Why is Chai often marketed like this?
When to comes to marketing Chai in Australia, there are two key demographics Chai companies generally target:
1. Yoga-loving, health-conscious, trendy white female who just loves a cheeky Frose at lunch with the gals
2. Birkenstock-wearing vegan hippie who backpacked in India and suddenly became one with themselves.
No offense intended if you do indeed fall into one of these categories. Wear it with pride. Sometimes both demographics converge and BAM! A super-customer emerges (much to the Chai company’s delight).
The end result – sales. You are more likely to get sales if your brand image resonates with your target audience. The image of wholesomeness and oneness, with a quirky edge, that you see in pretty much every white-owned Chai company’s marketing, is designed to attract these demographics. It assumes that you, as a buyer, are one of these people.
The adoption of South Asian imagery (kolam/rangoli, henna, mandalas, yoga etc) and the incorporation of elements of wholesomeness (beige, hand-printed effects, plant icons) has led to the idea that South Asian = wholesome. This is an entirely white construct. The exploitative exoticisation of South Asian-ness by white companies is not new, and it’s hugely prevalent today.
The truth is, brown people are just like people everywhere else. Some of us are assholes; some aren’t. Not all South Asians are into that wholesome shiz. Equating South Asian-ness with wholesomeness paints the entire region in one broad brushstroke. It assumes that we are all the same. It assumes that we all look alike.
Referring back to our previous posts on Authenticity, these companies rely on imagery to lead customers into believing their Chai is made by South Asians. Remember: just because it “looks” South Asian, doesn’t mean that it is (and vice versa).