When I was a student and ate plain rice 5 days a week, I still never thought twice about splurging on a cup of coffee. In hindsight, I know now that my poor financial decisions were partly influenced by some fantastic coffee shop branding.
These days arguably, few industries do branding as well as coffee shops. And while all the rules of small business branding still apply, making it big with your coffee shop comes with a set of industry specifics.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some vital aspects of coffee shop branding to help make your business a success!
Sometimes it seems you can barely walk into a coffee shop without the word artisanal popping up somewhere. These hipster coffee shops which have exploded in the last decade are a result of a much longer process of coffee expansion or how we moved from coffee as a common household product to a sophisticated experience. Today we can distinguish between the so-called three waves of coffee:
First wave: coffee as a commodity, low-quality beans, no reference to the origin;
Second wave: Starbucks opens in 1971 and pioneers the idea of coffee drinking as an experience; the focus still isn’t on the coffee itself but instead on the cafe/baristas/new flavors of coffee;
Third wave: pushes forth the idea that consumers should learn where coffee comes from and how it has been processed; focus is placed on the product.
What’s striking is that even with sophisticated branding of third- and second-wave coffee shops (elaborate mission, vision, and value statements), there are still many “regular Joe” businesses that survive and attract a certain kind of clientele.
So the first step in branding your coffee shop is deciding where you belong (what coffee wave). This will also have to do with where your shop is located: is it a quiet residential area or a young, up-and-coming neighborhood?
Keep in mind your brand’s purpose (why and what you do) and how this aligns with the dreams and challenges of your customers.
How your place of business looks isn’t always a branding concern. But as a brick and mortar business, your branding efforts are doomed unless you create a physical space that appeals to your buyer personas (fictional representations of ideal customers in the branding process).
Moreover, you need to create a space that people won’t just find aesthetically pleasing, but will also provide additional value to them. Think of your customers’ challenges and find new ways to help solve them.
If you’re located in a business district, an open concept which resembles a coworking space could be a fantastic choice. On the other hand, if your brand focuses on the social aspect of coffee drinking, consider a layout that invites people to interact with baristas and learn more about your coffee culture. Like this sleek bar from Veneziano Coffee Roasters in Melbourne.
Branding should be an integral part of the entire customer experience. This means subtly building your brand image inside the customer’s mind from the moment they enter your shop till after they leave.
Take a look at this example from Jimmy’s Coffee. Something as simple as painting their door yellow to match their signature color establishes a powerful brand image. And it makes a pretty great social media post to help keep your customers connected.
What makes a great logo for your coffee shop? Well, there’s no one answer. Sure, you can opt for a simple coffee cup or bean, but remember that the most famous coffee shop in the world went with a mermaid.
This is not at all random! Starbuck is the name of Captain Ahab’s first mate in Melville’s Moby Dick (how’s that for a hipster choice). The maritime inspiration of the name led to the logo: the mermaid comes from a 16th century Nordic woodcut, and it’s, in fact, a siren (a creature who lures sailors to shipwreck with its mesmerizing song). Minus the shipwreck, the intention is a pretty good one: so alluring you can’t resist it!
The great thing about coffee is that it doesn’t need much explaining. If everyone is more or less on the same page about what the product is (although the quality might vary), you are free to get really creative with your logo. Some mockup ideas to consider include:
Vintage: include retro typefaces and illustrations of a bygone era (coffee kettles, stoves);
Minimal: make it professional and universal with clean, geometric designs;
Characters: create your mascot—cute animals are a favorite with many coffee shops;
Bold fonts: get people feeling energized with bright, bold fonts and colors; recreate the sensation of a caffeine boost!
Before you go around creating your coffee shop mockup, think about the message you want to communicate: what makes you different, and what is your story? Are you a textbook third-wave coffee brand that is all about tracing the coffee’s journey? Then go for a logo inspired by a different culture or one that excites a sense of adventure.
Again, it’s a great idea to think locally. If you’re setting shop in a high-end neighborhood, pick classy fonts, and create a mockup that exudes luxury. If you’re in an area that is well known for its natural beauty, go with a nature-inspired logo.
Best things come in small packages. And boy do I hate sounding so cliche, but that’s kind of true for coffee.
We can all roll our eyes at the thought of it, but it’s likely that in the past five years, you’re guilty of posting a picture of a hot beverage on Instagram. Howeveryou feel about it, this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. If you run a coffee shop, you need pretty, instagramable packaging for your brew.
Think of Jimmy’s Coffee again. Their simple design, paired with a bold color that isn’t overused in the industry (like brown and tan), is practically an invitation to document your perfect coffee moment.
Another fantastic example is Blue Bottle coffee. They made their packaging the focal point of the brand, as they started testing out zero single-cup policy late last year. Customers who don’t want to bring their own can pay a small deposit and sip their coffee from one of these beautiful reusable cups.
What’s even more striking about this example is just how well the company’s logo fits the new mission. Although the story behind Blue Bottle’s name is an interesting one, it’s not associated with sustainability. On the other hand, the blue (glass-looking) bottle creates a reference to reusable packaging and environmental dangers of plastic pollution.
Part of the reason why coffee shop branding has become so prominent is that these brick and mortar businesses are boosting their online presence to cater to a new audience of digital natives.
Whatever your brand’s identity may be, you will need to establish some form of online communication with your customers (website, Facebook, Instagram). On the other hand, there are plenty of hot coffee shop trends out there, and not all will make sense to you.
This is where good branding again lays down the law: what ideas are you trying to sell and to whom? Some trends can harm your customer relationships. If people are just looking for a quiet place to catch up with friends, don’t give them a lecture on how they should drink their coffee.
As a quick checklist, here are 3 trends your coffee shop should try to follow:
Keep an online presence: as we said, people often search for places online before they go looking for them in real life; help your customers find you, and even better keep them engaged online.
Ensure high-quality products: you don’t necessarily have to include a manifesto of how your coffee is sourced, but since you’re in an industry that is continually improving and observing quality, your coffee at least needs to be on par with what your competitors are offering.
Be ethical and eco-friendly: issues of sustainability and ethical production aren’t everyone’s priority, but most people will at least be aware of them; try to be mindful of the waste you and your customers produce, as well as how your brand contributes to the challenges/aspirations of the global coffee industry.
Making your coffee shop branding a success isn’t that different from any good branding. You need to know your purpose, your audience, and what makes you unique.
It does, however, come with a few specifics. Remember that coffee shops are currently a peculiar market: it’s very much go hip or go home. Still, this doesn’t mean copying what everyone else is doing. Keep an eye out on the competition so that you can decide which trends work for your brand and your customers.
Be original, be you. Don’t end up as someone’s deja brew. Forgive me for this one tasteless pun and happy branding!