Case Study: 4 Lessons Brands Must Know Before Targeting a New Market


Targeting international markets may be high on a brand’s to do list, but how do small companies pursue the untapped pool of customers in underdeveloped markets that may be right at their doorsteps? Instead of focusing on broadening their sales reach, what does a brand need to know about locating new customers in more unconventional ways? At Hubba, this is a common question we hear from brands, and working closely with retailers has taught us that market opportunities can move really quickly.

As National Sales Manager at Teeccino, Galen MacDougall is familiar with the trials, tribulations and of course, major successes that come with having to essentially build a market from the ground up. He kindly shares 4 critical lessons about how brands should approach targeting a new consumer, and the pitfalls to avoid.

Firstly, to understand how Teeccino was able to permeate its target market and build a customer base, one must understand what Teeccino actually is. “It’s a delicious roasted herbal beverage,” Galen explains. “Like an herbal tea except all the ingredients are roasted and have a richer, more robust flavour – akin to coffee. It’s meant to resemble coffee but because there’s no coffee beans, it’s 100% caffeine-free. There’s no acidity and it has all the added health benefits of an herbal tea.”

Now as we all know, the first step to the marketing of a great new product is getting to know your target demographic. Galen already had a sense of the challenge that came with that aspect. “In the US there’s actually less of an awareness around coffee alternatives as a category but in Canada and Europe [there are barley-based alternatives] that have been around for a long time,” He states. “I think there’s been more of a following overseas for these alternative rich, roasty beverages as opposed to just coffee whereas, in the US, we’ve had a fixation on coffee for so long.” But he didn’t expect that gap in the market to last for long, “There’s more awareness around other hot drinks, other markets have been ahead of us, so it was sort of a natural progression for Teeccino and all its differences to really infiltrate the market.”

Sure enough, it seems that in the past 20 years Teeccino has made the slow but steady transition from unknown alternative beverage to somewhat of a staple within the natural foods channel. As per Galen, “Teeccino has great distribution, we’re nationwide – you can find us in any natural food store [such as Whole Foods] pretty much.” And while their primary business is in the US, they can also be found at many natural food stores in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, even Sweden as well as being available at plenty of online retailers, including “You may not know it, but we’re available all over the place!” Galen boasts.

We went on to ask if, now that Teeccino has properly invaded the hot beverage market, there are any plans to expand. Whether it be diversifying the Teeccino line of products or simply introducing Teeccino into other unmarked territories in order to further solidify the brand as a true hot beverage contender. Galen brings up an interesting conundrum in response. “We have two different pack sizes on the shelves. One of them is the 11 ounce bag of loose filter grind which you brew like coffee or however else you make coffee. We also have our individual ‘tee-bags’ that come in a box of 10.” He goes on to explain, “Lately, our initiative has been to split the brand between the coffee section where the larger filter grind bags are and the tea section where we have our individual packs that match up with all the other tea bag boxes. For a long time, we’ve had both pack sizes next to each other on the shelf but we realized we’re missing out on a lot of our target consumers which are actually tea drinkers. A lot of tea drinkers aren’t shopping the coffee section, so we’ve also developed a slew of more dandelion-based flavours which are meant to be merchandised with other teas. There are a lot more flavours on the horizon – my mom’s [Caroline MacDougall, founder of Teeccino] creative brain is often at work thinking of the next cool ingredients we could mix together to see what we come up with.”

“We do a lot of online surveys of existing Teeccino customers as well as the general public, that way you can definitely get a good amount of info.” Galen says in regards to market research – a prime tool when it comes to shaping your demographic and by extension your product, in order to suit your customers needs. “The bulk [of our market research] comes from being out in the field, doing demos, doing events, going to festivals (like Lucidity, yoga festivals, etc.), going to trade shows, sampling out the product and telling people about it. Often times a lot of consumer research is just judging people’s reactions to the product as well as the feedback that they give us when we get to talk to them in person.”

The main takeaway we got from our conversation with Galen is that sometimes you have to teach consumers that they need your product. By identifying a need for the product, positioning it in relevant retailers (and taking that a step further by then positioning it on the relevant shelves) all while constantly pursuing information on their customers wants and needs, Teeccino has a guaranteed leg up on the competition. For a company that was (quite literally) built on a dream, that’s not a bad position to be in.