August 15, 2012

Innovation in small cups: Dovely Tea

We often refer to innovation in its big, game changing approaches.  However, we often fail, at the same time, to remember that innovation as a game changer starts by changing the nature of experience for a limited bunch of ultra committed individuals who meet on common ground.

We see outcomes of innovation, not the small places where it starts.  In this case, with a cup of tea.  Not everyone drinks tea.  Not as ubiquitous as coffee drinking here in the US.  However, a large majority of the world prefers tea.  And we’ve seen places like Argo Tea and Teavana make a real business of the preparation and selling of tea.  Each of those, and I’m a patron of both, offer a good experience.  They are both very close to traditional retail.  However, innovation = needs of a few…and with that, I offer you an example of creating a really engaging experience:

That is an origami tea bag, shaped as a delicate bird and hand filled.  However, the tea bag is only part of the story, and one we often overlook.  It’s important to remember in ancient Asian cultures that the gift is not just the item inside.  It is the presentation – with two hands, specifically.  Disarming both the giver and the receiver.  It is also very much about the packaging.  An unwrapped gift is diminished somehow by its lack of attentiveness for the art of giving.  In this way, the attentiveness that Dovely has placed into creating a complete, rewarding and lasting experience provides a deep and abiding memory of the gift.  None of it is “throw away.”  Look at the wooden texture of the envelope, the silk screening of the packaging (which results in a raised ink that provides additional tactile sensations) – these are considered choices.

While I understand $8 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – it should not be – the artisanal return to meeting the needs of a small market in such a deeply elegant way might still count as innovation when it moves from consumption to experience.  If you click on the picture, you can see the creation process.  (I originally typed production process.  I had to go erase it.  It felt like I was diminishing it.)

If you are interested in innovation around marketing, please consider participating our Marketing Innovation study – I would be most grateful to hear your voice.  I might even send you an elegant tea experience, if you’re willing.  It’s not a reward, but a gift for sharing me with.  -c-