Feature

Costa brand and innovation chief on why it doesn't advertise on TV

Costa brand and innovation director Carol Welch lifts the lid on Costa's marketing strategy, its expansion, and why it doesn't advertise on TV.

Costa: advertising on TV isn't impactful for coffee brands
Costa: advertising on TV isn't impactful for coffee brands

Most people prefer their coffee stirred but Costa wants consumers to try it shaken over ice.

The brand is in the midst of a summer campaign, #ShakeUpSummer which raises awareness that its coffee range can be prepared cold.

The campaign is part of plans to offer consumers more choice over the warmer months. But the execution of the campaign – not via a ‘mass marketed’ TV platform but delivered through outdoor and digital, is indicative of the brand’s wider strategy.

When you are an experience brand, a couple of weeks of TV advertising a year is not something that’s dramatically impactful

Although Costa is the largest coffee chain in the UK by far with 2,000 stores and annual sales of £951.9m the brand hasn’t advertised on TV since 2012. And it doesn’t intend to any time soon.

"When you are a coffee and an experience brand, a couple of weeks of TV advertising a year is not something that’s dramatically impactful," Costa brand and innovation director Carol Welch says.

Instead the business focuses its marketing budget on digital and in store campaigns, and on ensuring all of its 45,000 staff members around the world are fully trained on delivering the brand experience.

"I would much rather spend the money on making sure that our team members deliver customer experience and our customers have a brilliant environment to drink it in," she adds.

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"We take crafting of coffees incredibly seriously, each barista has to go through a number of tests before they are let loose on the public, so to speak. For me, those 45,000 team members is how you deliver a brand." 

Rapid growth 

The business has staff make over one million coffees per year in training alone to perfect the process. And for its iced range, for the benefit of taste and of theatre, baristas are instructed to shake them in a manner that consumers might  more readily expect from a cocktail bar.

Welch favours a more direct, customer experince orientated approach to brand communications via ECRM and in store ads, but as a "very social brand" it will also channel more spend into digital, increasing spend in line with the rapid growth of its store estate. 

We take crafting of coffees incredibly seriously, each barista has to go through a number of tests before they are let loose on the public

Under Whitbread it has grown rapidly since its beginnings in 1971 when two Italian brothers founded the company in Old Paradise Street in Lambeth.  Now the thriving coffee sector is growing apace not just as a result of big brand coffee chains but rafts of independent shops, fast food restaurants, pubs and department stores. 

To stay on top, Costa must constantly "reinvent" and innovate. The competition is helpful, Welch says, because it keeps the brand on its toes.

Innovation

Whilst Starbucks is experimenting with an evening concept that will see it serve alcohol and premium positioned foods (which Costa will keep an eye on), Costa is focusing on trialling new formats to make the brand an even more convenient and appealing destination. 

It is experimenting with different store formats, having installed 3,954 Costa Express checkouts at locations including service stations and two  'Costa to go', commuter focused stores in Moorgate and Holborn as it looks to "transform the customer experience".

It's not about reinventing the world. A coffee shop is a simple pleasure in someone's day

The brand also introduced a loyalty app for smart phones in August (though three years after rival Starbucks) that will both incentivise customers and give the brand access to data.

But Welch doesn't believe in "innovation for innovation's sake" because she believes there is something more fundamental that brands need to tap into - "human connection".

As a meeting place, Costa is a facilitator of that and community is something that's "not going to change", she asserts. 

"It's not about reinventing the world. A coffee shop is a simple pleasure in someone's day and it's a human connection when someone has that moment when they can [relax].

"That's never going to change. What will change is how we make sure people can have that more often and improving that experience."