Get the tea on effective tea branding as we explain all in this ultimate guide. No matter whether it’s caffeinated, herbal, loose leaf or bagged you’re sipping, a well-executed brand strategy for your product is a must. This is because your brand is your company’s identity. It’s visually represented through your design choices and, quite frankly, it boils down to the details.
Think about how your favorite tea companies brand themselves. There’s a big difference between DAVIDsTEA and Twinings, right? That doesn’t make one necessarily better than the other, but it does shape how you perceive these brands and it often makes one more appealing to certain buyers than the other. There are lots of ways to brand your tea and your company, and whether it’s better for your brand to stick to traditional tea themes or totally bust out of the box depends on the perception you want people to have of your brand.
Ready to give your tea brand a delectable look and feel? Read on to get the most out of your shelf life in this ultimate guide to tea branding.
Brewing up your tea brand
Effective branding means knowing your product and buyer base inside and out. People drink tea all over the world… all different kinds of tea, served up all different ways, for all different occasions.
Although the world of tea is broad, your brand isn’t. To narrow down everything you need to brand your tea effectively, ask yourself the following questions:
What kind of tea is it?
Does your brand only offer one specific varietal, or do you offer a range? Branding for a company that strictly offers up high quality matcha is different than branding for a company that has a range of different teas.
Just like with wine and beer branding, the tea varietal you’re offering should be one of your first and most important considerations when you’re creating a brand. And if it’s multiple types, determining how to visually distinguish between them while maintaining a cohesive brand identity needs to be part of the plan.
Think about how you can visually represent the kind (or kinds) of tea you’re offering. For example, you might want to color-code your teas, with a green package for your green tea, a white package for your white tea, a black package for your black tea and so on. You can even take this beyond the boxes and brand them right down to the individual tea bags—which can make for a beautiful rainbow when a customer first opens a variety pack.
Another way to do this is to show the tea’s ingredients on the label, like garryveda.com does in their packaging design for Mt Mudeung kombucha below.
How (and when, and why) are people drinking it?
Hot or iced? Or both?
Through a Keurig machine? Steeped in a mug? Carefully measured and funneled into an infuser? Set out in a big jug under the sun all day?
At home, curled under a blanket with a book in hand? On the run, sipping from a thermos while sitting in traffic? Laughing with friends at a cute tea shop?
How, when and why people are drinking your tea all play a big role in determining what they expect from your brand—and from this, how your brand should look. Your tea packaging and branding needs to evoke the right emotions, moods and cravings to connect with your ideal customer.
Where can people buy it?
Another important part of your brand is where people buy it. Tea drinkers have different expectations for artisanal tea blends, carefully scooped from a glass jar into a white paper bag, than they do for a box of 100 bags they toss in their grocery cart. That’s not to say effective branding is more important for the former than the latter. But the kind of branding that works for artisanal tea brands is very different from the branding that works for mass consumer tea brands.
If you haven’t worked out where and how you’ll be selling and distributing your tea brand, do that before you move onto designing the brand identity.
For example, if your brand is built on offering an international collection of teas delivered in a monthly subscription box, you might want to lean into geographic or cultural branding. This could be a collection of flags showing all the countries your tea is sourced from, or it can get more specific, like imagery of animals, plants or landmarks of the regions your tea is from. Think pandas, lotus flowers or the Great Wall of China if you’re branding a Chinese tea.
Who are the people drinking it?
And then there’s one of the most important questions for any entrepreneur to answer when they’re branding a product: who is the target buyer?
Identify your audience
Are the people drinking your tea the kind of people who drink tea every day, or is it something they brew up more infrequently, maybe for a special occasion or when it’s cold outside? Are they young and hip or more mature and traditional? Knowing your tea’s perfect customer and their preferences will provide you with valuable information for your tea branding.
If you know tea drinkers, you know they’re a lot of things… but above all else, they tend to be loyal. Getting a longtime tea drinker to try out a new brand can be way more challenging than getting a beer drinker to try a new craft brew because tea is a daily comfort and waker-upper for devoted fans. This can make it incredibly tough to successfully launch a new tea brand and attract drinkers who already have their “daily drivers.”
Persuade the loyalists
Strong, effective brand positioning gives tea drinkers besotted with a brand reason to sip something new. This is where getting to know exactly what your target audience wants in the tea they buy is critical. If they’re not adventurous in their tea selection, don’t try to reinvent the wheel and offer them up packaging or a tea-brewing process they’ve never seen before.
Launching a new tea brand can actually be easier when your segment of the market is into new, novel flavors because you don’t have to break through as thick a wall of bias and loyalty with them. But in any case, create branding that’s as precisely honest about your tea as possible—because no matter what drinkers are looking for, they’re most likely to buy your product if it promises to give them what they want.
The recipe to creating tasty tea brand design
Once you’ve determined who will be drinking your tea, how they’ll be drinking it and where they’ll be buying it, you can show them that your tea is the perfect choice through thoughtful tea brand design.
Let’s get visual
At the core of any kind of brand design is creating a visual identity. This includes a color palette, a logo, fonts to use anywhere you communicate your brand through text (like on your website and your tea’s packaging) and a general style for the images you use.
We’ve covered all of these aspects of branding in detail, so if you’re not familiar with them, take some time to read our posts on choosing brand colors, choosing the right fonts for your brand, how to communicate your brand through shapes and creating your comprehensive brand identity.
When people think of tea, there are a lot of “stock images” that come to mind. For many, the word “tea” conjures up images of tea parties complete with frilly dresses and delectable finger sandwiches—sometimes with the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat seated at the table.
For others, it’s the Kermit meme.
And these aren’t the only images that automatically come to mind when people think of tea… it can also conjure up thoughts of sweet tea glasses sweating on a hot day or a historical event like the Boston Tea Party. It might make sense for your brand to play with this kind of “stock imagery” that comes to mind for so many, but don’t feel like you have to work with one of these. Develop a brand persona that feels like it communicates your unique tea and the niche you’ve carved out for it.
Take a look at Teavana’s branding for example. Teavana, which was acquired by Starbucks in 2012, found success in the late 1990s and 2000s as a mall-based brand offering upscale craft teas, tea blends and tea paraphernalia.
In their old logo, they communicated a sense of calm and wellness (two values often ascribed to tea) through a geometric person sitting cross-legged with a cup of tea. The warm coral suggests a vibrancy from consuming the tea, and the overall simplicity of the logo suggests a down-to-earth freshness. It says these aren’t processed, packaged teas; they’re natural loose leaf teas.
All of these visual elements contribute to creating a well-rounded tea brand.
The essential blend of branding
No matter what flavor you’re steeping or which kind of connoisseurs you’re courting, a full-bodied tea brand needs:
- A logo
- A website
- Social media profiles
- A brand voice
- Packaging design
Of course your brand identity can have more components, like custom tea pots or a create-your-own-blend recipe book. But these aren’t crucial. Think of these as potential brand enhancers that further your brand recognition with a specific category of tea fans.
Serving up your tea
Connect to your audience
Once you have a fleshed-out brand identity, it’s time to serve it up to the world. Some tea brands found huge success connecting with audiences through friendly mascots, like PG Tips’ Monkey and Tetley’s Tea Folk. These mascots aren’t currently in use, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never see them again… or that creating a mascot wouldn’t work for your brand.
With your brand persona in mind, brainstorm the kinds of characters your target audience would connect with—are they the kind of tea drinkers who’d smile seeing a cute bear or a multitasking octopus on the packaging as they prepare their daily cuppa, or would they get a kick out of a wild-eyed Mad Hatter on the bags of loose leaf they buy? If not, don’t worry—not every brand needs a mascot. Whether one would be an asset to yours depends entirely on your audience and the most effective way to connect with them.
Connecting with tea drinkers and bringing your brand to the market is more than developing distribution channels and fulfilling orders (though these are a big part of it). It also means making prospective buyers, whether they’re looking to buy your tea wholesale to stock in their own stores or they plan on drinking it themselves, aware of your brand.
Setting up shareable components of your branding like your website and social media profiles is the first step of gaining awareness. But also by engaging with buyers in a way that makes sense for your brand and your goals.
For some brands, this means writing a captivating brand story—then telling it somewhere the right buyers will read it, like on the sides of your tea’s bottles or in a video on your website. For others, buyer engagement comes from a conversational blog that offers up interesting brewing methods, fun tea trivia and new tea recipes readers might not have known before.
Your tea’s packaging should be an important focal point when you’re developing your brand identity because you’re offering a tangible product. If your product is loose leaf, bagged, bottled or canned tea, most drinkers’ introduction to your brand will happen on a store shelf.
If you’re operating a tea shop, the introduction might happen on your sign or on social media. These kinds of brands need to have eye-grabbing logos to draw potential buyers to their product, but they, too, need great packaging—and interior design.
Once you’ve determined who your target drinkers are and when, why and how they like their tea, determine how to serve up your tea in a way that appeals to them. That means doing some market research—you might conduct online polls, focus groups, surveys or take a look at what the competition’s doing. What you find might surprise you… and what you initially think might work might not end up being the best choice.
Do some market research and take a look at your competitors to determine how you can appeal to your target drinker
Get piping hot (or super cool) tea brand design
So you’ve got amazing teas you’re ready to share with the world. Yum! The next step is creating a tea branding strategy that resonates with your target audience. Remember, effective tea brand design is design that communicates what you’re offering, who you envision drinking your tea and what makes your tea special. Whether your brand is bold or subtle, best served with sugar or meant to be taken straight, position your brand for success by investing in top notch tea branding.