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Marketing: Do you have to be loud to be heard?

From the January 2019 issue.

In an increasingly saturated industry, coffee brands are getting creative to get attention. Marketing experts weigh in.

MarketingA coffee brand – whether roaster or coffee shop – can source the highest-quality specialty coffee. It can go direct to the source and only use Fair Trade, organic coffee. It can brew that coffee using the latest innovation and serve it with a heart-warming story in a café that’s hip and Instagram-worthy.

But today, these efforts are no longer enough to set a brand apart in the increasingly saturated market. In an effort to appeal to today’s savvy Third Wave coffee consumers, who are increasingly distracted and overwhelmed, brands are being forced to think outside the box to get their attention. Some of them are doing that through big, wild, and risqué marketing.

“There are so many billions of dollars out there to be captured in the coffee business that you’re seeing new and existing brands do incredibly creative things to stand out,” says Peter Breslow, a food branding and PR expert. “We’re all so inundated with choices every day and so over engaged, so the companies that can get us to stop and pay attention to their strategies are the ones that seem to be winning.”

In the United States alone, the number of new companies in the coffee production industry has increased at a rapid pace of 10.5 per cent per year on average since 2013, according to industry research firm IBISWorld. Through 2023, that number is forecast to stay at a strong 9.9 per cent per year on average.

“If you look at some of the main leaders in the category, their shelf space has gotten thinner and thinner,” adds Ken Collis, CEO and Founder of lifestyle marketing agency TLK Fusion.

In addition to a saturated industry, Collis points to the evolving media landscape as a reason behind creative marketing in coffee. Consumers’ fast-paced lifestyles, short attention spans, and move to digital formats have forced companies to adjust their approaches and messaging.

“Consumers are bombarded with more than 5000 advertising messages per day,” he tells Global Coffee Report. “We need to be able to cycle through that and we don’t want to get caught up in the minutia.”

Collis says today’s engaged coffee consumers “need messaging that is going to be aggressive but [also] detailed in a very quick manner”. He cites video and social media campaigns as popular ways to achieve this, particularly through campaigns that “go viral.”

This is how Toronto coffee shop owner Joelle Murray’s latest social media campaign turned out. In an attempt to get actor Ryan Gosling into Grinder Coffee during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, which she then hoped would drive traffic to her café, she flooded social media with messages to the actor. This included photos of a life-size cutout of Gosling drinking Grinder Coffee, followed by the hashtag #ryanneedsgrinder. The campaign finally reached Gosling and, with his mother’s strong encouragement, the A-list actor made an appearance at the coffee shop.

From there, the campaign continued to gain momentum as global media outlets picked up the story. “I never expected in a million years [that it would] go viral,” says Murray, admitting she only expected it to make local news. “It turned out that a lot of people were following the campaign and once I posted the now infamous photo [of Ryan and me], it just spread like wildfire. News outlets started calling within 15 minutes.”

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