We’ve spoken a lot in the past about the importance of business branding. Your branding is part of the customer experience and a vital element of building local awareness. Your coffee shop front carries your logo and business name, and if you have a coffee van or other mobile coffee business, that vehicle is liveried up – emblazoned with your branding, right? So, why do we see so many customers walking away from coffee shops and coffee vans with generic takeaway coffee cups? Dull, brown, corrugated cardboard, typically, plain white perhaps. The answer is obvious – profit margin. If it costs you 15p more for the branded coffee cup, it’s easy to see why you’d make the simple calculation that you’ll keep more money in the business if you skip the fancy branding. But is it an own goal? If your brand is cheap coffee to go, perhaps not – and maybe your catering van just has a handwritten chalk board shouting ‘Coffee and tea’ too. Fine. But if you want to build customer loyalty, brand recognition, a sense of pride in your product, that tribe mentality among your following, then your coffee shop logo should be right there on the cup.
It’s advertising, after all. And the kinds of people who choose to buy from an independent coffee shop rather than the big chains and their high-volume churn are actually proud to demonstrate to passers-by that they are different, discerning, even principled. And that kind of person notices branding for that very reason. They want to buy into independent, they want to invest in sustainable. They’ll Instagram your branded cup, cradled in their hands, steam rising on the cool morning commute to work. “Much-needed caffeine hit from my favourite folk @PhilippesCoffee”, they’ll tweet. Goodwill and marvellous marketing. It’s called social proof – voluntary endorsement that encourages others to try.
The busier your area and the heavier your competition, the more valuable that social proof becomes. The more visitors or tourists to town, the more people you have desperate for a decent drink to punctuate their day or fuel the forthcoming meeting – who don’t already know where they can get it. Until they spot someone like them walk past with a branded coffee cup. Which tells them where to get it, which gives you more sales, which pushes up your profit margin. It’s a balancing act, for sure, but if you have a long-term growth goal and a high-quality brand to live up to, going branded makes a lot of sense.
Think it through
Branded takeaway cups do cost more money. So, don’t just send your logo and place your order. Make sure that logo is visible from at least two angles. If it’s a fully biodegradable coffee cup – have that printed on there too, so your customers are both informed and feel better about their choice. If it must be industrially composted – or can’t go in with paper or cardboard recycling – decrease the chances of it ending up in landfill by printing brief instructions for disposal.
And if you want to think about the bigger, greener picture, order reusable cups with that branding too, and offer a discount for each time it’s used. You’ll make money on the initial purchase, win loyalty, and offer the most sustainable takeaway coffee in town. In fact, why not print the message “Earn a coffee discount with a travel mug” on your disposable coffee cup, with a link to your website page where you proudly display your fully branded reusable cups?
That’s strong branding and messaging that states boldly that yours is a coffee business with a mission and a vision. And as consumer awareness grows, day by day, that’s a message that can only become more popular.