The Alchemy of Tea Marketing: Drucker

T h e A l c h e m y o f T e a M a r k e t i n g : D r u c k e r


The successes of tomorrow will be built upon the good things found in the world today. An obvious statement, perhaps, but a reminder of the constant need to look around for the new and better good things waiting to be used. Tea businesses in North America have a trove of practical and proven lessons from important marketing thinkers that can be applied at all levels- from the development of the overall industry to the promotion of individual tea products.

In this series of articles, the Alchemy of Tea Marketing will relate these treasured lessons in marketing to the realm of tea business. It is hoped that any business involved in promoting and selling tea will benefit.


This series will cover three of the more influential and relevant thinkers and relate their work to the business of tea. Additionally, the series will connect their most important ideas to the context of tea business using analogies to the macro- and micro- applications of their teachings:

  1. Peter Drucker – the planetary level
  2. Seth Godin – the climate level
  3. Rory Sutherland – the weather level

It is important to point out from the beginning that the work of these 3 influential business leaders are intertwined. Rainfall as an element of weather can accumulate to become part of climate, thereby shaping a planet, which in turn, cycles back to alter weather patterns. Similarly, the application of core concepts from these authors’ works will result in a loop of mutual influence.


Peter Drucker was an Austrian-born American business management consultant. He is often referred to as the father of modern business management. A couple of his most popular and influential writings include:

  • The Principles of Management
  • The Effective Executive

Drucker’s other key marketing principles can be looked upon as shaping planet-level activity compared to the climate and weather level activities of the other marketing thinkers.

Drucker’s 3 planet-level considerations are:


Inasmuch as creating a market is like creating a new planet within a system, the first way of new market creation is by adding a missing ingredient. A missing ingredient need not be an out-of-this-world new ingredient. It can be an enhancement that changes the way customers value the product, including:

  1. Reliability
  2. Quality
  3. Distribution
  4. Affordability
  5. Functionality
  6. Character

Guiding Questions for Adding a Missing Ingredient

  1. What have customers been requesting that we haven’t yet delivered?
  2. What exceptions/changes are most requested to our product/service?
  3. What are the changes/exceptions that employees most often have to create to our product/service?


A more recent example of creating a new market can be found in HopLark’s Hop Tea. Hop tea is tea brewed with hops- a unique combination of flavor and function. Beer connoisseurs and craft beverage aficionados who enjoy hops character and enjoy non-alcoholic alternatives now have a unique, quality beverage with a special taste and function not found elsewhere.


The second type of market planet in the Drucker trio is the ecological niche, or specialty market. An ecological niche is characterized as a relatively obscure area that seems to have limited potential. This kind of specialty market works for entrants who can stay under the radar, thereby discouraging the entry of competitors.

The 2 main ways to maximize an ecological niche:

  1. Alter/improve existing products to increase value- as defined by customers
  2. Change how the product is priced.


Even before the Boston Tea Party, tea has played an inextricable part in US history, and South Carolina’s Oliver Pluff Tea Company has responded to that historic tea culture by creating a line of Colonial Teas. These Colonial Teas are true to the Revolutionary history of America, offering the same teas the colonists drank hundreds of years ago. The tea packaging keeps the look and feel of those early times with fonts and images you would see in Eighteenth Century print. Oliver Pluff’s Colonial Teas are sold at many historical sites- from the Boston Tea Party Museum to Colonial Williamsburg.


The third Drucker planet focuses less on innovating the product and more on making the product fit with customers’ reality. Changing the economic characteristics of a product involves:

  • Enhancing satisfaction/usability of the product
  • Pricing to better fit customers’ expectations
  • Other adaptations that represent true, added value based on customer social and economic realities


Store brand teas used the be rock-bottom tea option in terms of price and quality. If you needed a cheap and cheerful basic black tea, a grocery chain’s private brand was the way to go. But now, the economic characteristics have changed and store brands have created a new planet. Supermarket customers are now more likely to trust a private brand over national brands. Consumers are also more willing to use their spending power on healthier and better quality products. Grocery stores seek to increase customer satisfaction by offering teas that are perceived as having healthier benefits and better quality while competitively priced against national brands. Given the convenience of buying a quality product from a brand they trust, it is no wonder private brand teas now outsell most national brands.


In order to successfully move or establish a tea business, a few other core Drucker principles are important to consider:

1. The purpose of a business is to create (develop) customers

2. The core message of marketing is: “We have what you want,” while the message of sales is: “You want what we have.”