Blog: marketing

By Avery Faller

Speaker: Barry Nalebuff
Company: Honest Tea

Honest Tea LogoFor early-stage companies, branding is often a key part of helping you sell your product, since it allows you to differentiate yourself in a market of more established competitors and target your desired customer base.  Last week, Barry Nalebuff, a Professor at the Yale School of Management, spoke to the Summer Fellows about his experiences in the entrepreneurial world as a cofounder of Honest Tea. 


Barry told the story of the company’s foundation.  In 1998, Barry and his cofounder, Seth Goldman, recognized a gap in the bottled beverage industry: on one hand, there were artificially sweetened diet drinks with 0 calories, and on the other, drinks with hundreds of calories that were too sweet for many consumers.  They created Honest Tea to be uniquely poised to fill this gap with low calorie teas (but not zero calories) brewed just like the tea you would brew at home. 

Barry Headshot

They chose the name Honest Tea because they wanted their company to be transparent and, well, honest.  It became an effective litmus test for many of the early decisions that they made about the company: is this an honest thing to do?  For example, unlike other iced tea producers that artificially flavored water, Honest Tea would brew its own tea with the highest quality ingredients and have between 20 and 50 calories while comparable drinks had either 0 calories or between 80 and 180 calories. 

The early bottles of Honest Tea were made of glass and had two non-contiguous labels.  In addition to allowing the customer to be able to see inside the bottle with a “nothing-to-hide” mentality, this branding also reminded customers of the high quality of the tea inside.  This honesty (pun intended) was essential to building the Honest Tea brand in the beginning; unlike many other types of companies, customers must be willing to put that company’s products inside of them, so there needs to be a very high level of trust.  Although elements of Honest Tea’s bottle design have changed over time, their branding decisions reflect that their corporate beliefs remain the same. 

The Takeaway

Branding is an important part of creating a successful company.  If your startup creates a product of some kind, think of the package as the place to tell your story, especially if you can’t afford a full-blown advertising campaign.  Your company’s name, if chosen well, can help to communicate your company’s product and beliefs.  Efforts like these allow you and your brand to stand out in a sea of competitors, build a loyal customer base, target your potential customers, and convey your company’s message.  

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