The Story Behind Teabox’s New Brand Identity

Natasha Jen and Rohan Jahagirdar

Never try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur is one of my favorite Hugh Mcleod cartoons. On the surface of it, it’s a joke about selling a wrong product or service to your customers or vice-versa. But I’ve always viewed it as a cartoon that sort of serves as a reminder about change, about the need for constant evolution. Maybe the dinosaurs wouldn’t have been so dismissive of the meteors if you’d spoken to them before they were hit and obliterated by one.

Technology today has created an unstoppable momentum of change. It appears to be constantly accelerating. And any company that is not actively exploring what change means for their industry might find themselves becoming irrelevant very soon.

It’s essential that this idea of embracing this constant change is reflected in your brand’s identity which needs to evolve and keep up with the times.

When we sat down to change our brand identity, the idea was not to merely re-design the website and revamp the packaging but rather communicate who we are more clearly than we’d been doing.

So, again, why did we rebrand ourselves?

We felt that although our customers loved our product and service, it was difficult for anyone — including ourselves — to really put a finger on what the Teabox brand was about. And we thought that somewhere down the line, we’d ambled into a space where we were beginning to be perceived as just another pretty online tea store. But most importantly, the brand identity lacked depth; and the character of the brand wasn’t really coming across.

Uncovering the personality

We started out by asking some very fundamental questions about ourselves and the business. A number of things were discussed, including our business model, our vision for the company, even hypothetical situations and semantics.

Some of the things we explored were the factors that went into selecting our teas, the idea behind our brand name, how critical was tea season to our brand communication, and how did our customers differ from those of other tea brands. We also talked to our customers to understand what they liked about us and what they’d want changed.

The answers to all of these questions went into forming the core of the Teabox brand identity.

Narrowing down the brand attributes

We distilled the answers from our brainstorming sessions to six attributes.

We narowed down our key brand attributes to six keywords

Developing a visual identity

A mock up of the web screens developed during the exercise.

We talked to several agencies but on the first call with Natasha Jen, one of the partners at Pentagram, she hit the nail on the head. Where others had focussed on the kinds of cosmetic changes we could use, Natasha pointed out what our problem was. We were on the same page almost immediately. Having signed them on, we started to see steady progress.

Here, Natasha adds her views on the process and how they developed our visual identity.

Natasha: When Teabox decided it was the right time to scale up their on-line business, they realized they needed to reposition their brand and redesign the brand identity. Tea business is an old industry and its visual tends to thrive on common clichés, how could we strike a different note that would communicate Teabox as a creative and premium brand that’s still rooted in tea tradition?

We started the project by understanding tea from all possible aspects. We surveyed the visual history of the tea (the products) as well as visited Teabox’s operation in India. We also visited several tea estates in Darjeeling and talked to the people who worked there and saw all the equipment, some dated back to early 1900s. The field trip provided an immense knowledge base about how tea is typically created and transported, and how Teabox is radically innovative in their methods. The trip also provided an eye-opening visual experience, specifically in the typography on many of the tea shipping crates: stencil type.

We then looked into tea shipping crates from as early as the turn of the century, when tea was brought to India from China, and we were pleasantly surprised by that stencil type was used on the shipping crates in late 1800s as well.

Photographs of old tea crates with their stencilled markings.

The logo & the stencil font

Natasha: Taking cues from this robust history, including the stencil typography commonly found on tea crates, we devised a custom-made “Teabox Stencil” typeface that emulated that traditional tea-crate aesthetic.

We considered several directions.

We juxtaposed this type with a bold and contemporary mark that artfully joined the letters “T” and “B” and became a highly recognizable icon. These two elements together form an identity that straddles both new and old, bringing new life to the brand, while anchoring it firmly in the history of the product.

We zeroed in on one style and refined it further.

Packaging

Natasha: We adorned the main packaging line with a clean, white background to signify the freshness of Teabox’s teas. The broad range of bright colors included in the brand palette pops on the white boxes and bags, while helping to indicate the type of tea: white, green, black, etc. Each tea packet includes a thorough description of the tea, including packaging date, brewing instructions and notes on the flavor profile. These small additions elevate the drinking experience to a higher level of enjoyment, almost akin to a wine tasting. The additional information on each packet also harks back to the idea of the industrial-aesthetic and complements the identity’s stencil type.

Prototypes for our new packaging

New styles, new colors, new packets

The website

We wanted to offer a seamless online-offline experience for the customers, from browsing and buying to packaging and product. Tea is a physical product and we had to make sure that while we offered enough details about it, we also didn’t overwhelm the customer. In designing the product catalog, we assumed that information on things like caffeine levels and time of day choices would rank higher for customers. But in our conversations with them, we learnt that what really aided their decision-making were factors specific to leaves and liquor. And then again, novice customers didn’t want too much information while connoisseurs did. We had to accommodate both. But with the web, user experience is perhaps one of those things that has to constantly improve.

A mockup of one of the options we considered when re-desigining our category pages.

Key takeaways

  1. Choose the right people: It’s very essential that you find a good — no, great — agency or consultant to work with you. Sure, you may have a very talented internal team of designers and marketers but what an external agency brings to the table is a combination of a great deal of expertise along with an outsider’s perspective which can prove critical to the whole exercise. We were extremely lucky to have found a great agency to work with. Natasha and her team at Pentagram were cogent, receptive and patient throughout the exercise.
  2. Identify the core messaging and stories: As part of our rebranding process, we worked on narrowing down a key message that sums up our entire approach. We supplemented this with multiple supporting messages; cues drawn from these messages were later applied across different collaterals to communicate the brand’s identity.
  3. Don’t get too hung up on the logo: Throughout the exercise, we must have considered over 20 logo options across multiple design directions. When you have multiple stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, it often becomes very difficult to pick one, especially when everyone has an opinion on every option. Here, we found it very useful revisit our core identity to finally narrow down on a choice. And once you’ve picked a logo, allow it to grow on you. It takes time to warm up to a new logo. Plus, remember, the logo acquires meaning from the brand’s activities. The logo in itself, is after all, just a moniker for who you are and what your brand stands for.
  4. Don’t forget your customers: It’s essential not to lose sight of who your customers are and where you brand fits in their lifestyles, as you rework your identity. We used our customers’ inputs on a number of things, including the website design, photography, tone of voice to distill our brand attributes.
  5. When in doubt, trust your gut: Many times, when you know it isn’t working, take a step back to think it through. And although it seems very scary and illogical, going with your gut can be the safest and wisest choice.

We’re constantly on the lookout for talented folks to join our design, marketing, engineering and retail teams. Write to us with your resume to greatjobs@teabox.com

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