East vs. West: How the Boba Guys Brand Jumps the Void

Learning from Asia to sell tea in America.

Andrew, the business-minded half of Boba Guys, picks up where Bin left off and elaborates on what the East vs. West battle means for their business.

When we were considering the different options for our brand persona, we wrestled between Eastern vs. Western preferences and values. Our private tastings taught us that tapioca’s jelly-like consistency can be a polarizing texture for the Western palate. We also knew that much of the population—even in the diverse San Francisco Bay Area—had not tried boba before. The current boba market caters to a very specific subset of the population who already have a cultural familiarity with boba.

These facts force us to answer a question: Do we match the existing customers to our brand or match the brand to the kind of customers we want to attract?

In business school, I focused on global strategy, which included learning about the nuances of emerging markets, particularly China, Taiwan, and India. In one of my favorite books, Winning in Emerging Markets by Tarun Khanna and Krishna Palepu, I learned the concept of institutional voids. These are essentially gaps in parts of a society’s social and commercial infrastructure, like product and labor markets. Here in the U.S., most of the voids are filled. In China, and perhaps even Taiwan, the voids are still very apparent.

One of these voids is a sophisticated adoption of brand management. For Bin and I, brands are symbols or shortcuts that signal an expectation or promise to the masses. Some brands promise quality while others promise low price. Some, unfortunately, do not promise anything.

Branding is still in its infancy in Asian countries like China, India, and Taiwan. (Some countries, like Japan, are already there.) Consumer product branding in these countries typically promise one of two things: intangible benefits—an aspirational lifestyle—or function. Branding is seldom more sophisticated than that, and for good reason: In developing markets, the income disparity is very evident, so the affluent often use brands as a signal for status while the less well-off are primarily concerned with how the product works. As the market matures and people move up a Maslowian hierarchy, brand promises need more value and complexity.

So our brand centers on our target customer: people who are adventurous, holistic, and cultural hybrids, like us. To answer our earlier question, we match the brand to our customer. We pair our favorite Eastern values—a local and community-minded spirit—with our Western mentality—a focus on consistency, reliability and the commitment to upholding our brand promise.

This philosophy plays out in tangible ways. Because we think branding is important (some do not), we believe in complete control of the customer experience. Although we aren’t quite Jobsian in our controlling tendencies, we are downright religious about how boba should taste. While other boba shops offer an insane menu of options, we don’t. Many of our friends think we are missing a golden opportunity to capture additional customers, and they are probably right, but that’s not how our mission works.

We like being slightly hipster, kinda Asian, a little picky, functionally irreverent, but super approachable.

Happy Thanksgiving, and we will see you next week!

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less