Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tea Doesn't Sell Itself

The packaging I'm reviewing today represents a new product from an established brand that's testing out a new product.

This packaging was created for a new line of naturally caffeine-free teas from Marks & Spencer, a mainstream department store brand from the UK.  The illustration is by Stuart Kolakovic and it's lovely.  What strikes me about this is that there's very little in Marks & Spencer branding on this packaging, plus there's not much that immediately says "tea".  I usually take a pretty hard tack on having the package represent its interior content, but here that wouldn't be a good choice.

The difference is that food is visceral, tea is not.  Ask yourself—why would a consumer buy decaffeinated tea?  It's not because it's especially tasty or satisfies any one of our primal needs.  The purpose of this tea is wellness, which is a more heady, intellectual, and ethereal purpose.  With food, it's simple: you see the food; you want to eat the food.  That's why packaging that showcases as much of the positive sensory information of the food is so successful.  When you see the bright colors, appealing textures, and mouthwatering ingredients of a food you like, you're far more likely to buy it.  But when the purpose is to be a better you?  Well, that's where aspirational marketing comes in.

The ladies on the packaging are slim, calm and composed.  They're also pretty, visually appealing to the viewer.  Also, the color palette is soothing—the opposite of a frenetic, caffeine-fueled world. We want some of that serenity.

Wellness means being calm, tranquil, slim, pretty.  Since those things are represented on the package, and we connect with that idea emotionally and intellectually, we're far more likely to buy this tea than if it were packaged as just a picture of tea, because when we buy tea, we hope that it will make us more like what's represented on that box.

Tea isn't that compelling; pretty ladies always are.


  1. Agreed on the graphic; the palette is very nice, and the cohesion of the series of illustrations is lovely. However, I have to question the wisdom of the package shape. Teas are usually in a shorter, squatter rectangular box, aren't they? There's something about tea packaging, almost uniformly, that says it should be standing up, and opened from the top -- whether it's a short rectangular box or a plastic cylinder with a lid. These boxes almost look like they should be laid down (like a box of cookies), or opened from the top and fished into (like with crackers) or poured (like cereal). Now, I love cookies/crackers/cereal as much as the next diabetic, but I'm afraid I would scan right over these if I was looking for tea, even if they were placed with the teas in the aisle.

  2. Really good point about the design of the package, especially since tea bags are normally sold the way you described, and this looks like it would get in the way of distribution.

    Maybe the point is to stand out among all the other tea canisters on the shelf?

  3. Those are pretty, the kind of thing I might tuck into a gift basket.

    Oh! And I made a point of looking at the lime juice and chili sauce bottles I mentioned before, they are So!Go, which also has a braggy design website. :) http://www.sogo.co.za/home.html