Tea is the UK’s favourite drink. We love it so much that we drink around 165 million cups of it every day. If you’re a tea drinker, chances are that you’ll have your favourite brand of tea, which you’ll stick to week in week out. I know I do.

But what makes us wedded to one brand over another? According to neuroscience, it isn’t something that we can explain or post-rationalise. This is because the purchase decision is often made on a subconscious level.

When you’re purchasing something, brand salience is the trigger in your brain that tells you to buy one brand over another. The agency, Emotive Brand, explains that salience extends far beyond brand awareness. It’s the probability of a person noticing, recognising, and thinking about your brand when it matters most. Maybe you grew up drinking Tetley tea, so the brand elicits happy memories, or maybe the PG Tips monkey makes you smile. Whatever the reason, odds are that at the moment of purchase we will seek out the brand that we like and are familiar with.

Lazy or loyal

Are we simply lazy or loyal? Behavioural economics has shown that we are creatures of habit. We often tend to pick up the same brands without giving it much thought because we don’t like to overthink things. But when it comes to tea, what about loyalty? Brand Managers like to believe in the notion of brand loyalty; how else do you explain the 1,349 children that were called Chanel from 2018-2020? In an interview with CampaignLive, Dom Dwight, marketing director at Taylors of Harrogate, explains that tea buyers are three times more loyal to their tea brand than they are to brands in other FMCG categories.

With such loyal (and lazy) buyers, growing your market share in the tea market would seem almost impossible, but Yorkshire Tea has done just that. Their innovative marketing campaigns have seen them encourage tea drinkers to swap their brew of choice. Helping them move from a cult brand to the nation’s 2nd favourite tea, overtaking Tetley, which I’m sure you’ll agree is no mean feat.

A short history of Yorkshire Tea

Yorkshire Tea is a family run business, founded in 1886 in Harrogate. In 1977 the family launched Yorkshire Tea, made from a special blend of tea leaves that complimented Yorkshire’s water.

Now, before I go any further, in the spirit of full disclosure, I need to tell you that Yorkshire Tea isn’t grown in Yorkshire. Their tea is grown in Africa and India and blended in Yorkshire. This news is too much for some people to take…

Hysteria aside, the tea became a firm favourite among locals and quickly developed a cult status that helped them become the nation’s third favourite tea.

An idea was brewing

But for years, Yorkshire Tea was stuck in third place, behind PG Tips and Tetley. They wanted to create a marketing campaign that drove behaviour change, nudging tea drinkers to swap their tea of choice and give Yorkshire Tea a go. Their campaign was based on an inside story that wasn’t known outside of the organsiation, that everything that Yorkshire Tea do, they do properly.

“Yorkshire Tea is able to make a better brew because they ‘Do things proper’. Doing things proper means doing things right. It means working side by side with Kenyan farmers to find the best tasting leaves, taste-testing 1000 cups of tea a day, developing a special blend for hard water areas… You know, generally going the extra mile wherever bigger brands would save money and cut corners.” – Yorkshire Tea

To bring this story life, they joined forces with well-loved Yorkshire celebrities to show that everything that they do, they do properly. Parkinson conducted their interviews, the Kaiser Chiefs performed their hold music, and the Olympic gold medalist, the Brownlee brothers, couriered parcels to their head office. The ads were a huge success. The campaign won a Silver at the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2018 and Yorkshire Tea became the UK’s second favourite tea.

Campaign highlights:

  • 36 news outlets covered the story
  • The ads were shared 68,000 times on social media
  • YouGov named Yorkshire Tea as the 6th most talked about brand that year
  • Kantar data showed a £6.3m increase in sales

Making a stand and sticking to it

When it comes to increasing your brand’s salience, Marketing and Brand Advisor Shira Feuer argues that brands must stand for something and stick to it. Feuer also argues that marketing campaigns should go heavy on emotions that drive purchase behaviour: love, pride, fear, guilt and greed.

One of the reasons that I believe Yorkshire Tea’s ‘where everything’s done proper’ campaign is so successful is because they celebrated their heritage. They’re proud of being a Yorkshire brand, and this pride and love for their county resonates with others.

Yorkshire Tea has continued to tell the story of how they do things properly, with an ad that shows that there is only one man they can call on for a proper induction when they have new starters, and that man is Sean Bean…

What have they been up to recently?

In June 2020, Yorkshire Tea became 100% Carbon Neutral. To mark the occasion and help raise awareness of the fact, they enlisted the help of Andrew Hutchinson. Hutchinson is the artist that designed their original packaging. They asked him to paint a more eco-friendly design for their boxes of tea and filmed the creative process. I love this ad so much. Andrew Hutchinson is a delight to watch, calming and funny, this ad makes me love them more as a brand.

And more recently, to help office staff adjust to social distancing, they’ve come up with an ingenious way to conduct the tea run safely with the social distancing teapot.

I look forward to seeing what Yorkshire Tea will do next. Rumour has it that they have their eye on the monkey.


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