Coffee branding 101

If you're coffee branding needs a pick-me-up, here's how to makes it stand apart from the competition.
Oct 14, 2021 • 10 minute read
Lee Jevon @atticusproofread
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for Coffee branding 101

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Nearly 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day, and this guide is for coffee lovers who want to cut though that noise by launching a new brand of coffee with stellar coffee branding. 

Among big names such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Peets, there are plenty of smaller, independent coffee houses that have loyal customers and are selling profitable quantities of coffee every day. 

So, how do you get in on the action and successfully launch your new brand of coffee?

Coffee branding basics

In any industry, branding starts with the basics of what your product is, where it fits in the market and why your business exists.

In the saturated world of selling coffee, these elements are even more important. Get this bit wrong and the chances are nobody will even know about your brand.

As tempting as it might be to dive straight into creating a logo and a slogan, you must allocate time to examining and critically analyzing your offering.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your values?
  • What are the values of your target market?
  • Where does your brand fit in the industry?
  • What makes your product different?

What are your values?

Think about what made you decide to create a new brand of coffee. Is your business based on ethical production methods, sustainability, price-point etc? 

Your business values should underpin everything you do – including the way you brand your business. They are the reason the company exists and must be absolutely clear in your mind before you go any further.

What are the values of your target market?

These days, the values and ethos of brands are of major importance to consumers. Once you have pinpointed your own values, it’s time to do some market research and uncover what’s important to your target market. You probably already have an idea of your clientele, but don’t be swayed by it. It’s vital that you carry out your market research without bias. 

Of course, it makes sense to begin by asking what your target audience wants or expects from a new brand of coffee, but if you realize it doesn’t quite match your values, something has to change. For example, millennials and Gen Z prefer gourmet coffee, whereas those over 60 prefer a more traditional brew.

Edinburgh brand coffee packaging

Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company is an artisan coffee roaster. Its target market is the coffee drinker that likes traditional coffee done the traditional way.

Take a look at the packaging and the branding, which was designed using Freelancer.com.

The logo in the middle of the pack is from a bygone age. It’s exactly the kind of logo you would expect to see in a TV show based in an 1812 coffee shop. The word ‘Artisan(s)’ appears three times on the packaging. And there is an antique charm about the ‘Special Reserve Blend’ stamp that anchors the product in its artisanal marketplace.

And yet, the packaging is modern. It has an air of sophistication about it and is resealable. The company knows its audience and has created a brand that speaks to the conventional and contemporary.

There are thousands of professional logo designers on Freelancer.com who can help you create a truly memorable, and importantly, nuanced character today!

Part of identifying your target market is creating buyer personas. This is a fun task with serious benefits. Quite simply, get together with your colleagues or friends and make up fictitious personas. Don’t do this task alone. Together, you want to build up a portfolio of 5 – 10 personas. 

For each of them write down:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Where they live
  • Values
  • What coffee they drink

Disclaimer: If anyone ever told you stereotypes are wrong, for the purpose of this exercise, ignore that. A 44 year old Texan trucker and baseball fan called Chuck may well like a latte, but statistically he’s more likely to prefer a strong black coffee stewed to within an inch of its life.

Creating buyer personas will help ensure your product range, ethos and target market are aligned.

How does your coffee branding fit into the industry?

Is your coffee premium, sustainable, ethical or targeted at mass-consumption? If this sounds a lot like determining values, that’s because the two are intrinsically linked. Your values and those of your customers will help define your place in the market.

But now it’s time to take the next step and check out the competition.

Which existing brands will you be competing with? How does your coffee compare with theirs? Is it available in store, online or both?

Narrowing down which brands you’re in direct competition with will enhance your understanding of your particular niche in the overall coffee market.

A word of warning here. The competition is going well – that’s why it’s the competition. You will almost certainly find they have successful sales and customer retention strategies. Do not copy their successful strategies. By all means, take inspiration from what they do well, but simply repeating it has the potential to nullify any sense of individuality you try to convey.

When you see something that works for a competitor, ask yourself why it works. Fundamentally, what makes that strategy appeal to customers? Once you understand why it works, you are in a position to create a unique and innovative strategy of your own.

Larry's coffee logo

Larry’s Coffee

When you look at this logo, it immediately says ‘modern’. The idea of using a given name rather than a surname for your brand is a contemporary one. The font is also modern and the name and style indicate that this is far from a corporation.

You would expect Larry to be the founder and owner of a small local coffee house that has ethics at its heart. Head to the company website and you’ll find that assumption is spot on.

This attention to detail in this coffee branding creates consistency and allows consumers to buy in to the vision of the company and align themselves with it.

While you no doubt already have a vision in mind for your brand, this is also the time to identify gaps in the market that you can exploit. You won’t want to stray too far from your ethos and values, but if a few slight tweaks will see your offering plug those gaps, it could set you apart.

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What makes your coffee branding different?

The answer to this question may come from your initial idea or the critical examination of it. In either case, you need to identify your unique selling point (USP). This will play a significant role in your branding and customer acquisition.

Your coffee may be sustainably sourced, organic, available on subscription or not-for-profit. Understanding your USP and why it appeals to your target market is essential for successful coffee branding.

Culpux coffee branding

In this example, Cuplux has put the USP for its cold brew in large font right at the heart of its ad. Notice how other features likely to appeal to its audience (small batch and the list of ingredients) are presented in a slightly smaller version of the same font. ‘Small batch’ denotes exclusivity, while Cuplux has chosen to specify that its water is triple filtered and say where its beans come from.

This label was created on Freelancer.com, and you can get yours done too, professionally and budget-friendly!

Naming your new coffee brand

That’s right. You don’t name your brand until you know your brand. It’s perfectly natural that you started to generate name ideas as soon as you decided to create a new coffee brand. Of course, they should be thrown into the mix when choosing your brand name. But don’t give them preferential treatment.

The best method of choosing a name is to get a group together and ensure everybody understands what your brand represents, who it’s targeting and its place in the market. From there a brainstorming session should generate plenty of ideas for names. Each one should be evaluated against your values, positioning and brand direction. If it doesn’t fit, ditch it.

Once you have whittled it down to a shortlist of fewer than 10, check each name for uniqueness, trademarks and available domain names. No matter how good a suggested name may be, if you can’t get a suitable domain name, it needs to go. Don’t make your marketing efforts harder than they need to be by creating a disjointed brand.

Fuel Up Food Truck

This truck wrap for a coffee brand was designed as part of a competition on Freelancer.com. Combining the concepts of a mobile coffee shop and caffeine as a fuel to perk you up, the name is uncomplicated and makes sense so should be memorable for consumers. 

Things to remember when deciding on your brand name:

  • Make sure it is easy to spell
  • Don’t choose a name that will limit growth
  • Choose a name that conveys meaning and speaks to your target market
  • Say it out loud to make sure it doesn’t contain some kind of double entendre that is not obvious on paper
  • Avoid tacky names that will make your staff feel embarrassed to say where they work
  • Make sure you like it – this name is going to be with you for a long time!

There are thousands of professional branding experts on Freelancer.com who can help you fine-tune your coffee branding professionally and at a reasonable cost.

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Coffee branding tone of voice

This bit can be quite tricky. Try to imagine your brand as a person or character. What would it look like? Is it calm, excitable, debonair?  How would it sound? Does it have an accent? Does it speak slang or is it’s grammar and pronunciation correct?

One way to try answering these questions is to think about famous people or legendary film and TV characters. If money and time were no object, who would act in your commercial?

The idea of this exercise is to understand how your brand communicates to its customers. Having a consistent voice across all your marketing channels is crucial in building an identity. The tone of your brand needs to be relatable to your target market so that they feel a connection with it.

Calm contemplation coffee branding

This is a simple example of using words to connect with an audience. The colors on this packet are toned down in accordance with the message of calmness. And the use of alliteration provides a poetic slant to the words that ties in with the idea of this coffee being a treat to remove yourself momentarily from the haste of everyday life.

The branding is very different from that of Fuel Cafe that we looked at earlier and will appeal to a different market.

Once again, this is a critical element of branding to get right. There is no problem if you choose to rebrand in years to come, but you don’t want to be forced to rebrand just months after launching because you hit the wrong tone.

Coffee branding logo and color palette

Voice and written content are key elements in connecting with your audience, but ultimately your logo and color palette are the visualization of your brand. Think of the ‘golden arches’ and you get the picture.

Color is an important element of your branding. Consumers may not always know that color affects the way they look at things, but subconsciously it does. In fact, color forms up to 90% of the average consumers’ first impression.

Color psychology in marketing is a topic in itself, but as a general introduction:

  • Red represents movement, excitement and passion
  • Green represents nature, health and wellbeing
  • Blue represents reliability, serenity and security
  • Black represents authority, stability and luxury

Think about famous brands or ones you regularly use and how their color palette expresses brand identity. This will give you a good idea of how colors are used in branding but for a more in-depth look at color psychology in branding, read our blog on the subject.

When it comes to coffee houses, you’ll notice a range of color combinations with most preferring to display sophistication. So why does Dunkin Donuts insist on pink and orange?

Dunkin Donuts

The logo for this chain has gone through several incarnations over time, but the colors have remained and are a key part of the brand as they are fun. Dunkin Donuts is unashamedly not sophisticated and its USP is combining coffee and donuts for that quintessentially American pick-me-up. They have veered away from the norm, but this is not a random color pairing.

If you have followed this guide so far, you should find that the colors appropriate to your brand come relatively easy. You don’t have to stick to just one color, but keep it simple. Unless it’s an integral part of your branding, more than two colors quickly becomes busy and distracting. And be careful when you match colors. Yellow and black, for example, signifies danger. You’re trying to tempt people to relax and enjoy a coffee, not frighten them away.

Logos are often one of the most challenging aspects of branding for many small business owners. You understand your product and, with a little thought, can often find words that describe its features and benefits. You can learn color psychology and apply it to your brand. But logos require a little more artistic flair.

As a basic starting point, you may want to select an image that includes a coffee bean or cup. Alternatively, you might prefer an image inspired by the name you have chosen. Whatever the circumstances, there are several free logo design websites online you can use; Adobe Spark, Looka and Canva Logo Maker are just three examples.

Free logo designs will look professional but are limited and often end up looking generic. When creating a new brand of coffee, you would be better advised to find a freelance logo designer to help you stand out due to the sheer number of brands vying for the custom of coffee-lovers.

It’s time to get your brand out there

Once you have your name and brand image, it’s time to put it out there and get noticed. There are a variety of ways to promote your brand and the best one for you will be determined by your target market.

It’s important to remember that creating your brand is just one step on your marketing journey. Before you unleash it, you’ll need to create a marketing strategy and method of analyzing performance and results.

Planning a marketing strategy is different from creating a brand. Your brand is the identity of your business whereas your marketing strategy is the techniques you use to reach your target audience.

You can read more about how to create a successful marketing strategy here, but there is no point in focusing attention on marketing until you have nailed your branding.

Anyway, with your branding complete – you deserve a coffee.

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