• QA 036
    How to start promoting a new specialty coffee?
    Further to your response in QA 027, we are now planning to attend the next SCAA specialty coffee conference in the US and wonder how we should prepare for the promotion of the coffee that we will exhibit at the stand of our importer friends.
    Asked by:
    Producer/exporter - Cameroon

    The following general principles are worth considering:

    Aside from a coffee's quality, the variable that usually attracts the highest premium is the story. There is a marketing proverb that says: "different is always better". While better may not always be true in every case, being different does create awareness and curiosity. For a specialty coffee to pull itself out of the commodity heap it must create a sense of excitement and of curiosity for the end user. Coffee is very human oriented. It is grown, processed, exported, imported, roasted and served by people who all have their own stories and who love to hear about other stories. The travel industry has done an incredible job of telling the stories of places. If the stories and pictures of a destination did not look inviting, no one would go there….

    Some of the best marketing stories for coffee are a combination of the coffee profile, the people profile, and the ecology profile. To create these stories a producer must gather a tremendous amount of information: about the growing and production of the coffee, the farmers, the culture, the ecosystem, the history, the food, the animals, and even the music of the area. Each area is unique and of great interest to those not living there. Sometimes it is difficult to view your own area as curiously as an outsider would but this is the first step in telling the story. Gather as much information about the growing region as possible. Altitude, climate, harvest periods, size of farms, production, type of husbandry, location, topographical features, language, culture, history, and religion are all important aspects to a specialty roaster/retailer.

    Take as many photos/videos as is possible of the surroundings and the people. Funds permitting, have a video made professionally. One that can be used for PR purposes. Ensure the images are of good quality so they can be reproduced for brochures, posters etc. Do not think that only pictures of coffee plantations or of processing are useful: they are critical but do not necessarily help identify the coffee or the region as unique. Most coffee trees look pretty much the same but people, animals, landscapes and cultures vary tremendously! A picture is truly worth a thousand words… 

    Before you start on all this, consider carefully what your theme will be.It is the first step towards the branding of your product. Branding creates an image of a product in the mind of the consumer. The easy part is knowing what you want your customer to think about your product - the difficult part is matching the product and the marketing program to that desired image. Whatever you do, do not say things that are not true. Therefore, be sure you know what if anything sets your coffee apart from others so you do not waste the buyer's time. Good marketing information leads many US specialty buyers to focus on a particular coffee first, to the exclusion of others. If the coffee then matches the expectations raised in the marketing story, you are well ahead. But if it does not …

    The most successful branding is accomplished when all of the activities and marketing pieces (pictures, videos, posters, brochures, flyers and even just post cards for direct mailing) are created using the same or similar wording and imagery. Imagine how confusing it would be if one brochure described the coffee as mellow and soft, and another called it lively and bright. Or if completely different scenery was shown. Without consistency the message gets lost whereas for a retailer consistency across stores is almost sacred. Ensure also that any text is interesting and written in such a way that it is understandable, that your message gets across.

    Finally, if you only have a limited budget, then stick to just one or two avenues to deliver your message and do it well! It is far better to do one thing well than to do two things badly…

    Posted 11 August 2005

    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    QA 027