Two Leaves Drops

BASALT, Colo.

Building a brand in today’s competitive grocery aisles is a challenge for the largest consumer products companies. For a small entrepreneurial business with a limited marketing budget, it is even tougher.

When Richard Rosenfeld launched two leaves and a bud tea company™ in 2004, he wanted “a brand name that said ‘tea,’ was unique and fun, and had character,” he said. Too much character, as it turns out.

Two leaves tea company™ is the new incarnation of the small tea company based in Colorado. It was Rosenfeld’s decision to eliminate “and a bud” from the name.

Since being founded, the company has built a successful niche consumer brand in stores, cafés and restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. The company’s name, however, presented challenges that Rosenfeld had not anticipated in the early days of business: “It was too damn long,” he says.

A nine-syllable name seems unsuitable for a simple and elegant beverage like tea, Rosenfeld said.

“There is a huge amount of brand equity in your name and how the customer knows you. When we shift that, we take a big risk,” Rosenfeld said. “But when people can’t figure out what your name is — is it two buds and a leaf?Two leaves and a butt? — that confusion diminishes your brand equity.”

What happens when a company risks consumer loyalty with a name change?

“It is frightening,” said Rosenfeld. “We really don’t know if our consumers will recognize the new packaging as the same great little tea brand they know and love.”

New packaging for two leaves tea company™ will keep the typeface of the original logo but otherwise looks very different. “It’s more colorful and tells our brand story better,” according to Christy Garfield, marketing coordinator for two leaves™.

With no advertising budget, the company has gone to lengths to announce the change via social media and direct e-mail blasts. A blog on the topic garnered more comments from readers than any blog in the history of the company with plenty of feedback via Facebook and Twitter. Not all of the reactions were positive, with some dedicated fans expressing disappointment that the quirky brand name is being shortened. “Sorry to see your unique name swallowed back into a morass of the ordinary,” one fan commented.

“Do we lose our edginess?” Rosenfeld responds: “The possibility that we descend into the ordinary is there, and yet the tea we sell is still so unusual. It’s whole leaf, organic, and tastes fabulous. But it is a challenge to convey that when basically every player in the market says ‘ours is special, unique and delicious.’”

The company’s namesake, two leaves and a bud, are precisely what are harvested from the camellia sinensis plant around the world to create the highest quality tea. Since 2004, two leaves™ has built a reputation for their whole leaf tea sachets which the company claims have much more rich and complex flavor than tea in a paper teabag.

“I am very aware of the challenges in doing this,” he says. “Are consumers going to recognize us? What about our fans, who are very loyal? It has blown me away, how many people have come up and said, ‘Wow, you’re dropping the “bud”?’ This is the first time I’ve had anyone come up to me and say something about any marketing we’ve done. So in terms of what the risks are, there is some significant risk,” said Rosenfeld.

The marketing team at two leaves™ hired design firm Esse Design, to rework the company’s original typeface for consistency, and its new packaging refers back to the original name.

The company is now fond of saying, “While our name is no longer a mouthful, our tea still is.”

All 18 varieties of tea sachets will appear in redesigned boxes to be seen on shelves in retail stores and cafés later this year. “Stay tuned,” says Rosenfeld. “We are holding our breath to see how the new two leaves™ sells.”

COMMENT