Generic and International promotion – A case of Tea

It is some times argued that Indian tea has not secured sufficient mileage out of the amounts of money spent on generic promotion through the tea Councils if various foreign countries. To cite an example, it is said that while India has been contributing substantially towards the promotional campaign undertaken by the UK Tea Council during the last four years or so some other tea producing and exporting countries, which are not even members of the Council and have not contributed anything to its coffers have been registering an increase in their share of sales in the British market. But to say that the UK Tea Council promotion campaign has not been to India’s advantage is imploring the question or indulging in over simplification. For one thing the primary object of such a generic promotion campaign is to promote tea as a beverage against other drinks which have been competing fiercely for a share of the beverage market by mounting massive media campaign in Britain and other West European countries. The UK Tea Council’s campaign must therefore be viewed in the context of trends and objectives while a decade ago Britain bought a total of 252 million kg. The figure came down to only 200 million kg before the campaign was launched.

This decline in imports, revealing falling consumption and, therefore a potentially significantly (and dangerous for the tea industry) change in taste, had serious ramifications on the entire international scene in view of the fact that the UK accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the world’s export. Besides, the London auctions influence to a great extent pricing trends in various other auction centers.

It was against this background that it was decided to launch a generic campaign in the UK. The objective was to arrest the decline in consumption by altering drinking habits, which could only by improving the image of tea and establishing a sound basis for it as a more desirable and satisfying beverage. The campaign that was launched in 1977 has now run five years, and the tea Council has been conducting independent surveys to ascertain its impact.

The latest market study is highly encouraging in demonstrating the success of the exercise in changing public attitudes towards tea, particularly amongst the young who are earlier influenced by continental drinking fashions. There has been a marked improvement in the perceived social acceptability of tea, and a growing appreciation of it as a more healthy drink. It is also clear now that the decline in tea consumption has been halted: to that extent, the campaign has met its objective. This will be borne out by the fact that while in 1978 the consumption in Britain was 165,883 tons, it rose to 185,000 tons last year.

This generic campaign is in no way at a variance, or in conflict either with brand promotion of total packers or the uni-national campaigns launched by countries India and Sri Lanka. It is aimed at enlarging tea’s share of the beverages market, and once that share of the general market is increased, it is for individual producing countries to expand their own share of tea sales. No producing country would have gained in the long run if the trend had not been halted and if tea consumption had continued to shrink.

It should be appreciated that generic and uni-national promotions are complementary and our ability and success in the latter lies in taking full advantage of the publicity fall-out generated by the former. The India Tea Board’s Directorate in London has tried to do precisely this during the last couple of years by simultaneously launching a pure India tea campaign throughout United Kingdom. Advertisements in the British Press which are an important part of this campaign, advise consumers to send for small samples of quality Indian teas which are supplied free of cost by the Directorate. As a result of these Advertisements, our London office has received more than 40,000 letters from potential consumers who ask for sample: many of them have since made inquires about the pure Indian teas being regularly supplied to their local markets.

There is, therefore, a clear connection between generic promotion backed by a vigorous campaign to popularize Indian tea and an increase in national exports. It should be a matter of satisfaction that for the first time ever, tea packed in this country, and not just exported in bulk to Britain is sold at stores like Selfridges, House of Frasers, Barkers and the extensive Woolworth chain.