I’ve always been fascinated about how the art of branding can alter our otherwise logical rationale about a product or service. Take the beverage industry for example, we know that Coca-Cola is not a healthy drink. High sugar intake, whatever its form, leads to weight gain, high blood pressure and possibly diabetes. So if we like the taste of Coke, we rationalize it to ourselves – drink Diet. We convince ourselves it’s ok – Coca-Cola recently switched to Sucralose in its Diet Coke product, so no need to worry about Aspartame.  All is well, we can still hold that red and silver perfect hand-sized can and sip the Real Thing.

Although Jedi-minded by advertising to love Coke, my passion is for tea. Growing up in Ireland – the third highest country for tea drinkers per capita – tea was so much more than a commodity. Putting on the kettle and solving all the world’s problems over a cuppa became an integral part of the branding. An unique part of Irish culture, drinking tea is still today not so much about the product as the experience. It quenches more than thirst, also the need for a break, companionship and solving little troubles. The visual branding for traditional teas is subtle and relatively unchanged over the years.  New product lines were added to distinguish between quality of the tea leaf, but little changed other than the color of the relatively bland box: green, red or gold.  Then along came the tea-bag, relegating the teapot-brewing process to bygone days and creating a quicker brew. Much controversy ensued about how many cups could you get from one bag and ultimately it could be said that quality suffered as the pot was shelved and a new era began.

Today, my daughter visits the local boutique tea shop with friends. They indulge in a very different experience. An emporium of products from infusers to steepers adorn the shelves and make for great birthday presents as it turns out. We’re back to loose leaf again with a hot product of exciting flavors – iced in summer, warm in winter, soothing the senses with its flavors of Guava Cadabra or Live Wire Lemon. The supermarket shelves match the enthusiasm for the resurgence of this product with tens of brand offerings. Deciphering the brand is based on your wallet, taste, desire for organic and need for a cure for a particular ailment from arthritis to stress.  The packaging ranges from exotic Asian to reliable (and affordable) Lipton.  It’s all in the branding – the visual and the personal experience we encounter with each product.  Getting the branding right is essential in a world of products with little differentiation.  Tuning in to customers’ emotions and expectations can be the hardest thing to do, but with careful research and thoughtful branding practice, products will commence their life cycle on the upward curve as long as the mix of marketing efforts around it are consistent and integrated throughout.  Time to put the kettle on, and reach for the Barry’s loose leaf – some habits are hard to break, regardless of branding.

Sources: Marketwatch; The Washington Post