Coffee Wars: Does the Brand Roar kill Local Marketing?

Nowhere is the Frontline more vividly cavorted on than in the High St coffee bars. Who’s the daddy? And, does anybody really care? What subtleties do these gigantic players deploy to attract the Yummy Mummies after the school drop-off, after all if they have a ‘swift one’ every day they’ll be spending north of £600 each, every year. On coffee. Who’d have thought? 

 

So, the rewards are sizeable if you can engender some brand loyalty. Unfortunately, this is a tough stunt to pull off in our most fickle of societies. And it seems that HQ doesn’t trust, or want to trust, the individuals that operate on the Frontline to do their bidding for them in this respect either. 

 

Is LOCAL over-rated?

 

A number of aspects might contribute to converting patrons into advocates -price, style, decor... sometimes the actual taste of the coffee gets a belated mention in the surveys. Whichever it is, it’s the absolute consistency with which it is delivered that seems to be the key here. Not a bean out of place. Everything exactly as you expect it to be. The brand doesn’t need any local ‘colour’ to make it successful, it seems. Advocates rely on these peak levels of consistency to support their position. 

 

The lip service the brands pay to ‘local’ include branded merchandise (with your own town name on), community boards and local youth projects... but all these come across as anything BUT local as they are all organised and operated back at HQ.

 

Is LOCAL under-rated?

 

Perhaps we should re-phrase that...What really makes a business work? Of course, we understand the big brands’ logic in their ivory towers. As one of our interviewees said, so accurately, “They don’t seem to be doing too badly!” But can it continue, ad infinitum? 

 

Perhaps not. Hundreds of local outlets need thousands of local staff. And these people really are local...they are working in their own communities. (The big brands should remember that when they are opening a new bar and meeting resistance from the natives, it might just make a difference to the welcome they receive if they ‘promote’ this LOCAL aspect!) But you can’t expect bright young people to toe the party line forever, without feeling they can contribute to the appeal of their offering. Unless you actually WANT to become McDonalds, the epitome of faceless globalisation. 

 

It’s our opinion that HQ needs to put in place a process and structure that allows the locals to add value to the generic offering, otherwise there’s just no flavour. 

 

Conclusion? It’s an interesting conundrum for us. We are huge fans of Frontline Marketing and we think that there is a local solution for all global brands. The Coffee Wars are something we will watch with interest. Perhaps there is a place at the table for some genuinely LOCAL players... the independents!

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