What makes the Chatime brand tick with consumers

We chat with the head of marketing for the rapidly expanding bubble tea producer

Tea, cheese and tapioca are three ingredients not normally associated in the standard western palate – and certainly not mixed into a beverage.

But they are also three of the key ingredients behind a rapidly-emerging force in Australia’s quick-service food and beverage category.

Inspired by the Taiwanese obsession with bubble tea, local company, Chatime, recently opened its 100th outlet, and has led the way in bringing a distinctively Asian beverage to Australian consumers.

Chatime head of marketing, Tim Paton, says the brand’s story has evolved significantly since it launched almost a decade ago.

“When the company first started we had limited funds in terms of marketing, so the strategy back then was to infiltrate densely populated Asian communities,” Paton tells CMO. “We went through a rebranding three years ago, and that whole objective was really to broaden interest in Chatime and go after a more mainstream Australian audience.

“Where we’re seeing our biggest growth opportunities now are the stores we’re opening in unexpected locations, such as across rural Australia. Caucasian customers are absolutely loving it.”

Paton says uptake among non-traditional audiences has been such that he estimates around 40 per cent of customers now are from non-Asian backgrounds.

Bubble tea is generally made using iced tea and milk combined with small balls of tapioca, called pearls. It is available in a seemingly limitless range of flavours, and more recently has witnessed the introduction of cheese foam as topping.

Paton believes it is versatility of the product that has proven critical to its success across a wide range of audiences.

“It is a fully customisable menu where it doesn’t matter what flavours you are interested in, there really is a Chatime for everybody, from basic peach iced tea to premium pearl iced tea with extra popping pearls and 100 per cent sugar,” Paton says. “We are a brand for everybody. We don’t want to exclude anybody, and we want embrace everyone and encourage everyone to come to Chatime to discover their flavour.”

So while Chatime has been working to bring more traditional Australian flavours into its product, Paton says it will continue hero both traditional and new Asian flavours, such as taro. But with a base product that might seem unusual to Western tastes, Paton says the biggest driver of growth has been recommendations.

“The biggest cause of conversion to Chatime for the first time is a recommendation from a friend,” Paton says. “And that by far is our focus, to broaden that customer base and put in a strong program around influencer and friend referral.

“It is an odd product the majority of Australians don’t understand, but once they try it they love it and they keep coming back for more.”

Chatime recently launched a loyalty app, has developed a significant WeChat strategy for 2019, and a cinema advertising campaigned to be delivered by Val Morgan. It has also signed a partnership with the national youth mental health foundation, headspace.

“Headspace is a major partner for us moving forward, and a major part of how we want to continue to connect with youth in Australia,” Paton says.

Chatime opened its 100th outlet in October, and Paton says it plans to have as many as 120 more in the next 24 months.

“It a really exciting time for the bubble tea category, and for Chatime to be able to pave the way and take this trend to everyone,” he adds.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

 

 

 

 

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