Video: DavidsTea’s success comes without a media buy

The DavidsTea brand has grown at an exceptional rate since first opening its doors in Montreal five years ago. The loose leaf tea retailer has opened 32 stores in the last year bringing its tally to 117 across Canada and the U.S. It’s an impressive feat for the Montreal-based brand that relies solely on word-of-mouth, social media (DavidsTea has over 150,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and public relations efforts rather than traditional paid media to build buzz and awareness.

Sampling and celebrity seeding, in particular, have become important promotional tools for the company, which is looking to build its customer base and introduce the brand to new people, explained Bradley Grill, DavidsTea’s director of public relations, who was in Toronto last week to launch a new holiday collection of limited-edition teas, accessories and gift packs.

“We’ve always loved sharing our passion for tea and we’ve always loved sending different care packages and having people discover our brand,” said Grill. “It has been very organic. We want to send packages to people who love tea or who might have an interest in tea.”

DavidsTea has an internal events team that works closely with the PR and social media departments for community sampling initiatives and blogger events. Grill said they tend to reach out to organizations and companies in and around store locations.

Part of its celebrity seeding this year included a presence at the IT Lounge  – a gifting event for celebrities during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) hosted by DavidsTea’s PR agency, NKPR. This year’s celebrity guest list included Adrien Brody, Paul Haggis and Mila Kunis.

“We’re all about community engagement and sampling, and with an event like TIFF happening in Toronto where we have some awesome stores in and around the city, it was the perfect fit for us,” said Grill.

Oprah took to Instagram to thank DavidsTea for the package.

Perhaps the most notable celebrity seeding took place last April with the one-time queen of daytime talk – Montreal’s Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel called DavidsTea and asked they provide a package for Oprah Winfrey, who was in town on a speaking tour. Grill said the call sparked an internal roundtable discussion about which products to send. They decided on a mug and a selection of teas including Saigon chai.

Winfrey praised the brand on Twitter and Instagram and to a sold out crowd at Montreal’s Bell Centre. She vowed to share DavidsTea with the world through Twitter and in the pages of O magazine. It was PR gold.

Grill said he couldn’t comment when asked if DavidsTea would ever consider buying traditional media to promote the brand, but quickly added that the company is “going to continue what we’re doing, which is an organic approach and really getting tea into people’s hands and being genuine and spreading the word.”

Videography by Pam Lau

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