Case Studies

Unlocking Its Global Potential: Uji Tea’s Journey Through Strategic Global Research and Marketing

November 20, 2023

The Kyoto Tea Cooperative Association, aiming to boost the global recognition of Uji tea, encountered trademark issues in China. To resolve this, they engaged Koeeru Global to conduct a five-part promotion involving an awareness study, creating video ads, ad evaluation tests, ad distribution on Chinese social media, and post-distribution survey. Results revealed low recognition of Uji as a Japanese place, but helped Association to better understand the Chinese market and eventually led to a resolution of the trademark issue.

Logo for the Uji Tea Association

*Note: While this article was originally published in June 2021 by Syno Japan, the predecessor of Koeeru, it is now being reposted and updated with new information. If you have any questions our this solution or how we can help your company conduct global research or marketing campaigns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Business Overview

The Kyoto Tea Cooperative Association works to promote the activities of its 122 members engaged in tea production (excluding coarse tea manufacturing), tea wholesale, and tea retail through collective tea transactions, joint refrigerated storage, and consumption promotion, primarily through focusing on the Uji tea brand. Additionally, it fosters interactions with major Uji tea-producing areas such as Kagoshima, Mie, Nara, and Shiga, not only in Kyoto but also by occasionally organizing events. In recent years, efforts have been made to export Uji tea to China.

A woman's hands holding freshly picked tea leaves

Challenges in the Business

While Uji tea enjoys widespread recognition in Japan, tapping into the global market has presented unique challenges. This includes trademark issues with Chinese companies, who had registered within China trademarks combining the names of long-standing Japanese Uji tea sellers with the characters for Uji. To address this issue, the Association appealed to the Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration, stating that Uji is a well known place name in Japan and should not be registered, to which the authorities replied that it is not well-known to the Chinese public. Uncertain as to whether this was true or not, they decided to conduct market research with Syno Japan (now Koeeru Global) to determine how well the Uji brand was actually known.

Our Company’s Solution

After being commissioned by the Kyoto Prefecture Tea Association, we broke the project down into five broad actions: 1) an awareness study for the Uji tea brand in three Chinese cities (Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou), 2) the creation of video ads based on the survey results, 3) video ad evaluation tests before distribution, 4) distribution of the video ads on Chinese domestic social media, and 5) ad effectiveness measurements through post-distribution surveys incorporating local consumer feedback.

For the awareness survey, we collected responses on Uji tea awareness from 3,000 individuals aged 14 to 80 in the three Chinese cities using its global research capabilities. Based on the survey results, our company, along with its experienced consultants, provided a solution combining a variety of overseas marketing services.

After completing the awareness study in Step 1, we decided that the most appropriate audience for our video ad campaign would be young adults. To reach this demographic, we filmed an action-packed advertisement featuring Oujichama, the cute, plushy character of Uji City fighting off a band of ninjas. We then re-confirmed the target audience and decided where and on what platform to deliver the ad via pre-launch ad evaluation tests.

After running the advertisements on Chinese social media, we conducted a post-launch ad effectiveness measurement and our in-house consultants analyzed the results. All global marketing research was conducted using our in-house systems and teams, and the client was involved in every step of the process, from questionnaire review and distribution to data analysis. In the end, our consultants provided the client with a series of concrete actions they could take going forward.

Solution Results

Through this project, the client was able to gain a better understanding of Chinese market conditions and what kind of PR would be acceptable for Chinese viewers in the future. Additionally, though market awareness of Uji as a place in Japan was relatively low, and we have no way of knowing whether the campaigned helped our client’s cause or not, the authorities did eventually reverse their position on the trademark issue.

Future Challenges / Outlook

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that for many years, Chinese consumers were unable to enjoy Uji tea from Kyoto. Nonetheless, we believe that it is important that they learn about Uji tea’s high quality and the various ways to drink it. Going forward, Japanese tea manufacturers should take advantage of global EC platforms to sell their products in as many countries as possible, even if consumers may not have the chance to enjoy the tea in-person in Japan. To do this, we hope that through effective cross-border promotions, Uji the place is synonymous with the high quality that it produces.

A picture of a tea garden in Kyoto, where there are rolling hills of tea plants.

We were able to collect a lot of useful data in this project. We would like to express our gratitude for your advice and suggestions on the use of the data, which lead to great results. Thank you very much.

Mr. Okamoto, Kyoto Tea Cooperative Association
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