Joanna Robinson: Leading in the Marketing Niche with Decades of Expertise

Joanna Robinson
Joanna Robinson | Chief Marketing Officer

Navigating through the consequences of COVID-19 and lockdown impacts, Joanna Robinson utilized her two-decade marketing experience to make her brands more agile in reaching their audiences. Joanna has worked with worldwide renowned brands such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate Palmolive, Estee Lauder, L’Occitane, and Unilever.

Today, as the Chief Marketing Officer at Chatime, Joanna plays a vital role in contributing to the C-Suite Executive team and is responsible for executing the Chatime Group Marketing strategy across multiple brands in the Australian region. She considers herself fortunate to be a part of a growing, youth-oriented disruptive brand that continues to gain traction globally.

However, Joanna’s journey has been filled with numerous challenges, continuously adapting to different cultures to understand how to tailor brands to resonate with culturally diverse audiences. She expresses, “The beauty of branding is developing key insights around the target audience that enable you to reach them on a more emotional level to shift behaviour. So over-laying that with cultural paradigms has been both a challenge and a gift as I feel it has further honed my marketing skills.”

Chatime represents Joanna’s first foray into the QSR and Franchise space; she has learned to engage franchise owners as key stakeholders and take them on the journey, clearly articulating how marketing is going to help drive their business.

A Beloved Franchise

Chatime opened its first bubble tea store in 2005 in Taiwan and is now across 3500+ stores and 53 countries. It stepped into Australia in 2009 and currently has 150 T-Brewery stores nationally. Its vision is “To be the most loved and accessible drinks brand in Australia, sparking curiosity in everything it does.”

Chatime embraces the experience of the bubble tea drink and captures and communicates in a way that resonates with an identified Hedonist 14-28 audience, leveraging digital innovation and multi-channels including supermarket DIY bubble tea kits to reach as wide an audience as possible.

The brand has 1.17M highly engaged loyalists on their Loyal-tea database whom it constantly engages with to surprise and delight with new product innovations, rewards, and experiences.

Joanna mentions, “Consumer research is at the heart of everything we do. We work with a research partner, Retail Doctor Group, to conduct deep dives into the heartland of our target audience to really understand what makes them tick. Then we directly engage them in their language, on their level, and via their communication channels.”

Loyalty Members and growth – Chatime has 1.17M customers on its  Loyal-tea database (Chatime was awarded Best Loyalty Program at the 2021 QSR Media Awards). Chatime is technology-led as it targets a digitally native audience, bringing life via various gamification platforms where its customers virtually develop their drink designs and share them across their social media channels. The recent AR campaign: Satisfy Your Strange, created with creative agency Special Group, saw strange digital characters bought to life as AR experiences. This provided great cut-through for the Chatime brand.

Joanna states that Chatime drives constant product innovation, showcased in global brand collaborations such as Philadelphia Cheese and Oreo (Mondelez). The company also works with strong strategic partners such as Wired Digital, Special Group creative agency and the Retail Doctor Group research and advisory.

Robust Foundation

Brave, Real, Curious, and Inclusive are Chatime’s values, and they underpin and direct everything that the company does. Joanna says, “From a CSR platform, we proudly support youth-oriented charitable organisations Canteen and Headspace, as well as a partnership with Student Edge, as we believe supporting young people has never been more important, especially having seen the impact of COVID and lockdowns have played on them over the past few years.”

Chatime is also relaunch its packaging in 2022 as a more environmentally sustainable solution, affectionately termed “Project Happy Turtle.” This goes live in October this year.

The Technological Stronghold

Joanna states that the Chatime customer is a digital native; therefore, technology is hugely important in how we communicate. An Omnichannel campaign Chatime recently rolled out in February called Satisfy Your Strange, incorporated AR into the outdoor element of the campaign, which was a first for its category.

Combined with a strong digital platform, especially focused on TikTok, it ensured that Satisfy Your Strange went viral and drove the brand’s significant reach, sales, and frequency.

Chatime also leverages technology to deliver its awarding-winning loyal-tea programme to its digital native audience, enabling a superior UX for its database and utilizing its technology partner, Red Cat.

The Shift in Tides

Joanna considers the following as subsequent significant changes in the market sector and plans her moves accordingly.

  • Metaverse – Chatime is already looking at this as the next step following its successful AR OOH and digital campaign, Satisfy Your Strange.
  • NFT’s – also exploring as part of its “led by technology” platform.
  • CSR – partnering with relevant youth charities such as Canteen and Headspace and driving a sustainability platform.
  • Community engagement – IRL and digital – tailored approach for each T-brewery to the local community in a “think global, act local” approach that also plays to one of its key values of being “inclusive.”

What Lies Ahead?

Chatime has an aggressive growth plan for Chatime Australia, including T-Brewery expansion to +250 stores by 2025. In addition to its supermarket range, it is also exploring new alternate channels.

“We are living our vision of being the most loved and accessible drinks brand in Australia but widening our footprint as much as possible to reach more of our target consumers whilst engaging them in a highly emotive, disruptive but relevant way,” explains Joanna. “I am grateful to head up a wonderful team of marketers who are as passionate and driven about the brand as I am. I also get to work with an experienced and supportive Executive team. As the only woman on the Exec Team, I feel honoured to represent the women in our organisation and network. I am grateful that Chatime is a company that embraces diversity across all levels. The brand is in such an exciting growth phase that for now, I intend to keep doing what I’m doing and just enjoy the ride!”

Bequeathing Guidance

Joanna advises aspiring entrepreneurs to understand the market that they are entering. “Be clear on your vision and brand, conduct solid research, and hire good people. People are super important as they are the key to culture…hire good people, create a good work environment based on trust and empowerment and watch the magic happen!” Joanna concludes.