Posts by Supannapa (Pook) Traitonwong - Bangkok

Ichitan green tea brings Thais a debt-focused hero

In recent years, the higher cost of living, unemployment and drought have pushed many Thai families into long-term debt. In a March 2012 study by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of Thais admitted to problems repaying debt over the previous 12 months. Many Thais, especially villagers and low-income families, lack the skills to formulate strategies to handle accumulating debt. Instead, they tend to simply hope that someone will intervene on their behalf or that a stroke of good luck will provide the needed funds.

For the past six years, the Ichitan green tea brand has responded to this situation with a hugely successful marketing campaign built around a lucky draw promotion called Richie Thunder Jackpot. The latest installment asks consumers to send an SMS with a unique code printed inside the bottle cap. Every day for 60 days, Ichitan selects a winner, who receives a gold bar valued at 1 million baht (just under $35,000). A TV commercial for the promotion features company founder Tan Passakornnatee as a hero whose mission it is to solve debt issues. The spot reminds Thais of the most urgent problems associated with debt: coping with rising food prices (represented through duck, chicken and pig mascots) and the difficulties of small businesses facing bankruptcy.

The commercial is lighthearted but demonstrates that the brand understands consumers’ current anxieties and offers a solution to a lucky few.