Sweet Leaf Tea Case Study For your first case study, please answer the five questions over the Sweet Leaf Tea case that begins on page 69 of your textbook. The questions are on page 71. If you use outside resources to answer your questions, please be sure to cite properly using either MLA or APA guidelines. Each question is worth 20 points.Please include the questions in your case study paper. All papers should be at minimum, two full pages and no more than four pages. Use Times New Roman, 12 point, and single space paragraphs. Please email me with any questions. Thank you. 70 Chapter Three
would represent who they were, laid back
and fun, but didn’t forget Clayton’s Grandma
Mimi. SLT could be described as a cool prod-
uct for “good times and happy moments.”
Before SLT could build a large fan base
they needed people to try their product. In an
interview conducted by Inc. Magazine Clayton
stated: “Sampling is the best form of marketing.
You’ve got to get the product past people’s lips.
In 2002 they started partnering with music
festivals like Austin City Limits (ACL),
Lollapalooza, South-by-South West (SXSW),
and Country Thunder. The folks attending the
festivals were thirsty and willing to try new
drinks. This also allowed them to target their
core target audience-young (25-45), laid back,
hip, and health conscious beverage drinkers.
Initially, ninety percent of their advertis-
ing budget went to sampling (Inc.). Focusing
their sampling program during music festivals
them grow the brand by being on the shelves
of a national chain store and also helped them
connect to other distributors. But more impor-
tantly was that SLT had built a strong connec-
tion with their customers, with most of them
willing to search far and wide for a bottle for
SLT. This truly helped them become a success-
In 2008, with an infusion of money from
Catterton Partners, a Connecticut-based private
equity firm, and Nestle Waters North America
Inc., SLT had expanded their marketing beyond
sampling and store partnerships. In 2009 they
had three major advertising updates—(1) they
launched a new website (2) hired a dedicated
Twitter writer (3) and added a team of Facebook
managers for the fan page. 8, 11 SLT empowered
every employee to be a spokesperson for the
brand-with even their receptionist taking a
core part in their Twitter and Facebook posts.
Initially the core communication for Sweet Leaf
Tea was through direct-to-customer marketing at
music festivals. The owners, Clayton and David,
were at the music festivals handing out their prod-
uct. This allowed customers to meet the people
behind the beverage and link friendly faces to a
good beverage. Also the association with music
festivals may have helped the brand develop the
“cool and fun” image they were pushing. S, 12
Once SLT had expanded beyond the cen-
tral Texas market they needed to find a way to
stay connected to their customers and keep
allowed them to target masses of people at a
time when they were thirsty such as the dead of
summer in Texas, Chicago, and Arizona.
SLT realized very early, however, that they
needed to be on store shelves if they wanted their
customers to find and buy the product. Selling
their product at a few music festivals a year
wouldn’t be enough to keep them in business. 12
Their first major store partnership was with
Whole Foods (WF) in 2002, which launched them
on store shelves in the greater Texas market.12
Adi Wilk, the former marketing manager at SLT,
stated that the Whole Foods partnership “lifted
the brand.” In 2006 Whole Foods expanded the
SLT market to all of their stores in the U.S.12
Along with the Whole Foods partnership
they also found distribution through part-
nerships with 7-11 stores, placement in Texas
school vending machines, and at army bases.12
This allowed fans that may have tried SLT at
Lollapalooza to find it in Chicago, or people that
traveled to Austin for ACL or SXSW to find it
in New York at their local Whole Foods stores.12
SLT’s communication strategy had tradition-
ally focused on connecting to their customers.
Their partnership with WF, however, helped
music festivals and their core website.
that direct to customer communication active.
The infusion of money from both Catterton
Partners and Nestle Waters allowed them to
expand their communication strategy beyond
Their Facebook fans matched the same target
audience they first had at music festivals. Their
blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages allowed
them to continue that face-to-face communi-
cation Clayton and David started at the music
festivals, but in the digital world.8.11 Their
An Overview of the Corporate Communication Function 69
Sweet Leaf Tea
In March 2010, Clayton Christopher announced
his employees and all of the fans of Sweet
Leaf Tea that he was leaving the company
and handing leadership to an outsider, Dan
Costello. Clayton’s final act was to send an
email to his employees praising their perfor-
mance and integrity, which helped grow Sweet
Leaf Tea to the number one ready-to-drink tea
at Whole Foods. In his email, he wrote that after
his departure he hoped:
“we will not sacrifice the magic of this brand and
thus jeopardize the love affair we have created with
our consumers in order to save a few dollars on our
path up the mountain. ”
would pour the freshly brewed tea over ice and
add natural sugarcane to make it sweet. In 1997
they founded Sweet Leaf Tea (SLT) to fill this
void, and hoped that others would enjoy their
Grandma’s recipe as much as they did.
Initially their production and marketing
more closely resembled that of a moonshine
producer than that of the multi million-dollar
brand it is today. They used giant crawfish pans
to boil the water and pillowcases as giant tea
bags to brew the tea. To distribute the bottled
beverages they had an old run down van.5
Clayton and David moved Sweet Leaf Tea
from Beaumont to Austin, Texas after a couple
of years and started using an automated sys-
tem to make the tea. But, they always remained
true to their Grandma’s recipe.”
Sweet Leaf Tea’s only competitive advantage
was its superior flavor compared to other ready-
to-drink teas like Arizona, Snapple, Lipton, and
Nestea. In 2008 SLT had $12 million in revenue,
and was available in 30 percent of the U.S. Market.?
In March 2009, Nestle Waters purchased a third of
Sweet Leaf Tea for $16.5 Million.7
With the large investment from Nestle Waters
also came a new president, Dan Costello, a for-
mer executive at Nestle Waters North America.
TEA DRINKERS HEAVEN
The ready-to-drink tea market was consistently
ranked as one of the fastest growing new product
entries in the early twenty-first century. In 2007
total sales of tea equaled $6.85 billion, almost a third
of which were ready-to-drink (RTD) or bottled tea.?
Tea is high in antioxidants, has health-boosting
properties and is either all natural or organic,
which might be the reason more people were
moving from traditional carbonated drinks to
healthy options like Sweet Leaf Tea. Between 2003
and 2008 the RTD category grew by 65 percent.
In the Southern United States, tea has long
been a popular beverage choice. It is usually
served cold and sweetened. It can be found
in any restaurant, mom and pop store, or at a
FROM MOONSHINE TO BIG TIME
Clayton Christopher and David Smith were
good bottled tea that tasted as good as what
GROWING THEIR BRAND
Beverages tend to be low-involvement products,
but also a unique business in that everyone has
a favorite drink, which makes it very personal.’
Sweet Leaf Tea had to find ways to develop a fol-
lowing of customers without a big advertising
budget. They focused on sampling at music fes-
tivals, product placement on shows like MTV’s
Real World and CBS’s Big Brother as well as
making sure they had a clear brand personality.
Clayton and David worked with Lyon
Advertising to create a brand personality that
always fans of sweet tea and loved their
Grandma’s recipe. But, they
Grandma made. Their Grandma made sweet tea
by brewing teabags for 3-4 minutes. Then she
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