Coffee Cup Branding

My new goal in life is to own a coffee shop. There, I said it. It's a goal that's pretty far off, if it ever happens at all. Since I can't implement my own ideas now, I will have to stick to criticizing those of other independent coffee shops. I've been visiting a lot of them lately, you know, to gather intelligence and such. Also because I really like good coffee.

One thing that I don't understand is why a coffee shop will serve its to-go coffee in a plain white paper cup with a generic brown sleeve.

(from Flickr user Ingorrr)

I guess I understand why they do it - white paper cups are cheap, probably the cheapest cups on the market. But branded cups seem like a no-brainer when it comes to advertising. Even if a coffee shop does no other marketing, having customers walking around with branded cups, having branded cups sitting on customers' desks, etc. is a sure-fire way for a local coffee shop to get its name out there.

Plus, I'm fairly confident, even if people refuse to admit it, that coffee-drinkers prefer to walk around with a branded cup of coffee rather than a plain white cup. While coffee is primarily about the drink itself, there is some element of culture that goes along with it. People who drink Starbucks believe it somehow fits with their personality. People who drink coffee from a mom-and-pop shop probably feel differently. In that sense, branded cups don't just serve as an advertising vehicle, they also reinforce what customers believe about coffee in relation to their personality. In an industry like coffee, the best customers are the returning customers.


    If I had a coffeeshop, I'd serve those great New York Greek coffee cups you always see as props on Law & Order.

    On March 21, 2011 Josey said...

    So true about the benefits of branding. I normally drink Illy coffee that I brew myself, but on occasion (when desperate and without my coffee machine) I will go to Starbucks or Peets. Which is just... okay. But people definitely 'notice' the green Starbucks logo or the Peets logo, which I can't picture right now. So I'm guessing branding paper coffee cups works. What's interesting to me is that people in general judge others based on where they buy their coffee. There is a cultural side to it all and people definitely 'identify' with certain brands. For me, I like Italian coffee, but then I grew up drinking it (I'm from Europe). Illy or Lavazza are the only easily available Italian brands here in the U.S. When I lived in Napa, there was a great independent coffee shop there that I used to frequent. They roasted their own beans and definitely understand the importance of branding their paper cups to advertise. I think opening a coffee shop is a great idea - especially if you are going to roast your own beans!