Hampstead Tea, London
It’s all about the soil, darling
So, I asked, “what exactly is biodynamic agriculture?”
“It’s about harvesting and planting at the right time of year, as the moon rises, that type of thing.”
“Biodynamic is an inspiration with an increasing arc of radiance, like the ripples of a pebble thrown into a pond.”
“It’s the weird and the whacky, very, very niche, but it brings nothing to the customer.”
Any clearer? Me neither!
Problem was, those answers were actually from the team responsible for promoting a brand whose sole differentiator was that it used biodynamic tea in its range. Yes, it was very high quality, yes, it was fair trade, and by dint of being biodynamic it was organic, but in a crowded market, you need something that will stand out. And whilst the team had, with biodynamic, a genuine point of difference, they could not find a way of defining exactly what it was and why consumers should care.
For the record, biodynamic agriculture, founded by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, is a precursor to today’s organic movement. It treats the farm as a single organism, so the plants, livestock, insects, birds and even people are all considered to be different parts of the same thing. Its overriding principle, therefore, is to ensure the wellbeing of all those elements, and in so doing produce a very high standard of crops.
So far so good, but there are aspects to biodynamic that could be seen as a little, well, out there: spraying crops following the astrological cycle, burying manure in cow horns and storing chrysanthemum oil in chests in darkened rooms, for example. We’ll come back to that, but first, let me introduce Kiran, Hampstead Tea’s founder and passionate advocate of biodynamic. In fact, it was she who convinced the tea plantation to become biodynamic in the first place.
As we went through the process, which admittedly involved drinking large quantities of delicious tea and listening to Kiran’s stories from her childhood in Darjeeling, it became increasingly obvious that this inability to define what lay at the centre of the business had stifled their progress and creativity. Whilst the packs looked beautiful, the way the brand spoke to customers was overly corporate and not at all like Kiran.
The job, therefore, was tone able to find the right words to start the telling the story of the brand from the right place - to capture the brand proposition.
I spoke at length with Kiran and her team, I researched biodynamic agriculture, but it wasn’t until I spoke to Rajah Banerjee, the owner of the Makaibari tea estate where the tea was grown, that I got closer to finding the essence of the brand. When asked to define biodynamic, Rajah simply said: “It’s all about the soil, darling” (apparently he calls everybody darling).
My heart skipped a beat because in my research the only thing I found that the scientists agreed on was the soil. You see, the soil in a biodynamic farm will have more nutrients in it, and more nutrients means healthier plants. That led to the brand proposition: “the better the soil, the better the taste”, a phrase that combined Rajah’s insight, Kiran’s passion and the scientific evidence.
But more importantly though, it provided a concise expression of why biodynamic was relevant to the customer and different to the competition.
If you want to explore how brand strategy can help your brand be both relevant and different, why not join me for a complimentary 2 hour taster workshop, you can find the details here.
I founded the specialist brand strategy practice The Brand Arrow® in 2009 and have delivered over 120 assignments in Europe and North America in a variety of sectors across B2B and B2C.
I regularly speak at conferences, business schools and facilitate workshops. As well as that, I’m an accredited Vistage CEO network speaker and a Course Director for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.