Coffee Marketing: Why So Romantic?

futurelab default header

Guest Post by: Monica Shaw

Remember the good ol’ Nescafe Gold Blend adverts? Two lovers, intertwined in a web of passion, romance and instant coffee. Then there’s Nespresso, whose recent ads starring the debonair George Clooney call Nespresso the “rich, sensual, intense, unique” hero of the coffee world.

What is with the propensity for coffee brands to market themselves as elixirs of passion and lust?

A few months ago we were contacted by a company that wanted to market a new brand of coffee. They asked us to look at the conversation around drinking coffee – what were the main themes and contexts of conversation?

What we found was in startling contrast to how most coffee brands market their goods.

Romance? Passion? No. What people care about when it comes to coffee are the real life circumstances that surround coffee: taking a break from work, the need for caffeine, and socialising with friends:

  • “Some days I love working at home. Currently drinking coffee, blasting electro music and catching up on work.”
  • “Drinking coffee to stay awake.. I don’t even like coffee.”
  • “A cup of coffee and conversation with a good friend. The perfect pair to enjoy with a sunrise. The world is so quiet today.”

We identified, measured and visualised these contexts and created a “brand map” of conversations around “drinking coffee”. We also did the same thing for Starbucks to see how a major coffee brand compared. The brand maps show the size and average distance of these contexts from the central topic. The size and position reflect the size and relevance of the conversation; in other words, a big circle close to the centre indicates a relatively large context that is highly relevant to the central topic.

The brand maps show that the largest conversational contexts around “drinking coffee” are Work, Energy and Socialising. The most relevant contexts are Coffee making, Flavour and Coffee shop. In contrast, the largest contexts for Starbucks are Work, Socialising and Price, whilst the most relevant contexts are Snack, Price and Socialising.

It’s not that you don’t find conversations about romance and flirtation – you can see it there for “drinking coffee”, hovering diminutively between “Relaxation” and “Price”; it’s just that it’s not what most people talk about. The opportunity for a brand here is bring its branding closer to the real conversational contexts of a topic, so that it associates itself more intimately with the brand attributes which give a product social media currency.

We have performed these studies on a number of different consumer contexts and have found a pattern which suggests that brands are in danger of ignoring the real reasons why consumers give products currency. Those have a lot to do with the intersection between a product and real life: the school run, working late in the office, making time during the day to meet friends, even the big events like bereavement, marriage. A lot of brand messaging ignores reality – and why shouldn’t it? Brands often speak to dreams, hopes, aspirations. But our work on coffee suggests that many products are missing an opportunity to be useful, relevant and TALKED ABOUT.

So who’s going to step up first?

Original Post: