No, don’t look at me but look at him below.
I am sure you are now really scared and ready to tell me everything and anything but don’t worry. I won’t ask too many things.
My topic today is more about clichés, “projections” or things we expect and so on.
So let’s think for one minute at your three favourite Western (by this I mean European or American) tea companies Now go on their websites or on their publications… Don’t you see a pattern or something in common (apart from the obvious teas they might have in common)?
No? Really? Well, my bet is that in 2 from these 3, you will find hints about someone exploring the wild (or not so wild) world to find the best or rarest teas. And if it is not someone exploring, it is the experience of the taster-in-chief.
You don’t need to worry, this isn’t a tropism linked only to tea, it is much worse in coffee but let’s try to stay on tracks.
What does this tell us? The obvious answer is that they really do explore the world. Let’s just assume for the purpose of my analysis that it is true. To be honest, the ideas developed afterwards are still valid even if they don’t sail the 7 seas).
Why is it so important? Because for us, it means this explorer hand-picks only the best leaves and teas for us, leading us to believe that the products of this company are the best.
However, I think it runs a little deeper than that. For me, the explorer bringing tea home is an archetype, i.e. a constantly recurring symbol that makes us think of the same things, even if it is at an unconscious level.
The explorer going in the unknown to bring the best of these countries to Europe is a cliché of colonial times when some people were doing this (or glorifying themselves about it, a bit like Tartarin de Tarason), more were thinking they could do so and even more were imagining things about these lands and the products brought to them.
All this created a mythology, which got into the collective imagination in Europe and America and that shows into this explorer image.
But you might ask ok it is a stereotype but why does it matter to companies?
It is all about trying to differentiate one brand from another but at the same time totally failing to do so because we are all excepting the same thing. But I am getting a little bit too quickly here.
The brand is the identity of a company or of a product but what are its effects? According to Kotler in Principles of marketing,. Pearson Education Australia (2009), a brand identity is built around attributes, benefits, values and personality.
Attributes are the values, things that a company wants to be identified by. Benefits are what the customers get from these attributes (the generated satisfaction), values is quite self-explicatory as is personality.
If one thinks about a company putting in the first row of its advertising or of its corporate message, the explorer getting in the wild world to bring back the best unknown products, the picture is quite obvious. Such company would want to promote exoticism, unicity, high quality and adventure. The customers buying his products from such a company would value the quality of their products but also their uniqueness, allowing them to feel like this only because of unconscious clichés going back to the old times.
If 2 out of 3 companies promote these images, why aren’t they trying to be more innovative in their branding approach? Simply because it works. It is sad but it is so. If you have something that works or that might work, you will not feel the need to go explore new territories. This protective and conservative approach is when you think about it quite opposed to the image the tea companies want to promote.
Before I conclude, you might ask: what is the link between this post and Freud. Some of you might have even thought that I was going to make a psychoanalysis of tea drinkers and you were probably disappointed. Freud came to me when I began gathering different elements before writing. He is not the inventor of the archetypes but the pictures of Carl Gustav Jung that I could find were far less scary than this one and I wanted to frighten you (no Halloween had nothing to do with that).