T2 Big On Brand Lessons and a Great Cuppa

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T2 brand purchased by Unilever
A couple of week’s ago Australia’s fastest-growing premium tea chain T2, was sold to the world’s largest tea company, Unilever. The purchase price was not disclosed, but with annual sales around $57 million and a record of strong double digit sales growth, it is reasonable to assume founder and owner Maryanne Shearer has pocketed a healthy return for her superb efforts.

For Unilever, which owns the Lipton and Bushells brands, the acquisition is part of a strategy to expand in the premium tea category and use its global scale to take the T2 brand into new markets. In terms of brand lessons the transaction has plenty to offer.

Firstly, it is a reminder for large corporate organisations like Unilever that it is challenging to create innovative offerings outside their core business model. The shortest pathway to exploiting niche growth markets is to acquire entrepreneurial businesses such as T2, who have proved the value of the segment and created a culture capable of serving their needs.

Secondly, when large corporates acquire successful smaller niche players it is critical they do not impose their culture on to the smaller brand. We experienced this first hand when we worked with mortgage broker Wizard when it was acquired by GE Money. The team at Wizard felt their culture was being destroyed and a GE culture imposed. The up-side was that we got a gig to create a brand book for Wizard to clearly articulate the DNA of the brand and the desired culture. Interestingly, it was not too many years down the track that GE Money decided it did not fit with their desired future and sold Wizard to one of the banks.

The third lesson is remember the engaging power of great aesthetics. It is not surprising that the founder of T2 had spent her earlier career in fashion and interiors, as T2 has such a beautiful aesthetic to everything that it does. A logo that is simple, bold and forever present. A store feel that is premium but welcoming.

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The fourth lesson relates to what the wine industry has known for decades with their cellar doors – give consumers a great experience  that allows them to taste the product. Let them discover what beverage is their preferred style of beverage. T2 does exactly that by inviting customers in to have as many samples as they want before buying. Tables with flavoured teas ready for pouring, complete with plates showing a small sample of the loose-leaf components of the drink. It is a total celebration of tea, and that leads us to the final lesson, look for market opportunities that have yet become a true celebration of the category. There is power in exploring what categories have yet had a totally premium experience wrapped around them. T2 saw a huge gap in the market, and had the lessons of the coffee industry to draw on. Think T2 and then think Liptons. There is no comparison, they are simply not competing against each other.

Here’s to you Maryanne. You really do deserve a T2 Chilli Kiss.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

Image credit: blog.t2tea.com

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