Fulfilling the Destiny of an Authentic Brand

What does it say about a company that goes through an entire branding process, with packaging and brochures ready to be printed, only to pull the plug at the last minute?

In the case of Organic India, it says that the brand is committed to truth, authenticity and love.

We’ll start with love.

What moved us when we met with and got to know the Organic India team was their intensity to their cause, that they were driven not by the market but rather by a set of values.

Bhavani Lev, an American who found her spiritual path in India, saw Indian farmers and their families devastated by the unmet promise of multi-national industrialized agriculture — contracts that could never be fulfilled, farmers in debt, children without access to school or basic healthcare. This lead to a yearly epidemic of over fifteen thousand farmer suicides, many deliberately ingesting the very same pesticides that ravaged their land.

Bhavani and her husband Bharat set out to create change, one small farm at a time. They founded Organic India and their first crop was tulsi, a traditional Ayurvedic herb with multiple adaptogenic health benefits. Cultivated for over five thousand years throughout India, tulsi is considered the “Queen of Herbs” and is revered as a sacred plant, infused with healing power. The Organic India business plan was based on a regeneratively-farmed crop that would restore balance and harmony. It was also based on a financial structure that created an economy of sustainable jobs with living wages, as well as contributing toward the vitality of farming communities by enabling organic certification, growing their own crops during off-seasons, education, healthcare, and new infrastructures with clean wells. From its inception, Organic India was committed to change “business as usual,” rejecting the impulse of ego and instead embracing the impulse of love.

Bringing this consciousness to market meant Bhavani and Bharat had to feel that the authenticity and truth of their mission was reflected in the branding of their company. The prior branding agency they had hired objectified their Indian roots, assimilating the brand to the cultural icons Americans associate with — yoga, Hinduism and henna. They looked at where the tea category currently was, and not where Organic India could be.

At the last minute, Bhavani said, “Stop. We are not seeing the love.”

For an authentic brand, these manufactured stereotypes were an unacceptable solution.

Bhavani set out to find a new agency to fix their brand as quickly as possible. The lives of their farmers literally depended on it. That’s when Organic India reached out to Pure Branding.

“We have met with and worked with many brands that have deeply moving heritages,” said Yadim Medore. “Organic India stands out because of how it impacts life on so many levels. But what moved us when we met with and got to know the Organic India team was their intensity toward the cause, that they were driven not by the market, but rather by a set of values. This freed us to delve deep into what Organic India stood for. It was a humbling experience to be responsible for capturing and expressing the true essence of Organic India in a way that would be accessible to Americans.”

The Brand Opportunity, Brand Strategy, Visual Strategy and Content Strategy phases of our work led to a brand built on a culture of consciousness.

“Real Indian farmers look you in the eye — there’s a circle of harmony between the farmers who care for the organic land and the consumers who enjoy the organic tea,” said Yadim. “Our solution was to have customers see the farmers as real human beings, not objectified or as props in a movie. The idea was to project the real India, not the cultural cliché.”

“The trade fell in love with Organic India. For many, Organic India reminded them why they got into the business in the first place.”

Michele Sondheimer
General Manager, Organic India USA

The packaging became an expression of this approach, with each box featuring a real Organic India farmer. The brand communicated the message that every tea has a story to tell. This theme was backed at launch with an advertising campaign that featured individual stories from farmers or community members whose lives were transformed by association with Organic India.

“The trade fell in love with Organic India,” said Michelle Sondheimer, General Manager. “In the crowded tea shelves of major natural food stores all over the country, staff displaced established lines to make room for the sixteen SKUs of Organic India. Stores created endcaps to better tell the story. For many, Organic India reminded them why they got into the business in the first place.”

The launch of the rebrand was an unqualified success. Pure Branding worked on developing all of the launch collateral, advertisements, promotions, and packaging. In the first twelve months sales grew from $500,000 to $6 million, and the following year sales doubled. The brand was able to secure excellent placement throughout the country at Whole Foods Market and other major retailers. ACV increased dramatically, with market penetration in over two thousand grocery stores. Within two years, Organic India had become the number seven specialty tea brand in the U.S. natural channel.

But most importantly, lives and land were saved. Today Organic India has helped create over half a million acres of organic agriculture in India. In the process, it has created thousands of sustainable jobs with living wages and has helped thousands of farmers return to their sacred connection with the land.

“Pure Branding put it all together, enabling powerful growth in multiple channels.”

Ken Vickerstaff
Former CEO, Organic India USA; Former EVP of Sales & Marketing, Hain Celestial Group and WhiteWave Foods