TIME：January 6, 2019
INTERVIEWEE：Guoying Du, founder& CEO of Xiao Guan Tea
INTERVIEWER：Isa Ye, founder of YoungBird Brand Management Co., Ltd.
Leading Chinese tea return to the global stage is my ultimate dream.
— Guoying Du, founder of Xiao Guan Tea
Isa Ye: Mr. Du, you said tea origins from China, so it should be our responsibility to create a global tea brand when you planned to promote the brand of Xiao Guan Tea in 2012. You also said that’s the ultimate dream you want to devote yourself to realizing. Facts have proved everything. In the past six years, you visited eight tea-making masters and invited them as your product supervisors. Also the innovative tea drinking style of one jar for one cup of tea was invented. Besides, the experience store which is abreast of Apple experience center provides customers with tea culture different from traditional concept and reshapes people’s consuming experience of Chinese tea. I believe your deep understanding of our Chinese tea plays an important role in the process of brand establishment. Let’s begin our talk with your opinion about Chinese tea culture, shall we?
Guoying Du: Before my business, what I learnt about tea culture was the same as the public’s and what I can imagine about tea was just someone sitting at the tea table and drinking tea. June 20th, 2012, my team and I began to search for tea in mountains, and I came up with the idea of changing the condition of Chinese tea. But how to change it? I had no ideas. In my opinion, tea is essentially consuming product instead of agricultural product. But why there still no brand established for tea? This is a question.
cr: Chinese National Geography
There have been 20 years since I first drank tea. And I saw many tea packages which are too big for tea. Due to these traditional packages, people have to grab tea by hand without washing their hands no matter how qualified the tea is and even how distinguished the guest is. Maybe people have been used to this way of tea drinking, but I don’t like it. I think there is still no solution to this problem across tea industry.
After a while, small tea package appears which is hygienic and also keeps tea fresh. However, it is not portable as tea is easily crushed when put into bags. As a Chinese, I try to offer more elegant experience for people to drink tea, which also shows respect to tea and tea drinker.
Isa Ye: The tea package changes its scale from big to small and then it becomes small jar, which is actually a package update. It is innovative to choose aluminum as tea package material, which also becomes key element of Xiao Guan Tea. Is there anything interesting or excruciating during your cooperation with Japanese designer Hideo Kambara? Could you please share us some details?
Guoying Du: Yes, it was an extremely excruciating experience. In October, 2012, we visited Hideo Kambara and told him my ideas and doubts about tea package. We hope he could offer us an innovative thought. We don’t know how to do with the package except for a limited weight of 4g in one package. Mr. Hideo Kambara offered about eight proposals in one year; however I was satisfied with none of them. At the same year, my team and I went to Tokyo for the last scheme, but I felt very upset after our discussion with Hideo Kambara as the last scheme was failed. I was wondering why it is so difficult to make a suitable tea package.
When we strolled in Tokyo shopping mall, I happened to find an aluminum package for cigars, which immediately inspired me. Then after three amended schemes, the final one succeeded. To me, we got through this situation step by step, which also contributes to our accumulation of explorative experience. And finally the product was created successfully.
Isa Ye: Xiao Guan Tea version 1 gained positive feedback in the market with one billion retail sales in 2017 while 2 billion in 2018. To sum up, the 5 cm diameter jar reflects all your innovative ideas and becomes the IP representing Xiao Guan Tea. Meanwhile you have also devoted yourself to interior design of experience stores and choosing the place of tea origin and technology. So how much will you grade the version one product if 100% means the best?
Guoying Du: Maybe 80%. It is evident that the aluminum jar is a successful product which is also popular among consumers. However we still feel regretful because many consumers feedback that the jar is too exquisite to abandon which goes against our original aspiration of using environmentally friendly aluminum material. To solve this problem, we continue to develop jar package in the past three years with the principle of keeping a balance between aesthetics and functionality.
In the future, the thickness of aluminum jar will be reduced to 0.2 mm which is closed to can’s. This change will still keep its exquisite appearance. At the same time, we begin to develop degradable materials to release the environmental pressure. In modern era, the enterprises with strong social responsibility will never stop as consumers move on. I believe what I do is necessary to promote the brand development.
Young people do not drink Chinese tea any more? No, it is Chinese tea that becomes ancient.
Worldwide people do not love Chinese tea? No, it is Chinese tea that is unable to keep pace with the world.
— Guoying Du, founder of Xiao Guan Tea
Isa Ye: A brand new tea product comes into people’s eyesight with the effort made by Xiao Guan Tea through innovative product design. So why you cooperate with Young Bird Plan instead of star masters? What do you think of our cooperation?
Guoying Du: Masters have their own advantages, while young designers have their own power. In fact, we hope to create a more open platform which may offers more opportunities to young designers. Through my past 20 years’ business startups, I found that it is uncertain for top masters to offer top schemes as they have limited inspiration. Our design team will make a micro innovation based on masters’ design during the production process, and I found young designers have their own thinking and greatly contribute to product update.
Both a core idea and the implementation process play important roles in establishing a brand. Besides, a good brand needs more wisdom and creation.
Isa Ye: Japanese designer Dai Satō prefers innovative design. In his design, you may find new materials and innovative technology. He re-defines Japanese design with his own style, becoming an instant online designer. Brands that cooperate with him have the ability to manufacture products in mass, which contributes to mutual benefit of both parties. In the past 5 years, our platform has accumulated hundreds thousands of excellent designers across the world, half of who ages from 20 to 30. This group is full of innovation and imagination, which will continue to surprise us with one core thought or concept. However they are lacking in practical experience, so a mature platform is necessary for them to guide them choose suitable projects, which will benefit them a lot.
Guoying Du: I’m willing to pay for creative ideas. An adopted idea also confronts with challenges. However it still needs to be supplemented with many details during the process of construction, because the designer may not take materials, technology and cost into consideration. Even masters are unable to meet all requirements raised by enterprises. But Xiao Guan Tea will make every effort to realize a good innovative idea.
So we hope this platform can gather more creative ideas. Maybe the idea can be realized or it will be supplement to existing products. As a result, we do look forward to this competition and we value this cooperation.
Isa Ye: As we all know, enterprises need ideas while young designers need opportunities and both them have great potential. On that condition, I believe the value and true meaning of Young Bird Plan is to help enterprises gain diversified design schemes from excellent designers all over the world. So I don’t think our cooperation with Xiao Guan Tea is an accident. Actually, it is our desire for creative and young design concept that contributes to the cooperation. By establishing Guanish brand, we hope to tag millennials and offer an era culture. Combined with competition brief and your design thought, could you please offer some suggestions to participants?
The idea of Guanish logo comes from fresh tea leaf and rolling the leaf up makes into a jar. Qualified tea leaf and food grade aluminum jar become two points of Xiao Guan Tea, which may create new style for young generation to drink tea.
Xiao Guan Tea, along with international competition platform Young Bird Plan, launches “Guanish”product design international competition. It calls for younger and creative minds to design a new series of tea drinking products.
Guoying Du: I believe a good design scheme shall be adhere to the Law of conservation of complexity. If enterprises slack about the design of products, then users may feel difficult when using products; however if enterprises takes every element into consideration when designing, then users will enjoy a comfortable experience.
In terms of tea industry, the younger consumers pay more attention to appearance and innovation. So in order to attract the young, we conclude with three key points: good taste, being portable and overwhelming appearance, except which we will also provide enjoyable users’ experience through innovative design schemes.
In my opinion, Young Bird Plan is a special company. In 2003 the industrial and graphic design team in my company searched for top design institutes which were most suitable for our products all over the world. We found that though a master may be very famous, he is not the one we are looking for, because he may be not familiar with our industry. So it is difficult for us to cooperate with a third party who is suitable to us.
When I saw the orientations of Young Bird Plan like competition organizing, event promotion and IP creation, I feel interested in this platform. In addition, you have global designers resources. From the point view of business, I think there are more innovative space to be explored by Young Bird Plan.
Isa Ye: Since 2013, Young Bird Plan try to meet requirements of all brands. And we help enterprises to update industries and create IP. So what’s your opinion about industry update? How important do you think design is in industry update?
Guoying Du: I think design in commercial world is as important as science and technology in national development. To traditional consumption goods, design is more significant than science and technology. It has been 40 years since reform and opening-up, and during that time subsistence problems were solve. In the next 30 years, product quality will be highly improve based on material prosperity, especially in consumption goods industry. I think design is the first driving force to promote consumption. In terms of brand, we have to continue to update our products to attract young consumers so that the industry will keep its vitality. A product lack of design will lose its future.
So I think designer is a promising vocation. However, design essentially serves customers’ requirements,so a designer shall have broad horizon.only when a design analyze something from the point view of customers, can he or she design a better and more moving scheme.