Does Branding Makes Cents?

Does branding make “cents” for a small business such as an independent coffee shop? This is a question that many coffee shop owners often ask. Many are afraid of the cost of café branding and just decide to instead focus on making good cups of “joes” and other specialty drinks. They buy generic coffee cups and sleeves. They often buy their coffee at wholesale from nearby roasters with the supplier’s logo and information clearly marked on the bag. They purchased good quality but not well known syrups and sauces. These coffee shop and café owners decide to cut costs and try to make the top margin from each item sold. Typically these types of operations will have a short life span. Sooner or later, we will most likely see a sign that says "out of business".

Why does this happen? The coffee shop made a great drink but the sales just never happened. Must have been a bad location or do the people in their community not drink gourmet coffee? Granted location and demographics can definitely effect this business type; but I wonder if there was not another more sinister reason for coffee shop failures. The essential factor in running a successful coffee shop or café is often branding. Let’s look at StarBucks for a moment. Do you think a consumer would pay the same amount for a beverage served in a generic cup as they would one from StarBucks? Would you pay the same for a new shirt that was not branded compared to a name like Ralph Lauren? The answer is that branding a restaurant portrays quality and value. A cup of coffee from a name we know is always perceived as a better cup of coffee.

When people find your coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee, what does the cup say about you and your business? A generic cup lets people know that their friend bought a cup of coffee from somewhere. However if he or she has a branded cup let us say from Steamers Coffee it creates a great conversation piece. First, people can see others carry a cup with your logo and message. Next, people will ask about the coffee shop. Then they will want to go there themselves. This create instant branding, and yes, demand for your offerings.

As your brand gets stronger, the better you will be able to sell retail products. This will include coffee with your logo plus many other logo items. T-shirts, Caps, and Mugs can also start adding value and revenue to your business.

Using quality products pays: When consumers see other branded syrups and sauces such as Monin and Ghiradelli they instantly know what to expect. Having these top consumer brands will set you apart from the generic coffee shops down the street.

Now let’s fast forward. After a few years of being in the coffee business you now decide to sell. Would buyers be more interested in a well branded local business that stands out and is not so connected to any one person or perhaps just buying Craig’s coffee shop? One will always more likely to be able to sell at top dollar a well branded business compared to one is often referred to as a "Mom and Pop".

Does Branding Cost lots of Money? The answer is “No” especially not for a coffee shop. Make sure you buy the best store front sign you can afford and have a decent logo with an accompanying tag line! Next for literally just a few cents one can have a custom logo printed cup and a custom printed java jacket. Therefore customers will perceive a higher value of your beverage and then you turn them into instant billboards showing your brand off to the community. Plus as your brand grows selling logo enhanced products will enable your business to grow additionally in revenue and exposure.

So investing in brand development can be referred to as “planting seeds” for your small business future.
Alex Warner
Alex Warner