September 14th, 2016

4 Steps to Creating Cohesive Branding: Coffee and Marketing

This is a story about a brand whose product is better than what their marketing says it is.  Late this week I was out of coffee and running low on cash. So, instead of spending my usual $10-12 on 12 oz. bag of coffee, (you know, organic, fair trade, decent stuff) I decided to save my pennies and buy a can of Café Bustelo ground espresso. At $4.50 a can it was going to get me through. I made a pot in my French press this morning. (as all good hipsters do) What I discovered is that this was really drinkable coffee.

On the top of the can was their website, I decided I’d check out their website, maybe leave a positive review on their Facebook page or something. I mean, I was shocked. This was a decent cup of café con leche to get me started this morning. Upon visiting their site I found it was a mess. It wasn’t responsive, the imagery was stock and subpar, and it looked like it was designed in 2010. (skeuomorphism abounds)

I saw they had an events page, which took me to what I can only assume is their real website for Café Bustelo, since it was Here was a bright, responsive, and contemporary website with the right messaging – at least for my demographic. I may still write to them, but the story will be much different.

In short, here’s my letter:

Dear Smucker’s Corporation, (they purchased the brand in 2011)

Please take this advice when it comes to creating cohesive branding:

Step 1: Make Your First Impression Count

If you want people to fall in love with you at first sight, (or site in this case) make sure that their first impression of you is as good as the third. If it takes them three clicks or two different websites to get them where they should be, you’ve already lost them.

img_2884On the lid of this can it took me to a website that was outdated and gave the impression they didn’t value their brand. Unlike most people I like to dig deeper and find out what else is going on, but, I’m a marketer. Many would back out of a site and shake their head at such a poor display of a brand.

Step 2: Pull Yourself Together

There’s two schools of thought on this one, so not every answer is right for everyone. The first school is the Volkswagen school. Many people don’t even realize that VW owns both Audi and Porsche, along with a host of other car makers. They separate their brands based on demographics. But with the case of most companies, cohesive branding for the arms of the umbrella brand are hugely important.

With Java Cabana there are four brands serving the same message, great world coffees at an affordable price. One World. One Drink. They’re serving many of the same demographics, it’s simply a matter of taste and style. So, pull yourself together. Create a brand that elevates everything that is served by it.

Step 3: Be More Than You Are

In the case of Café Bustello, I thought the brand on social media did a really good job of this. Their Facebook page highlighted their music festival sponsorships, highlighted indie bands, it was really tailoring itself to a younger Hispanic audience. It was being bigger than its bottom shelf brand. With regards to the other 3 brands in its portfolio, the same could not be said. It was clear who the favorite child was, and to me that was a missed opportunity.

When you’re seeking to create cohesive branding, all of your brands should seek the same goal: to elevate itself to more than what it is. There should be no favorite child, and the parent should be the example of what the children should be.

Step 4: Fall in Love with Yourself

How can you expect others to fall in love with your brand if you don’t first fall in love with yourself? In this example it’s obvious that Java Cabana isn’t in love with itself. It hasn’t invested time in its parent brand and only invested time in one of its child brands. That child brand is seeming to do well. A quarter of a million likes on Facebook, 11k followers on Twitter, this is a brand that’s giving and receiving love.

However, none of the rest of the brands associated are getting that kind of love, and therefore there’s no cohesion. If all they want is to push one brand, dump the rest. The first step would be to change the packaging to reflect that. (remember point 1?)


I have been a fan of one of their brands Medaglia D’oro for a while. I use their instant espresso in baking, or if I need a quick shot of caffeine but don’t want to make a lot of coffee. I didn’t know that the two were tied together until now. I thought the brand was a higher end brand from Italy, although their branding online never really showed that. It wasn’t cohesive, it wasn’t elevated.

Creating cohesive branding is simple, which means it can be hard work and require some forethought. It’s also a process of refinement, when you think you’ve got it nailed, you have to step back and look at your goals and then refine again. If Java Cabana wanted to have the VW model, on the outside it succeeded. But then failed with their packaging. A simple fix would have kept that going. Like I said, it’s simple, but it’s the details that matter – and those are hard.

When you’re looking at your brands, your design, your marketing, your company talk to someone that can look beyond labels and logos to who you are. Then let them work with you to create cohesiveness in everything you do.

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