together.

Taking the thought forward, Parag Desai, Executive Director, Sales & Marketing, Wagh Bakri Tea Group added that the audience is getting matured, so brands can no longer afford to show ads based on freshness and quality. “This time we introduced our new positioning ‘Rishton Mein Garmahat Laaye, Hamesha Rishtey Banaye’ to highlight the warmth of relationships and also talk about the beverage. See, even the meaning of relationships are also changing every day, it is more about showing appreciation and thanking people. So communication also needs to change along with it,” he cited.

Wagh Bakri ad:

Having worked closely in this category, KV Sridhar a.k.a Pops, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient Nitro feels that there are different kinds of tea and you can only sell it on the basis of colour, flavour and strength. So at the end of the day, it is all about refreshment. “Therefore, it becomes very difficult to sell any brand on product differentiation today, as a result of which, not just in India, but also abroad, brands are trying to become different, by owing a certain space in people’s life. So Tata Tea started it, and now everyone is trying to get on to it, which in a way is good, because today relationship gets formed between the consumer and the brand, not on the delivery of the product, but on the common shade values, they both have,” he added.

Conquering the digital space

In the last few days, two online short films have been released one for Girnar Tea and the other for Lipton Ice tea. While one talks about the estranged mom-son relationship and the latter is about arranged marriage. Terribly Tiny Tales has made the film for Girnar and Chintan Ruparel & Anuj Gosalia, co-founders of the agency shares their experience of doing the film. “We were very clear that it was not an ad film, but a short film where the characters have their own faults and short comings and habits. Even though, the film throughout had the alcohol brand, the truth is also that the tea plays the glue in the film. There was a conscious decision to show a contemporary scene and not a clichéd thing,” they highlighted.

According to them, advertising still has a hangover of typical characters and roles, which they adhere to. Talking about the recent Red Label ad on live-in relationships, the performances are fabulous, but it would have been so much better if the son would have gone and made Tea, instead of the age old thing of the girl impressing the son’s mother. “I think with the story telling abilities which advertising has, they should push boundaries of characters and of real stories. If you see ‘Jaago Re’ there is a constant effort to make tea a larger social agent of change, rather than a mere product consumed in the family. Which was a refreshing change at that point of time, but I think the time has come to push the boundaries of relationship and interpersonal conversations over tea time and make them as natural or disruptive,” said Ruparel.

Discussing his views on the trend seen in the tea category, Mihir Joshi, Brand Strategy Executive, Gozoop commented, “I feel that ads act as mirrors to what's happening in the society. If you spot the pattern, these ‘stories’ have been increasingly reflecting what we are going through as a generation. For example, ads have become about relationships, and building them. Not coincidentally, our society is facing the same problem- of people losing touch, of not finding the time to connect with each other, of broken relationships, etc. Brands take up this opportunity to reflect the same, and in the process, try to show how we can re-build, while keeping the brand connect as limited as possible.”

Joshi further highlighted that the reason behind these brands resorting to the digital medium is because it works the best, as more people are connected to the brand here than anywhere else and people love to consume stories that they can relate to, while on the move. The digital medium also provides people that ‘instant’ connect, where they can share anything they like and tell the whole world about it in the process. Hence brands have started going digital first, so that the campaigns come across as genuine stories, and not as marketing gimmicks that come between the TV watching experiences.

Watch the ads here:


Lipton Ice Tea:

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