When news came out about La Kaffa International Co Ltd. cutting ties with Malaysian franchiser Bryan Loo, social media erupted. Malaysians wondered about losing one of their iconic bubble teas, and Chatime workers suddenly felt their futures hanging in limbo.
It must have been a whirlwind for the team, but now that we know for sure that Chatime is going to be rebranded. For now, the Facebook page for the brand is named Tea Is Our Life, and we’re looking forward to what the new name will be.
Editor’s Note: We previously stated that the new brand would be called Tea Is Our Life but Bryan Loo has clarified, “The name for our new brand has yet to be released due to legal obligations.”
As observers and bubble tea enthusiasts, we’ve been following the news, and have found that Bryan Loo and his team have really been on the ball for this fallout. They’re coming out of a bad situation with the public’s support on their side, never an easy feat.
Tea Is Our Life could have easily fallen flat on its face just three weeks ago when the news first came out.
But how did they do it?
The fallout of Bryan Loo’s messy divorce with the Chatime name really shows how important it is for entrepreneurs to cultivate relationships, because right now public is very much on Bryan’s side. And this is definitely a result of their long-term branding.
Chatime Malaysia’s meteoric rise and their marketing strategy has been so effective that at a mention of ‘bubble tea’, it’s hard to not think of Chatime. Even though competitors such as Coolblog has been around the block longer, we still consider Chatime as the pioneer of bubble tea.
Another level of branding success lies in Bryan Loo.
He’s a very visible figure, and even considered the face of Chatime Malaysia. Bryan has been a constant presence and is hailed as a master franchiser both as a title and as a description.
If you want to go through the full chronicle of the fallout with La Kaffa, just head over to Bryan Loo’s Facebook page. Everything is there, in chronological order because Bryan has been managing relationships with Chatime fans by keeping everyone updated about the issue.
It’s all a subtle bit of warfare—all without calling out names and ruffling feathers, but rather full of thankfulness.
And he maximised all of the channels available to him to instill confidence in their wavering Chatime Malaysia name.
The Loob Holding Facebook page was not quiet in all of this and they also utilised all the channels available to them; Chatime Malaysia also sent out PR releases through Line.
Anyone following a Chatime Line account is probably already a fan. Through PR releases, inspirational quotes and minimalistic, Instagram-worthy pictures, he left no room for Chatime fans to panic over what’s going to happen.
In fact just recently the team released a spirits-lifting video with the Chatime employees to talk about their future.
By opening his arms to the media, it gives him the option to frame the narrative.
For a PR failure of epic proportions, consider the case of No Man’s Sky, one of the most anticipated games of 2016. An overzealous PR blitz prior to the game’s release led to massive backlash against the actual product, which didn’t live up to expectations.
What put the nail in the coffin for this small game development studio was their silence following the backlash. Going back to Bryan Loo, he was able to take some control of the narrative by taking on media inquiries.
With his active involvement with the media, he has a hand in shaping what the media says about him.
In the case of No Man’s Sky, the studio keeping mum meant that the media was free to pass whatever judgement they saw fit to the game, and it wasn’t pretty.
Bryan clearly didn’t make that mistake. He has been a constant presence in the headlines recently, and is keen on talking about the issue.
Chatime may have been a Taiwanese brand, but Bryan is definitely keen on reminding everyone that in Malaysia, it was a Malaysian-grown effort.
Since Chatime was a Taiwanese brand name, by doubling down on the Malaysian spirit, there is more of a chance that Malaysians are going to rally behind Loob Holding.
And now La Kaffa has released their own statement telling Channel NewsAsia that Loob Holding “used raw materials that were not part of the approved recipe”.
It said this was “a serious violation within the agreement” which “could and might in the future, jeopardise the brand’s image and cause serious loss to franchisees.”
Since we’re not clear on the actual situation, it’s premature to judge on who’s in the wrong. Now the support of Malaysians is more crucial than ever, to keep the tide of public opinion in Loob Holding’s favour.
Bryan and his team have always been on the ball with updating social media, as briefly mentioned earlier.
This is in stark contrast with La Kaffa who took a long time to give statements about the issue. As a result, La Kaffa were generally painted as the villains who had terminated a contract with Loob Holding out of the blue, over disputes about using local ingredients.
It’s clear that Bryan and the team have thought out a game plan for the reputation circus surrounding the whole rebranding, and they’ve taken measures to sort things out.
Lodging a police report first also martyred them in the eyes of the consumers. They have consistently been vocal from the very start and moving very fast, so they get to tell their story first to everyone.
Maybe they just haven’t confirmed the name up until yesterday. But considering how much they teased the catchphrase Tea Is Our Life over the past few weeks, I would bet my next Roasted Pearl Milk Tea that it was all on purpose to create hype.
This could be a pretty risky move to take, but over the weeks it’s been clear that Malaysians are willing to stand behind the bubble tea franchise. So why not make them wait for it a little?
As long as they meet their 45 day grace period given to them before rebranding, they can take their sweet time. And they did, allowing Malaysians to speculate on the new name.
Even in the Vulcan Post editorial team, we’ve had at least a few conversations about what it would be called (and how weird LoobTea would be as a name).
They definitely got us talking, and the revelation of the actual name brings us to a new chapter in the Loob Holding and the former-Chatime’s book. We’ll see if they can actually achieve their 5 million customer goals, but right now, it seems like they’re off to a good start.