Horse’s Mouth: Doug Hastie, Chanui

Chanui founder Doug Hastie has become a familiar face on New Zealand television screens, fronting his own ads for the brand.

Now, it seems, his daughter is following in her father’s footsteps, appearing in a new spot for Chanui’s biscuit range.

The new spot for the biscuits veers away from the well-worn path, featuring a collection of kid scientists taking the product range through some rigorous testing, which eventually results in the definitive verdict ‘it’s yum’, delivered by Hastie’s daughter.

However, this slightly quirky approach is an exception for Hastie, with the vast majority of his advertising sticking to the point, delivering the core message of brand through simple product reviews.     

While Chanui ads aren’t necessarily going to pick up a slew of awards at the Axis awards, they’ve allowed Hastie to build Chanui into a widely recognised and successful local brand.

At the end of last year, NZ Marketing had a chat with him about his business and approach to marketing. Here’s a rundown of what he had to say. 

On convincing consumers to try something new

“It’s been the hardest thing, I think. Someone told me that the loyalty in tea brands is the strongest of all the categories in the supermarket and from my experience that would be the case. We started off doing tea tastings in the supermarket. And I think I was under the misconception that if you have the best quality tea, people will try it out and drink the brand from then on, because we know ours is probably the best tasting tea. And initially we started off doing a leaf tea only, being the purist in the tea sense, but then the realisation is, a lot of people think they buy on taste but they buy on brand.”

On marketing strategy

“The biggest thing is to let people know about it, and to make them aware of the brand. It’s still a relatively new brand, and in a lot of ways Dilmah is considered a new brand because people’s parents didn’t grow up with it, but compare it to Bell, it’s been around for multi-generations. So for us, it’s about making people aware about it in the first place and then getting more people to try it and then we go from there.”

On traditional platforms

“We started off on radio and then we went to TV, which for us has been most effective. We’ve tried various other media [channels]and it’s all changing very quickly at the moment. So what we are doing now might be different to what we are doing next year and then in five years. You have to advertise on what you think is good now, rather than what you think is going to be good in the future. And at the moment, I still think TV is great.”

On fronting the ads

“I found this more effective, because people buy from people and particularly those they perceive they can trust. And for us, we are a New Zealand company, started by me, a normal New Zealander who likes drinking tea and that’s what we started from. It adds authenticity and it’s more distinctive as opposed to a lot of other advertising.”

On his new identity

“It’s funny being called [Chanui Guy] and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that. That’s what my life’s become.”

On taking advertising seriously

“At the end of the day, ads are designed to sell the product and a lot of these advertising companies create ads that win advertising awards but that’s not the objective of creating an ad. The objective of creating an ad is to sell more product and our ads have been very effective at that, whereas I think sometimes people get more into the creative stuff and it’s fun, but the nitty gritty is to sell more product and if it doesn’t then it’s not a good ad.”

On Social media

“We’ve tried bouts of it and I’m not sure about social media. It promises a lot but I’m not sure it really delivered in terms of engaging with customers. A year ago, I was probably quite foolish in how great I thought it was for talking to customers, but I feel less of that now. For us, it seems like a lot of work and you don’t get as much engagement as expected. And it’s not only us. Other people in the business have the same view.”

On sticking with traditional

“Social media is growing and it will become more and more important. In ten years’ time, social media could be massive and traditional media might not exist … But I think people see the growth rather than the volume. They see it growing, but it’s still a fraction of the power of traditional media.”

On diversifying product range

“I think it’s always important from a marketing perspective to grow, and we are certainly looking to grow a lot more as well. We think biscuits and tea go well together and we saw an opportunity in this space. We are as successful with our biscuits as we have been with tea and it’s as simple as we’ve got good quality products. And again, we do advertise quite a lot but as people try both the biscuits and the tea they just realise how much better they taste than what they’ve been eating and drinking before.”

On tea and e-commerce

“In the early days, e-commerce was a major part of our business. We were a niche player, and that’s what we did to survive and it was effective. It really is more cost effective for us and for consumers to buy tea at the supermarket. Our website probably looks a bit dated because we haven’t updated it since most of our sales are now through the supermarket. The website is now for rural customers and also some of the more eclectic flavours that don’t really sell in supermarkets. We sell a lot more leaf tea on the website because the leaf tea is not in as many stores.”

On unique packaging

“Quite often when we show people the box, they’re  more enamoured with the box than with the tea. Well, at first it hurt because I thought ‘the tea’s great as well’, but ultimately it’s great having quality tea in quality packaging, because once people try it they keep drinking it. The packaging really makes a massive difference, and I think it’s one of the reasons for Chanui’s success. It’s just so striking, attractive and different.”

On Kiwi tea drinkers

“If you look at the population, it’s probably equal between men and women who drink tea. But I think the people who are more likely to try a new brand are women, as opposed to men, so therefore you have to appeal to women to pick up the pack for the first time. Once they try it, our view is that they will keep buying it. Men generally tend to be more loyal and won’t try something new. If I think of myself, when I go to the supermarket I know exactly what I want and I won’t even look at anything else, whereas if my wife goes to the supermarket, and it’s not just my wife, she looks at what’s on sale and is usually much more likely to try something different.”

On shifting habits

“Kiwis are definitely not the tea drinkers that we once were, but I think it will change over time. In New Zealand, everyone orders coffee and if you happen to order a tea, everyone looks at you like you’re very old fashioned.

(Source: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

You go to the States and everyone orders a coffee and you order a tea and everyone looks at you like you’re the hip new guy. Part of it is that coffee is a new thing, but eventually people become coffeed-out and they’ll come back to tea. You see that in lots of things, like names that were old-fashioned names. A name like ‘Jack’ was a very traditional when I was a child but now, I think it’s one of the most popular names of children born in the last five to ten years, because these things go in and out of fashion. While coffee’s strong at the moment, tea’s not declining. I think it’s just going through one of those cycles.”

On his Background

“I’m a civil engineer originally. I worked on a road through Africa, the English Channel Tunnel overbridge, and a rollercoaster at Euro Disney. Then I worked for Goldman Sachs in New York trading equities and after that I started the tea business.”

On lessons learnt in business

“I think it’s about keeping it simple. You start off with a view that you have to do something different or unique to do well. But the reality is you should do something simple, but then do it a lot better than everyone else. For instance, I started off doing leaf tea because I thought that was the way to crack into the market. I saw people have moving from instant coffee to fresh coffee and thought the same trend would happen with tea. But it didn’t. And now it’s only a small portion of our business. As soon as we did tea bags sales took off. It’s just a realisation that our success is really because we manage all the processes a lot better than other people, not because we came up with something quirky.”

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