Gerard Tannam, in his Guest Blog on Bizplus, November 18th 2019, wrote:
Great brands like Barry’s Tea and Lyons Tea make their consumers feel good.
Do you really understand what divides Ireland? Thinking back through history, are you nodding sagely about the complexity of it all? Well, it was a dark day back in 1941. Rationing was declared and Ireland’s tea supply was under threat, as 75% of its tea supply which came from London was gone. It was this travesty that gave us Barry’s and Lyons, and the great division of Irish tea drinkers of Ireland.
The Department of Supplies set up Irish Tea Importers Ltd and began importing tea from regions of Africa, largely Kenya. The tea coming from London originated mostly from Sri Lanka and India, but a surprising thing happened with African tea. The marriage of these tea leaves with Irish spring water was simply superb.
The rationing situation gave rise to the two family-owned tea blenders: Barry’s from Cork and Lyons from Dublin. As time has shown, both have become quintessential Irish brands.
How important is heritage?
As anyone living in Ireland will tell you, tea plays a significant role in Irish lives. Per capita, the Irish are the second highest consumers of tea (they’re pipped to the number one spot by the Turkish, and by a surprisingly long way).
Tea is balm for the soul. Tea is celebratory. Tea is the answer to pretty much everything when beer and whiskey aren’t an option. So it makes sense that the type of tea you drink defines you. And what better way to do that than through brand?
Heritage plays a role in brand loyalty here, as a ResearchGate paper suggests: “The heritage aspect of a brand adds the association of depth, authenticity and credibility to the brand’s perceived value. With reference to consumers to whom heritage is meaningful, the heritage of a brand can result in an intensified brand loyalty and the willingness to accept higher prices.”
This last point is an important one. If consumers are willing to pay higher prices, there’s more to brand loyalty than merely having been around forever. There’s an emotional attachment, and a great brand makes its consumers feel good. And it’s this connection between a patron and a brand that will see a product through an economic meltdown, even without doing silly things like dropping the price.
With both brands having a regional affiliation, they’ve used this to their advantage, while also opening the conversation in order to unify the country. For example, Lyons surveyed c.1,000 tea drinkers across Ireland to discover how each county prefers their brew. A fun and light-hearted project, but it created a regional affiliation in the same way that shouting for your county’s GAA team does. Cleverly, it wasn’t about punting a brand, but rather about the wonderful thing that is tea. And how Lyons cares about how you drink your tea.
Barry’s tactic has been to use the recession to cement in people’s minds that tea was is about an experience. It’s about security, but also about quality. These were conscious branding decisions to unite a nation and connect a brand with its consumers.
The balancing act of branding
There are theoretical and practical principles to building a brand, but the emotional and social aspects have been clearly documented as playing a vital role in how we view brands.
This is what Barry’s and Lyons have done so well, so consistently, over time. They’ve built the connection with their consumers in a way that appeals to more than simply tea taste-buds. They’ve built their brands around national, emotive and social affiliations, family values, tradition, quality of life and so much more. But they’ve also maintained their focus on technical elements of branding and remained current and in touch.