Interview: Its imperative for FMCG brands to develop holistic digital strategy & not just influence consumers: Karan Shah, Society Tea

Social Samosa
Aug 13, 2019 00:48 IST
Mr. Karan Shah_4th generation Director_Society Tea.

In conversation with Social Samosa, Karan Shah from Society Tea sheds light on the brand's campaign, ‘The Tea Society Called India’, the universal love for 'chai', strategy to market the product, and more.

The one aspect which transcends all 'regional distinctiveness' across India, is the love for 'chai'. Karan Shah, director of Society tea, sheds light on the brand and the beloved beverage across the country.

Society Tea is a celebrated brand in Maharashtra with almost 40 percent of the market share in the state. The brand launched #TheTeaSocietyCalledIndia campaign capturing the essence of tea-drinking culture in the nation.

As the brand forays into a new category of 'Spice Secrets', Karan Shah traces the brand journey which has brewed 'delightful experiences' in the market for over a century now, sharing insights on the industry trends and more.


With campaigns like ‘#TheTeaSocietyCalledIndia’ and ‘A brand new day’, it seems that you try to bring back the nostalgia to the audiences. Could you tell us your insight and strategy behind this?

Over the years, Society Tea has

carved a niche for itself in the country as well as internationally, as a brand

with an impeccable sense of taste. With this as a backdrop, our campaigns, be

it ‘A Brand New Day’ or ‘The Tea SocietyCalled India’, is all about

brewing delightful experiences and stories over a cup of tea.

As Indians, if there is one thread that binds us unequivocally nation, it is our love of tea. Our latest brand campaign – The Tea Society Called India, celebrates this unifying and proudly home-grown tea-drinking culture across the length and breadth of the country. The idea of this passionate campaign emerged serendipitously from the brand name itself.

The lens that was used to document this epic journey was ‘everyday surrealism’ - we knew it cannot be explained rationally, it can only be felt subliminally and looks like we were successfully communicating this (it invokes that sense of the connect & nostalgia in whoever is consuming this communication, this is the feedback we receive all the time).

The campaign was instantly a roaring critical success, taking home the fifth edition of Kyoorius Creative Awards 2018 for the 'Best Out-of-Home Advertising campaign'. Additionally, the brand bagged two Blue Elephant awards for the categories 'Billboards' and 'Travel and Photography for Advertising' respectively.

How do you plan to reach the TG through digital as you get into a new category of chutneys and pickles category with the new Spice Secrets?

As a brand, our marketing efforts are all-inclusive, however, we still lean on more towards offline marketing in terms of spends. For low involvement categories like commodity products, a large portion of the consumer base, while they may exist on digital space, they are yet not exposed to digital commerce or have not taken to it. So, it becomes critical for us to be present where they are buying which is the point of sale (in this case offline). However, having said that, we have a healthy spend on digital and we intend to continue that for newer launches like Spice secrets.

The Spice Secrets creatives come with the tagline and copies like – ‘The Secret Ingredient is Tradition’ and ‘some secrets are passed down the traditions’. What is the brand positioning you want to do with this in the Indian market? 

Chutneys and Pickles have always been an age-old accompaniment in the Indian cuisine agnostic of which part of the country you go to or the language you speak.

The market is still growing rapidly and with changing lifestyles, there is an emerging need for organized players to fill-in this gap. This expansion is in line with this need while recreating the magical taste of grandmother’s secret recipes for its new-age consumers.

The brand takes you down the memory lane, the toiling over the making of the pickles by our mother & grandmothers and final outcome sweetened further because of all the hard work. That’s Spice Secrets.

What is the idea behind the blue packaging of the society tea packets?

We all know the powerful psychological impact color is known to have on people’s behavior in advertising.  More often than not, this becomes the sole reason someone purchases a product or at least strongly helps to recruit a new trial.

Red creates a sense of urgency and encourages appetite and is thus frequently used by FMCG chains; while green promotes nature and peace.

Dismissing market research, my father decided to paint Society Tea blue - A color used to provide a sense of security and stimulate productivity, elements that are encompassed in the brand's core philosophy.

Fast forward to today, consumers

recall Society Tea because of the equity that the blue has

created for us over years along with the blue kettle and cups. For a private

and regional brand like ours, that’s a huge achievement.

Where does influencer marketing stand in the scheme of the things for the brand?

Quality has been at the core of Society Tea and

this is the reason why we as a brand have never brought on board a brand

ambassador as we believe that the product is the best marketing tool.

Honestly, in terms of influencer

marketing, we have barely scratched the surface but are investing more into it

thereby expanding our SOV.

Do you leverage moment marketing and topical spots for your brand on social media? If yes, how? If not, why?

Yes, we do leverage moment marketing and topical spots basis brand requirements and relevance. For instance, we do quite a bit of it for Society Tea, since it’s an established brand and a celebrated household name thus establishing an instant connection with the customer. But for a newer brand like Spice Secrets, our focus is directed more on crafting communication that brings out the brand USP and what it stands for. Moment marketing in such instances becomes a 2nd layer of communication that comes at a much later stage (once the brand is slightly more established).

To cite an example, we recently did a

very interesting activity on social media around Stranger Things when it was

trending for Society Tea leveraging moment marketing.

How do you measure the results of the campaigns on social media platforms? Tell us your measurement metrics 

A big factor in measuring the success of a campaign on social media is through the engagement rate of the campaign. The measurement metrics depend on the brand. For example, Society Tea’s Spice Secrets is all about awareness, so reach becomes our key metric but for an established brand like Society Tea, we also look at conversions along with reach.

What are the challenges faced by FMCG brands for marketing in the digital medium to reach their audiences?

FMCG as an industry is still

scratching the surface when it comes to digital marketing. Digital media is

changing the landscape for marketers in the FMCG sector. Digitally-savvy

consumers with ever-changing needs are demanding value like never before.

Today, consumers are making buying-decisions differently. Therefore, it is

imperative for the FMCG brands to develop holistic digital strategies to not

just influence consumers, but also to personally develop a relationship with


Moreover, there is a growing need for

virtual shelf space and everyone is moving towards it.

There is the realization that beyond your home-ground, digital is a great platform to generate demand (bring in revenue); establishing a distribution channel is an expensive affair, digital is great leverage with controlled spends to enter the newer market

Tell us about digital marketing trends in the FMCG sector.

Over the years, FMCG marketers have been channelizing their energies in getting 4Ps right. Despite being the largest industry in the country & globally, FMCG players have been quite lax in adapting to the ever-evolving digital marketing.

However, this scenario is changing rapidly. With the increasing competition in the industry and amount of choices that are available to an average consumer, FMCG brands have to make extra efforts to stay ahead of the game and leverage digital mediums effectively. Due to the sheer volume of individuals regularly present on the platform, digital marketing for FMCGs can render phenomenal results. As per a Nielsen report, digital commerce has started contributing 6% - 7% of total sales for many FMCG players in the country. Hence, the industry has started moving in that direction & so have we.

Some key trends such as quality of customization and personalization of customer experience, building deeper consumer connect and advocacy, creating a profitable e-commerce business will dominate the FMCG sector.

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