We wanted to demonstrate the power of tea with Tea for Trump: Sumit Shah

Kolkata-based TE-A-ME Teas recently garnered a lot of attention for its unusual move of delivering four years’ supply of green tea to Donald Trump in a hilarious mission to “purify” him. The tea was delivered at the Trump Tower in New York with the message: ‘Mr Trump, it’s never too late to cleanse yourself’.

Even as Trump inches closer to becoming the world’s most powerful man, his extreme views have elicited strong concerns around the world. In a modern take of the Gandhian principle of peaceful persuasion, TE-A-ME Teas took a good-humoured approach to changing Trump for the better. The company believes that sending TE-A-ME Purify Green Tea can help achieve that.

Owned by Madhu Jayanti International, TE-A-ME Teas’ extensive range includes black teas, aromatic spiced teas, natural green teas, fruit and flower infusions, and more. Positioned as ‘A Tea for Every Me’, the brand aims to bring out the multi-faceted nature of tea in terms of functionalities and benefits. Madhu Jayanti International is touted as India’s largest tea bag manufacturing company, with a 70-year legacy of producing fine teas. The company sells over 15 million cups everyday, across 42 tea consuming countries, with a turnover of Rs 500 crore.

In conversation with AdGully, Sumit Shah, Managing Director, TE-A-ME Teas, speaks at length about the ‘Tea For Trump’ initiative, the tea industry in India, growth plans and more. Excerpts:

What made you go for an initiative like the Tea For Trump campaign?
The Tea For Trump campaign was crafted to create global awareness of the power and benefits of green tea and also to bring about brand recall for our brand, TE-A-ME.

Where did this thought process come from?
The thought process came about from wanting to do something “different”. While we could have gone through the standard route of advertising, which would entail us talking about the various kinds and benefits of tea (something that is overdone in our opinion), we decided to demonstrate the power of tea by placing it in the lives of eminent personalities. The TE-A-ME Intervention platform allows us to do just that. Tea For Trump campaign was the first intervention – in the coming years we will use this platform to highlight many more benefits of teas.

What made you select Donald Trump for this very initiative?
In early 2016, we drew up a list of prospective candidates for our campaign, Donald Trump was under crossfire for some of his apparently extreme views. Given that green tea helps you regain a healthy balance – the fit with Donald Trump was perfect.

What all went behind the ideation?
Given that we didn’t want to make a political statement, we spent a lot of time carefully planning the script to ensure that we didn’t drive the campaign down a path of political controversy. Further, the music and optics of the video were planned to instil a sense of humour and keep the campaign light hearted, without losing the power of the message that we were trying to convey.

How did you go about executing the campaign?
This was a multi-city, international effort to deliver the tea. Given Donald Trump’s profile, security was intense. The most challenging part of the project was finding partners who were willing to execute this in the US. Given that Donald Trump was very close to becoming the Republican candidate, a number of execution agencies in the US refused to execute the campaign (even though they loved the idea behind it).

In future also, are you planning to carry similar initiatives with other celebrities globally?
The TE-A-ME Intervention platform now allows us to execute such campaigns. We intend to do this once a year in order to demonstrate the power of teas. Moving forward, we will also bring this platform into the lives of consumers in India.

What kind of brand awareness did the campaign create for Te-A-Me?
We’ve hit 3.3+ million views, with mentions in over 800 publications across 60 countries. It is safe to say that a whole lot of people are more aware of TE-A-ME today, than a few weeks ago.

You have not really been aggressive in your communication unlike your competitors like Lipton, Tata tea. Why have you stayed away from active advertising?
We believe that the target group for TE-A-ME consumers more content digitally than on print or television. Given our limited budgets and execution capabilities, social media poses the best ROI for our investments. We will continue to actively invest in various social media platforms to build our brand.

How have you been creating awareness for the brand?
Given that tea is not ‘new’ to India, switching consumers from one brand to another needs them to taste and like the product. Therefore, till now we’ve invested a lot of our efforts in BTL and sampling activation plans to build brand and “taste” awareness. Given the width of flavours in our portfolio, we feel that sampling is a easier mechanism to switch consumers than ATL.

What kind of growth has TE-A-ME registered in India year-on-year?
TE-A-ME has registered 70 per cent growth over the last two years.

You have been catering to 42 countries. How do these exports contribute to your overall revenue?
The export business adds up 65 per cent of our revenues (Rs 180 crore).

Have you undertaken any campaigns previously to create brand salience?
We have conducted ad campaigns to build our brands in Russia and West Africa. However, these have been very local in nature – specific to those countries only.

What are the trends that we are seeing in tea consumption in India?
Slowly but surely, we are seeing tea become the beverage of choice amongst health conscious consumers. Consumers are demanding more flavours/ varieties and more importantly, a health angle to the beverage that they consumer. Tea is perfectly suited to deliver this.

Tea being one of the major export items of India, what is the industry growth like?
The tea industry has been growing very slowly over the past year (mere 3-5 per cent), however there is a massive internal switch happening within the industry. Green tea is growing by about 65-70 per cent YOY, while herbals and flavoured teas are growing at 35 per cent. This tells us that more and more people are switching from black / regular tea to green and/or value added teas.

What kind of growth do you see for branded tea?
Difficult for us to comment on the entire branded tea category, however the value added tea segment is growing at a staggering rate of 50-55 per cent.


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