Mastering simplicity in an overly complex world – Pure Leaf’s ‘No is beautiful’ campaign

The case study “Mastering simplicity in an overly complex world” summing up how deep consumer insights helped shape Pure Leaf’s “No is beautiful campaign” was presented at MRMW NA 2021. Here is the case study shared by Richard Band, Senior Director at Egg Strategy, Maeve Brady and Ramiro Davila, both Consumer Insights Senior Managers at Pepsi.

How deep consumer insights can spark a revolution

Over the past few years, Pure Leaf has built strong equity on its quality tea credentials and mastery. But today, the entire tea category is telling a functional story, leaving it difficult to strongly differentiate ourselves from the pack. The functional messages Pure Leaf touted over the years resonated with consumers, but growth had hit a plateau in 2018. Innovation continued to drive pockets of share growth, but the core business had stalled, blending into a sea of ‘real-brewed tea’ claims. In order to return Pure Leaf to category-leading growth and share dominance, we needed to break through by bucking category trends and create a message that connects with a wider audience and is attractive to our Key Strategic Target on a deeper emotional level.

Moreover, our brand communication had become fragmented due to multiple product focused messages needed to support innovation proliferation. We needed to find a way to unite our products and communication under one consistent brand philosophy, look and feel.


Our objective in speaking to consumers was clear: How can we unlock a tension in their lives that we could meaningfully and authentically address with our brand and products.

We knew this meant getting deeper with them than we had ever been, and that it would involve a multi-phased approach focused on listening, discovery and iteration.

We set out to explore the challenges faced by our tribe of Pure Leaf drinkers and to dig into some of the common issues that they tackled in their everyday lives. Through mobile ethnography we lived in their pockets for a week. This gave them the opportunity to share not only their moments of frustration and stress, but also situations where they experienced little moments of joy or relief.  They logged their regular tea moments for us, giving us a glimpse of their real routines and what life was like in their world.  We followed this mobile work with some in-person, in-depth interviews which gave us the opportunity to go deeper on a number of topics that has arisen in the mobile.

From this, we uncovered a clear tension among our tribe. The importance of, and difficulty in, mastering simplicity in an overly complex world. Our Tribe strives for perfection, but they are overwhelmed by life’s pressures, obligations and decisions–and saying “no” can be hard.

The insight that led to the development of the creative work came into focus after this breakthrough.  In consumer’s words: “I try to focus on what’s most important, but it’s hard to block out the clutter of daily life.”

Results – Pure Leaf’s “No is beautiful”

We launched our Masterbrand campaign No Is Beautiful with a soft launch in Q4 of 2019. We were able to lay the foundation of our message through partnerships with Eve Rodsky and her book tour of Fair Play and at BRAVOCON in New York City.

This messaging struck a chord with Amy Poehler who was excited to jump on board and become our “Ambassador of No”.

In Q1 of 2020, we launched our platform and belief with our hero film “Ready, Set, No” narrated by Poehler. This spot started off by showing the story of a woman who always says “yes” and as we continue on, we see the pressure and exhaustion of taking on more in life. In the end, we reveal the misdirect that saying “no” is liberating, and way more powerful than saying “yes” to everything that comes our way

To help make the launch even bigger, we reimagined classic fairytales in partnership with Poehler in our “Once Upon A No” film series. These films broke the tropes of princesses saying “yes” to everything in their life and showed how their lives may look a little different if they stood up for what made their lives better and said “no”.

In the first phase of the No Is Beautiful campaign we received nearly 1Billion impressions, with half of them being earned.

The campaign improved mental availability and brand distinction for Pure Leaf. Top of mind awareness increased from 5% to 7%, higher than the category average of 4%, which held flat in the same time period.

As a result of stronger mental availability, Pure Leaf started the year off strong, experiencing a 10.5% sales. This was the fastest sales growth for Pure Leaf in years. It nearly doubled the growth rate of the entire RTD Tea category.

Conclusion – deep consumer insights

A powerfully simple consumer insight led to breakthrough creative with excellent sales results.  But it was the response from consumers that demonstrates the emotional impact of the campaign:

“Every once in a while an ad comes along that stops you in your tracks. It has a deeper meaning than what it’s actually selling. Congrats to @PureLeaf on your brilliant #NoIsBeauiful campaign. It resonates. It makes you realize the power of the word no!” -Source: Twitter

@PureLeaf your “NO” commercial is my new 2020 mantra. I remember those just for me days and I am going to reconnect with them. Thank you!! Keep playing that over and over.-Source: Twitter

“It made me stop and think about all the things I say yes on. And how I felt when I really didn’t want to do those things. The no part to show Pure Leaf is good and fits the brand well” -Source: January 2020 Pepsi GutCheck survey

Key Takeaways

  • Research that helps us get closer to consumers’ real lives and concerns is the best way to unlock new insight.
  • No Is Beautiful is more than just a campaign. This brand purpose is a rallying cry for our tribe. In an environment of uncertainty and increasing pressures, No Is Beautiful is more relevant than ever.


You can find the recorded presentation in our MRMW video library. It also contains more than 100 case studies from past MRMW conferences. Your next chances to join MRMW live are during our Europe (Berlin, October 20&21, 2021) and APAC (Singapore, November 10&11) editions. Sign-up to receive our regular newsletters, updates and special offers!

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Jens Cornelissen

Jens Cornelissen has been writing for over two decades – initially for general newspapers in his home country Germany. After receiving an MA degree in Communications, he joined a new media start-up in Amsterdam as consultant on new media technologies and country editor for two daily newsletters. In his current day job, Jens runs the global conference division for Merlien’s dedicated marketing research events. Jens is a trained journalist with a BA in Journalism from Westminster University in London and has authored several media industry reports and articles on mobile and media technology.

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