To differentiate your coffee, you need to find the right story.

December 4, 2013 by

Coffee bean in a spoonAs I have said in previous posts, the interesting thing about the coffee business is that we are all selling the same thing. It’s a brown bean. A commodity.

At the top end of the market, which is pretty thin, you can differentiate your coffee by its taste. A few people can taste the difference between a decent coffee, a good coffee and a great coffee.

But with most people, their appreciation of coffee is the same as their appreciation of art – they just know what they like.

So…if you are selling a brown, roasted bean – just like every other coffee company – how can you differentiate your own beans?

The answer is pretty simple. You tell a story.

Typically those stories revolve around things like the country of origin and the circumstances under which the coffee is grown, processed and roasted. Shade grown. Fair Trade. Organic. Small batch roasting. And so on.

The trouble is, nearly everyone is telling the same stories. So when you tell your prospective customers that your coffee is Fair Trade and roasted in small batches, you’re not really differentiating yourself at all. You are telling the same story that a lot of other coffee companies are telling.

What you really need is a story that is unique. Or at least, you have to own your story.

Let me give you an example from a different industry…the furniture business.

Many years ago an ad agency was tasked with promoting a chair. As I recall, this was a dining room chair. The copywriter from the agency travelled to the factory where the chairs were made, in search of a “hook”. He needed to find something to say about this chair that would set it apart from every other dining room chair. He didn’t want to say what everyone else was saying…about the premium wood, the hand crafting and so on. Those were stories that everyone told.

What he found was that at the end of the manufacturing process every chair was placed on a perfectly flat platform. Then someone sat on it and wiggled around a bit, just to make sure that all four legs were exactly the same length.

That became the heart of the story in the ad campaign he created. It was a small point of difference, but it allowed the creative team to show a picture of the chair on the platform, and use that to illustrate the care that went into making each chair.

Other companies that made chairs probably did the same. But this guy was the first to tell the story. And that company then owned that story and differentiator for many, many years.

You need to do the same with your coffee. The point of difference doesn’t have to be something that other companies don’t do. It simply has to be something that other companies don’t talk about.

Next time you sit down and scratch your head, wondering how to make your coffee stand out from the crowd, skip the obvious, same-old-same-old stories, and look for something different and unique to say or show.

NOTE: If you can’t think of anything, feel free to contact me. I love working on stuff like this.

1 Comment

  1. Rock Capuano

    Reminds me of how anyone can take their product, even the most mundane, and make it exciting and different if they pay attention to details. It could be the most obvious of benefits, but no one - including the competition - are using it in their marketing.

    There's the unique selling proposition.

    Great post as always!

    - Rock

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