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With Coffee, With Shoes, It’s All in the Branding

October 01, 2011

If you have a favorite coffee drink, a favorite coffee shop, or a favorite name in coffee brands, do you know why you chose that particular drink, shop or brand? What prompts a consumer to make his choices and settle on a favorite? What is it that convinces a person to hand over $4 for a coffee mixture in a cup, when down the road a similar drink could be half as much? Debbie Millman has answered these questions in a book about branding, and she introduces the subject in an article about how Starbucks took the commodity, coffee, and transformed it into a $4 splurge. Starbucks started the transformation by hiring a creative director with a talent for marketing, Stanley Hainsworth. Her article discusses guru Stanley’s approach to enticing the consumer to choose a certain brand of shoe, the latest widget, or in this case, Starbucks coffee. Coffee shops existed and coffee brands vied for popularity before there was Starbucks. It was Stanley who found a way to make the Starbucks brand of coffee irresistible. He explains that to do this, he had to establish an emotional connection between the Starbucks coffee and the consumer. The emotional connection is tied to an experience: “Consumers emotionally connect with brands when the brands repeatedly provide something that the consumer wants, desires or needs,” says Stanley. Even better, the brand should create something for the consumer that he or she doesn’t even know they need yet. If the consumer finds the coffee drink brings a little more fun or a different experience with it, the connection is made. The product becomes secondary to the experience. Think back on the most effective commercials you’ve seen. Is the quality of the product – its ingredients, the craftsmanship, etc.- emphasized, or is the happiness of the consumer depicted in the commercial emphasized? In the successful selling of a brand, the happiness experience is emphasized. The consumer will stop at a Starbucks, because it’s associated with a good experience. Chances are, once in the shop, experiencing the good feelings with the music, the community, the staff, they’ll have a good experience and the brand will have made the connection. It’s similar to joining a club, and now being on the inside instead of the outside is fun. Even in the grocery store, the fun brand will stand out on the shelf and be selected. Branding, a term we’re hearing a lot lately, is the “gotcha” of marketing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but understanding it can help in the making of better choices. If you want just the experience and can overlook the burnt coffee taste, it’s good to know the reasoning behind that choice. But if taste is the priority, it may be necessary to redefine the experience – the club – that is desired. Enjoy the search, and brew on, in fun. Have you tried any of these fun coffees from ROASTe?

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