Jia Jia Herbal Tea refreshes brand, engages younger fans with Uncle Jia Jia

SIngaporean brand Jia Jia Herbal Tea has refreshed its branding and introduced a new brand ambassador. Also known as Jia Jia Liang Teh, the new visual illustration of the can is a vibrant portrayal of its 11 all-natural ingredients, while the colours on the can's main body represent the different flavours and variants. Meanwhile, Uncle Jia Jia was conceptualised to bring to life the brand's positioning, convey information and foster conversations with consumers via its digital and social platforms. At the same time, Uncle Jia Jia is a personification of the brand's heritage, anchored in tradition, with humour, fun, spontaneity and all things local. 

Uncle Jia Jia is described as someone who is chill, friendly and "maybe just a little bit grumpy at times". The brand has positioned him as a semi-retired uncle who wanders Singapore's heartlands and is never seen without his favourite pet bird protected in a birdcage covered in colourful batik. Not one to mess around at work, Uncle Jia Jia can often be found on the production floor having "hearty" conversations with members of the team when he is not sampling the freshly brewed herbal tea. Uncle Jia Jia is also a self-proclaimed makan connoisseur who enjoys hopping around various hawkers and having conversations with the younger generation.

The brand ambassador is also seeking to appeal to the younger crowd with relatable Instagram posts. Done in collaboration with Adjectif, consumers can interact with Uncle Jia Jia via an Instagram filter, a microsite and spice up their conversations with sticker packs on Telegram and WhatsApp as well as Instagram GIFs. Each sticker pairs up Uncle Jia Jia or Jia Jia Herbal Tea with a colloquial lingo or witty pun. 

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Uncle Jia Jia has been active in engaging with Instagram followers, as experienced by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE. He takes on a witty and caring personality and addresses users by "ah boy" or "ah girl". Eliza Tok, brand manager of JJ Drinks Singapore, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the creative concept for Uncle Jia Jia came after a rigorous internal brand audit where its brewing team of Jia Jia Herbal Tea reminisced the good old days – the brewing methods and ingredients remain the same; the only change is their uniform. When the manufacturing plant at JJ Drinks Singapore first started in the 80s, the brewers wore an airy shirt and shorts with the iconic "Good Morning" towel around their necks, and started brewing herbal tea in the morning before bottling them in the glass bottle in the afternoon.

"That story inspired us. We wanted to recreate this set of memories, stories and relationships, and that was how Uncle Jia Jia came about. In similar clothing to our brewers in the 80’s, along with a personality with local humour and spontaneity, Uncle Jia Jia is a personification of our heritage and Jia Jia Herbal Tea," she explained.

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The idea for Jia Jia Herbal Tea came about in 1988 with the goal of making high-quality herbal tea available to everyone. In 1989, the first Jia Jia Herbal Tea was introduced to consumers in a glass bottle and it later moved on to producing the drinks in cans in 1992. Two years later, it expanded to other neighbouring countries including Malaysia. 

Over the years, Tok said Jia Jia Herbal Tea has remained quiet, with the brand's image and USPs overshadowed in the competitive clutter in the marketplace. "Confronted by shifting cultural norms and preference changes as well, it is important that the brand does not straggle behind competition, and in fact keep up with the pack, and ultimately, strive to pull ahead of it. So, it is high time we change and move with them as well," Tok explained.

The rebranding is seen as an opportunity to better reflect where JJ Drinks Singapore is today as an organisation, Tok said, as well as strengthen trust through growth recognition and increased business value with its stakeholders in the region. At the same time, the company also hopes to use this to create more opportunities to connect and engage consumers.

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Tok described the rebranding process to be a lengthy and careful one, from brainstorming to ideation and discussions on visual identity, defining Jia Jia Herbal Tea’s USPs, and more. The team took it one step at a time. "Constant aligning and re-aligning was necessary, to ensure we stay true to our heritage, and stay focused on the rebranding strategy. And not forgetting to have fun modernising the existing brand assets or shy away from challenges or heated discussions," she added.

Moving forward, the company aims to continue creating lighthearted and localised campaigns, collaborations, and content that can connect people of varying beliefs and backgrounds through digital and social mediums. By having a dedicated platform with curated local content, and through Uncle Jia Jia,the brand hopes consumers will be able to build a deeper connection and engagement with the brand by identifying and relating to him.

Over the past three decades, the brand has introduced a healthier and sugar-free variant for consumers. The drink is now available in three variations - Heritage Original, Heritage Less Sugar and Heritage Zero Sugar. 

According to Tok, the health halo and functional positioning of herbal tea is increasingly attracting younger consumers today, with a growing demand from health-conscious consumers for healthier products. This came in the wake of the pandemic situation in 2020. In May this year, JJ Drinks Singapore issued 11,700 Jia Jia Herbal Tea Care Packs for healthcare frontliners in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital & Yishun Community Hospital, and participated in Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) - Nursing Home Care Pack Initiative in June 2020.

That said, the company was also not spared from the pandemic's impact. Like many others, it had to hold back on campaigns, cut down on marketing spend, and reevaluate its strategy. "This also means acknowledging the changing needs of consumers and adopting a more flexible approach to adapt to the new normal. People are working remotely and under restrictions - this naturally led us to explore and focus more on content creation for digital mediums such as social media platforms, online collaborations and websites," Tok said.

While the team is currently open to exploring other social media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat, it plans to take things one step at a time. "The reality is, there is a lot of work in and of itself in this rebranding, and pace is even more critical to ensure we don’t risk losing hard-won brand value along the way or lose focus being too caught up with the newness and forgetting to listen to market sentiments," she explained.