Lyons Tea Logo History

Brand History

Lyons Tea is one of Ireland’s biggest and best-loved brands. From the jingle every Irish person knows; ‘Extra quality, Extra flavour, Lyons the Quality Tea’, to our more recent innovation of introducing the country’s first pyramid-shaped tea-bag, Lyons is a quintessentially Irish brand. It has enjoyed generations of Irish families growing up with it and seeing it as synonymous with the notion of home and coming home.

The 1900s
In 1902 the J. Lyons family started business in Dublin from their premises in High Street, near Christchurch Cathedral.

The 1930s
In 1932 , Lyons Tea moved from Christchurch to a new facility at Marlborough Street, towards the back of the Gresham hotel.

The 1960s
1963 saw Lyons Tea move to a tailor made factory in Goldenbridge, Dublin 8.

The very first on-pack promotion implemented by Lyons Tea was in 1963. Lyons Tea drinkers bought a packet of Lyons Tea and inside they could win vouchers for between £10 and 10 shillings. Other advertising vehicles, such as the Minstrels and the very popular car giveaway, would go on to become core parts of the Lyons Tea brand over the next 25 years.

The 1970s
By the late 1970s, the change to round bags was so successful for Lyons that
they managed to capture over 65% of the Irish tea market.

The famous "Lyons Tea jingle" has played a very important role in the success of Lyons and to this day is still one of the first things consumers remember.

The 1990s
Lyons Tea was eventually sold to Unilever in 1996.

Another milestone for the brand was the development of the tea caddy style pack. The attractive style and ease of use offered another key point of differentiation for Lyons over competitors.

A Case Study on how Lyons Tea has been reinvented by Kieran Killeen

Lyons Tea, a major brand throughout the Seventies and Eighties, but losing share in the Nineties has found itself facing the 'Noughties' with much historical baggage. Old brand baggage, as any marketer will tell you, is much harder to lose than if you were sending it on a flight from Dublin to Heathrow. It is a big question, how do you lose old brand baggage?

People have long memories and also question behavioural patterns. Psychologists tell us that it takes 18 months to really recognise and believe a change in human behaviour, but how long does it take to recognise change in a brand. Lucozade has achieved it, so too Brylcreem, but what has it taken? Millions of pounds, years of toil and a blatant refusal to ever go back to where the brand was before.

In the case of Lyons Tea, the time needed to make change and see that change reflect positively in volume sales was always going to be an issue and so the change had to be radical. But where do you begin? To be honest, it has to be back to basics and from there having the confidence and the conviction to drive change. Change so radical that you will live or die by it.

Generations of brand managers and agencies had worked on bringing Lyons Tea to where it was at the end of last year and so the current team had a responsibility to them. To ensure that the many years of toil previously put in would, when the history books are opened, demonstrate that we were capable of following in their footsteps, even though we decided to wear new shoes.

But evolution is sometimes simply not good enough, sometimes a revolution is required, however harder revolution might be to sell to consumers. Out with the old and in with the new. Perhaps in the modern 'Twenties or Thirties' the next generation will look back and say those guys in the 'Noughties' were off their heads, but there have been solid reasons for the revolution.

Let us examine the issues that faced the brand. Firstly, Lyons Tea has been around for a long time and some of the values that were relevant then are not so much today. Also, because of its traditional image its consumer base was ageing, a polite way for saying grandmums buy it. Yet, to ignore the hardcore loyalist would be foolish, to say the least.

The bottom line still needs feeding. Apart from the above, the historical baggage was what was most concerning. Historical baggage made up of tired packaging, minstrels which must have been trendy at one time, lack of relevant above the line work, a 26-year-old on-pack promotion offering a car a month, and a limited brand range.

Not too good particularly when you lay it down beside the modern Irish consumer, who is filled with aspiration, driving ambition and is willing to flirt with new brands and new identities. The choice was evolution or revolution and evolution is a slow, gradual process.

It is unusual to find a client who is bold enough do deal with the internal and external issues that come hand-in-hand with the prospect of a revolution, but that is precisely what was required. Wheel in the researchers, wheel in all the agencies from all disciplines and tell it as it really is.

So started a frantic period of revolutionising. Out goes the old packaging, in comes a new look that keeps the brand's heritage yet reflects its contemporary lifestyle proposition, while also improving on shelf impact and its visibility.

Out go the old ads and in comes a totally new, refreshingly honest advertising approach, developed by Ogilvy & Mather, aimed at reflecting everyday life in modern Ireland, using real people. The overriding creative theme suggests that no matter who you are, or what you are doing, a cup of Lyons Tea helps put things in perspective.

Out go the minstrels and we did not even invite them to re-apply. Out goes the old on-pack promotion to be replaced with activity which is more in keeping with what young tiger cubs are seeking... the opportunity to win their mortgage free for ten years with GE Capital and all reinforced with a self-liquidating offer involving a tie in with Jack O'Patsy pottery.

Also in comes some new invigorating flavours which reflect once again on the modern Irish lifestyle and psyche. All wrapped up in a new brand proposition that invites the consumer to 'relax, restore and revive'.

But that is not where it ends. This is only the start. The Lyons Tea revolution is underway and if the last quarter sales results are anything to go by, the strategy to date has been enthusiastically welcomed by the marketplace. How many brands need this sort of treatment?

Often those too close to their brands fail to see that they are executing activities which are merely plastering over the cracks. You need to be big, you need to be bold and you need ambition and conviction to really make positive change.
Perhaps this message is a lesson in life and not just a message for the treatment of brands, but one thing is for this space as the revolution is on.

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