To stand out from the crowd, try marketing your coffee by lifestyle.

July 24, 2013 by

coffee lifestyleAs marketers of coffee, we all work from the same disadvantage.

Coffee is a commodity. Coffee beans are green, and then they are brown, in various shades.

Your brown beans look exactly the same as your competitors’ brown beans.

That’s a tough starting point from which to build a marketing plan. It’s the equivalent of every car manufacturer having to create identical vehicles, and paint all of them brown. Why would you choose one brand of car over another if they looked exactly the same?

“Ahh”, you might say. “Our beans might look the same, but they’re not.”

True, and you may use any of the following phrases, or something close, to differentiate your brown beans from everyone else’s.

“Our coffee beans are organic and Fair Trade.”

“Our coffee beans are roasted in small batches, just a few pounds at a time.”

“Our coffee beans are sourced direct from small farmers.”

And so on.

There is nothing wrong with these descriptions. But a lot of your competitors are saying the same things. Besides which, what do they really mean to your buyers? Can your buyers really taste the difference between beans that have been roasted in small batches, and those that haven’t? And how many of your buyers will stick with you long-term simply because your coffees are grown organically?

In marketing terms, none of these descriptions give you an enduring advantage.

To separate yourself from the crowd, you might want to associate your coffees with a particular group or lifestyle.

Third wave coffee roasters are already doing this, aiming at a fairly thin layer of “coffee culture” fans.

The single serve brewing companies are targeting people who place a high value on convenience.

“Coffee geeks” and lovers of convenience represent just two groups, but there are plenty of others. Here are a couple of examples that are tied more specifically to lifestyle choices.


These are people who love to entertain and invite friends and neighbors around for dinner. You can build a coffee brand around these people, matching different coffees and roasts with various meals, sharing recipes that include coffee, providing talking notes with your coffees, so the host can talk about the coffee in the same way he or she might talk about wine. You can make coffee recommendations, discuss coffee brewing methods for their entertainment value, and so on. The idea being that your coffees becomes the number one choice for coffee lovers who like to entertain.

Writers & Artists

There is a long association between writers, artists and coffee. You can build a brand around this and even name your coffees after cultural giants in this area. Your labels and the content on your site can include a ton of visual elements, like a photo of Picasso drinking coffee, and other unique content, like a prize-winning slam poetry winner reading her poem about coffee. Your site becomes the “in place” for writers and artists looking for coffee.

These are just two lifestyle segments. There are hundreds more, from business travelers, to outdoor coffee lovers, to early-morning coffee addicts, and more.

Best of all, when you engage a lifestyle group, you have the makings a large and vibrant community.

Wrapping it all up…

It’s becoming increasingly hard to differentiate a coffee brand if all you work with is a description of the beans and their origins.

You need something different if you want to stand out from the crowd. And one way to do that is to match your coffees, and your marketing, with a particular lifestyle segment.

Choose the one that works best for you, and then begin to share the story through all your marketing channels.

NOTE: If you want help finding the best segment and story for your coffees, learn more about my coffee consulting and writing services.

And now, for a complete change in pace, a coffee-themed poem written by yours truly. (Could be published on your writers and artists coffee site.)


I felt suddenly awkward,
with my cappuccino and carrot
cake, catching sight of the
homeless lady, tight and angry
in her corner with a mug of
black coffee.

And she looked right back at me,
at my ease and my easy time.

She measured her own time by the
sip, under the eyes of the waitress,
until the last cold drop, and cold
stare, before heading back
into the snow.

As the door closed behind her,
the waitress caught my eyes,
as if in shared relief.

But all I felt was shame.

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