Ethical goods crafted to raise the standard
threeonesix is a social enterprise that impacts the world through consumer goods. The startup comes from deep passions to end global exploitation for labour and sex, leveraging the power of purpose and profit to empower vulnerable communities through the supply chain. Every single product purchase directly supports the local tea farmers they work with in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Issues in focus
Ethical Consumption, Fair Trade, End Global Exploitation
More and more nonprofits each year are battling a shrinking pool of funding. threeonesix recognised this and wanted to create something great for the world, an ethical goods range that would directly empower vulnerable farmers. The organisation came to us during their early days with a challenge: how could they tell their unique story through a brand? And once the brand was established, what would be the most meaningful way to package their tea range?
We collaborated with threeonesix to develop their brand from the ground up, finding their voice, values and storytelling devices. Using the new brand framework we established, we worked to consolidate their roll-out touch points in retail and wholesale packaging. The project challenged us to not only visually communicate what direct impact looks like, but also let the brand authentically represent itself as a bold and fearless enterprise.
Finding the brand's voice
We began research by facilitating workshops with the threeonesix team, uncovering what was most important to them and understanding the origins of the enterprise. One early finding was that threeonesix had faith-based significance; it began as an act of leap of faith to shine a light on an important social cause and serve those in need. As a pivotal launchpad for the initiative, we wanted to make sure that this reference to verse John 3:16 was authentically reflected in the brand.
However, we also knew that the brand had to stand on its own without explicit reference to institutional religion, something they were not interested in being. In embedding this duality into the brand, we considered what it meant to be faith-led without necessarily being spiritual. This culminated in attributes such as fearlessness, community-driven and high impact informing the brand’s tone of voice.
Standing out on shelves
Once the brand’s visual identity was established, our next step was to help the team with their product range roll-out. There were a collection of teas, from traditional favourite English Breakfast to the more aromatic Gaba Oolong. This meant that we had to ideate ways to distinguish each flavour from one another, while retaining the story of the brand.
While the teas were initially packaged in recyclable paper pouches and light to ship, it was not suitable packaging for retail shelves. The smaller plain pouches limited areas for the brand to communicate its story; its safe, muted colours went against the brand’s fearless principle and were indistinguishable from competing products. In this process, we also visited retailers and cafes, interviewed stakeholders and went to local markets in order to observe how people notice and make their consumption choices off the shelf.
Illustrating the buyer's impact
From our observations, we found that the informed consumer would spend more time on understanding the origins of an ethical product. Based on our field research, we returned to threeonesix with this revelation. For a consumer, knowing that their purchasing power is directly helping someone somewhere was world-changing. The threeonesix team saw a perfect connection between this finding and their current need to stand out, not only visually but making others aware of their unique impact model.
We reinvented their packaging by coupling a vibrant palette and illustrations of the tea cultivation process. The new label became a storytelling device to raise awareness of how the consumer’s purchase directly empowered the farmers who plucked their tea. To accommodate this story, we substituted the packaging to circular eco-friendly metal tins that could be used as refillable containers.
Since then, threeonesix has been stocked in over a dozen retailers and has even made it to the hands of individuals such as Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey and Trevor Noah at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival.
* Photography above by Nathanael Foo