company - education - coffee

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Diagnosis of a label

On our last trip to New York, I came across a few bits and pieces in one of the McDonald's gas station combo rest areas you see in CT on I95. Inside is a McDonalds and a coffee stand selling Lavazza. At the stand was this big board describing PB&J lattes and Nutty Buddy lattes as 'Specialty Coffee.' Those drinks had little to do with coffee but the irony was that right across from the stand was a huge sign for McDonalds iced coffee as a 'Premium Roast.' I thought, all we need is a Starbucks in the building! Then we could round out with some 'gourmet coffee' or some other nondescript term the marketers came up with. I chuckled a bit but it was kind of sad. With those terms, it's just varying derees of the same spin.

The coffee industry is running out of nondescript terms to describe it's coffee.
There, I've said it. When Starbucks says "This coffee is bold." I'm sorry, I looked it up and I still don't know what it means in terms of coffee! How about robust? I still struggle with full bodied. Now if my coffee is not Bold, Robust, and Full-bodied, it must be meek, weak, and light??? It's marketing spin isn't it? They must assume by controlling the label to make it sound nice without really saying anything they have succeeded in delivering the product with ambiguous terms that cannot be identified as positive or negative. It takes a lot more guts to describe the flavors in a coffee than to just say it's "full bodied and smooth." Check the coffee boards of some of these corporate shops and try to really pin down exactly what they are saying. It's all very nondescript and vague. Try the Starbucks site, that's my favorite. Just scroll through and imagine trying to tell a friend what each of the -flavor- descriptors of each of the coffees means. This one has zest! This one is bold! Say what? Then again maybe that's better than saying bitter, ashy, and burnt!

It seems that the marketing just muddies the proverbial water. Diluting and confusing the facts until the consumer gets into a routine of "Venti Breakfast blend." That's the real danger when someone is convinced that they know what that means and are so comfortable ordering it, they cannot go into another shop and order something else without confusion. The marketing gets into your routine and you have been pushed to recite the branding terms until you forget that you have been branded. Now, when you go into another shop, you must unlearn your routine and go back to normal land where there are small, med or large. OR Where a cappuccino may actually be a true italian 6oz microfoamed cappuccino and not large foamy latte.

Sadly, I really don't see it stopping anytime soon but we should not give up and roll over.
So, How do we fight this:


Consumer Education

Perceivable Quality(and value)differences

Online Forums and other free information sources

Exceptional product in the independent Cafe

All opinons welcome-