Friday, November 6, 2009

Glad to be Back, Living Life with Via (TM), and More Good News About Coffee


Very nice to be able to blog again after a longer-than-appropriate absence due to travel, remarkable opportunities, and a myriad of personal reasons...needless to say during that time, coffee kept me aloft. But more on that later. Now, I'm all about ViaTM---or at least trying hard to be an enthusiastic supporter---it's definitely not Sanka or Folger's. Starbucks' introduction of their new “instant” coffee on October 2nd was advertised as a significant event in coffee history. Admittedly, the “taste test” was a great way to roll out their latest brand innovation. And from a branding perspective, the early execution was perfect. In the great tradition of “Coke vs. Pepsi,” “Tide vs. the leading competitor,” and “Apple vs. PC,” the baristas handling the taste test used suspense, ironclad methods to guarantee blinding, and lots of hype to entice people to partake. Brewed vs. instant---which is which. I'm happy to say that I identified the Colombian brew in contrast to the Colombian instant. The instant had a little more bite---a not entirely unpleasant, but somewhat bitter, aftertaste. So I was happy to drink little paper espresso cups of free instant coffee, but honestly, I have not purchased it yet.


At face value, it seems that I am the ideal target. I love coffee and I travel a lot. In fact, I recently put it in my carry-on en route to Minneapolis. Never drank it. Opted for the standard faire Gourmet Bean that Marriott provides in its hotel rooms and hit every Starbucks I saw for a misto, skim chai, or grande coffee. Talk about being stuck in a rut. Except it's a gilded, happy rut. Anyway, 10 days later, I noticed the same two “vials” of Via in my carry-on as I headed to San Diego. Still no interest...I was perplexed. Why did I sit on the plane and request a cup of coffee—when presumably I could reach into my carry-on for the gold-standard, king of all instant coffees---the one and only Via? Because, there was turbulence and I liked grasping my mug full of mediocre airline coffee. At that moment, Via seemed a little too aspirational for my anxiety, which was heightened when the pilot announced that the turbulence would only get worse as we headed back to the northeast.


Fortunately, we landed safely and I rushed home to brew a pot of Starbucks Breakfast Blend---just what I needed in order to recover from a 3-hour time difference and an unusually turbulent flight. Anyway, the recovery was a little difficult, but my good health prevailed....Speaking of health, there's more good news about the health benefits of coffee. In a study of more than 60,000 Swedish women, published in the International Journal of Cancer on November 15, 2009, researchers found that women who drank 2 or more cups of coffee were significantly less likely to develop endometrial cancer than those who consumed less than 2 cups per day. Overweight and obese women, who have the highest risk for endometrial cancer, were most likely to benefit from the “coffee advantage.” After all other variables were factored out, each additional cup of coffee consumed per day decreased overall risk by 10%. Like many other studies, researchers were not able to pinpoint precisely how or why coffee conferred specific health advantages in an at-risk population. Their theories focused on the effect that coffee has on blood sugar levels (coffee is also associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes), fat cells, and estrogen. Or perhaps the positive effects of coffee could be due to chlorogenic acids (4% of coffee is comprised of these healthy acids) or phenolic polymers (8%).



Additional health-related news. After a long history of being falsely associated with cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, researchers confirmed that coffee is not associated with an increased risk of heart failure. A study of 37,000 middle-aged and older Swedish men, who were regular coffee drinkers, found that they were no more likely to develop heart failure than those who drank less coffee. These findings, published in the American Heart Journal in October 2009, suggests that earlier studies, which did not factor out confounding variables, such as smoking, were misleading and seriously muddied the waters...Anyway, now we know better.


Despite my intense satisfaction with coffee's good, solid reputation, I can't shake my interest in the brand potential of Via. I am not 100% satisfied, but I want to be. I simply adore their branding. From the orange and brown color scheme, to the traveling lady silhouette, I am smitten. That lady is all sleek lines and efficient carriage, with a smidgen of sensual, retro-fashionista dominatrix. So I was already falling and wanting to want Via. Then this morning, after my work out, I walked into Starbucks and there was a Via book. Free! Burnished orange and brown, with hints of tangerine and the ubiquitous white silhouettes. I want to love Via! I will love Via! If only because the copy and the graphics and the marketing is amazing.



Marketing Analysis of Via Advertorial---by Nicole Gray


“How Starbucks VIATM READY BREW Can Change Your Life.”


Cover graphic: Silhouette man with outreached arms against a brown-earth background, with a quiet Via watermark, and a burnt sienna sunrise on the horizon. The guide divides users into “beginner” “intermediate” and “advanced” users...Beginners are encouraged to use Via for 'the meeting,' 'the red-eye,' or 'the morning freak-out.'


Check out some of the copy: “You think airline food is underwhelming? Try generic airline coffee. On second thought...don't. Until we start building Starbucks locations in the sky, fly with Starbucks VIATM.” I should have seen this mini-advertorial before my last trip...then I would have had a context for making a different coffee-related decision.


Intermediate users, according to these marketing geniuses, include the soccer mom or dad, who puts Via into their chilled bottled water; teachers who hand it out to their colleagues in the lounge; travelers who reject the non-Starbucks coffee in the room; and “Aunt Harriet” who will stay too long if you brew a pot...


Nice archetypes, but tell me about the “Advanced” Via drinkers. They are: The SUPERHERO—amazing professional life, great family, active kids, good-looking...largely due to the energizing effects of instant coffee, specifically instant coffee from Starbucks---I mean ViaTM of course!; The Lighthouse Keeper—or those who live in climates that tend to get cold, like us, and can use the comforting effects of instant coffee (not sure that's advanced, but if you say so...); and finally “The Guest Chair on a Late-Night Talk Show”--because you, a Via-consuming individual, have become a cultural icon.


Coffee and cultural iconography. Now that makes perfect sense. This week's goal: Drink more Via.