Coffee Marketing: A Brief History Of Coffee Marketing

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A Brief History Of Coffee Marketing

A Brief History Of Coffee Marketing: Today Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are a part of millions of people’s lives.

Unlike other drug industries, such as tobacco and alcohol, ads for Coffee are not subject to intense scrutiny. The press does not criticize caffeine products for targeting young people or creating caffeinism – people with a caffeine addiction.

This raises the most critical question: how has the global coffee market grown so dramatically? While there is no single perfect answer, there is no doubt that marketing has played an essential role in this process.


Developments and changes in printing technology, advertising and media contribute to introducing Coffee into our lives. Without a doubt, these media have also shaped the way we consume them.

To follow the evolution of coffee marketing, we need to link information from two coffee historians, Mark Pendergrast * and Jonathan Morris ** to be able to guide the story of coffee marketing from the past, early days in Africa and the Middle East to the global presence that we are witnessing today.

The beginnings of coffee marketing

While many people associate the beginnings of coffee marketing with the “ first wave ” and mass commercialization, according to Mark Pendergrast, it started much earlier than that.

Accordingly, the first wave of coffee marketing originated in Ethiopia and Yemen, the two first places where Arabica coffee was grown and where coffee shops first appeared before it spread throughout the Arab world from about 1500 to 1650.

As colonialism spread, Coffee moved from the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to North America and Europe in the 1600s. The first printed advertisement for Coffee was published in 1652 by Pasqua Rosée, who opened one of the first coffee shops in London.

During the second half of the 17th century, Coffee became a European luxury product. It is associated with status and wealth among the elite, as only the wealthy can afford it.

Pasqua Rosée made absurd claims about the pharmacological effects of coffee in a 1952 advertisement. He claimed that coffee was good for the digestive tract, curing headaches, coughs, tuberculosis, edema, gout, .. and even help prevent miscarriage – Mark Pendergrast

The first coffee advertisement of the coffee industry from Pasqua Rosée, London, in 1652

Throughout the 1700s, Coffee was considered an “exotic” product, as it originated outside Europe. This means it is a rare, expensive luxury available only to the wealthy.

However, in the 1820s, when the price of coffee beans reached a record low, it became more accessible throughout mainland Europe.

According to Jonathan Morris, “Coffee is retailed in shops that specialize in colonial imports; During the 19th century, a few of these shops began operating their roasting equipment. Many of Europe’s most famous roasters arose from these types of shops: Julius Meinl opened a shop in Vienna in 1862, and Luigi Lavazza in Turin in 1895.”

European roasters initially advertised their product as cheaper and more accessible than buying green beans to roast on the stove at home – This is how many consumers prepare their Coffee. This simple change has forever turned the coffee industry around. It has set a standard since the late 19th century, as consumers now expect their Coffee to be pre-roasted at the point of purchase.

Coffee marketing from the early to mid-20th century

More sophisticated marketing campaigns emerged in the early 20th century to improve roasted coffee sales in America.

A specific example shows Alexander Sheppard & Sons creating the “Morning Sip” coffee blend, advertised in 1916 as “All bitterness removed from Morning Sip Coffee by machine, the outer rind of each bean. The Coffee (which creates the bitterness) is ground into a husk powder and then blown away. All you get is sweet, pure Coffee.”

By 1917, Morning Sip had become so successful that Sheppard & Sons had built a new distribution centre to meet the demand.

Explaining the process and how it is linked to the “improved” taste of the product created a new kind of impression for the consumer. Here’s another big shift in coffee marketing: a focus on how roasters can “add” quality and value.

(Left) Advertisement for Maxwell House Coffee January 26, 1923, | (Right) This company’s 1924 advertisement for the NBC Radio show

Other major roasters soon followed suit. In 1920, it was estimated that major US coffee roasters spent US$3 million (equivalent to more than US$39 million today) on marketing throughout the year.

In particular, Maxwell House alone in 1924 claimed a marketing budget of more than 275,000 USD (equivalent to 4 million USD today). And so, it took only a few years to become one of the most famous coffee companies in the United States.

According to Mark Pendergrast, this stage of coffee marketing took advantage of radio stations and billboards along the streets of the 1920s and 1940s, with shows like The Maxwell House Show Boat, a place that sold Coffee to actors.

Maxwell House Show Boat was the most popular variety radio show in the United States from 1933 to 1935. Its success during this period saw Maxwell House’s sales increase by about 85%.

The Continuity of Coffee Marketing in the Second Half of the 20th Century

After World War II’s end, instant coffee companies’ marketing goal was generally to create more brand recognition among the general public.

Instant Coffee can be traced back to the early 1900s, when a Japanese chemist, Satori Kato, created “coffee extract”. This was the early prototype of the instant Coffee we know today. It quickly became popular with the U.S. military and is famous for providing a quick burst of energy.

George Washington’s ad focuses on the convenience of instant Coffee in wartime.

Through the 20th century, this convenience became the focus of instant coffee marketing. In particular, George Washington’s brand of instant Coffee printed a famous ad in 1945 with the slogan “No coffee pot, no grounds, no waste”. This shows that the industry is looking to capitalize on a criterion still high in its day: Convenience.

“Advertisers have decided to shift focus from coffee’s origins to its use for consumers,” explains Jonathan Morris.  “This marketing works by appreciating customers, often women, for their lack of coffee knowledge, while also promising to solve problems through the reliability of the brewing”.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, coffee advertising changed across the United States and other major consumer markets with the invention of television. It is estimated that in 1946, there were about 6,000 television sets in households across the United States. Five years later, by 1951, that number had grown to 12 million.

Television advertising has given coffee brands the power to bring marketing campaigns straight to consumers’ homes. During the 1950s and 1960s, the marketing of coffee at the household level was more targeted towards women, particularly in the US. Many commercials claim that good coffee is necessary to “get your husband’s heart”.

Coffee Marketing
Coffee Marketing: Popular woman motif in coffee ads from the 1950s-1960s

According to Jonathan Morris, During the 1970s, the focus shifted to the consumer. In this context, celebrity endorsements reflect how Coffee has been introduced into everyday life. Perhaps the best example came in 1972 with “Mr. Coffee”, an electric home coffee maker. Famed baseball player Joe DiMaggio was the spokesperson for this machine, and in 1983 he was seen making Coffee with Mr. Coffee on TV.

This signalled another essential shift from the 1950s and 1960s hype: brewing had become more acceptable as a “masculine” activity in just a few years. Activities associated with professional sports athletes. 

Without stopping, coffee marketing trends changed again in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “The courtship of the Nescafé Gold Blend couple has provided British television watchers for five years. 1987 to 1993, a more positive message about the role of Coffee in romantic relationships. However, these ads provide very little information to customers about their Coffee – Jonathan Morris.

Coffee Marketing
Coffee Marketing: Episode TV commercial Nescafé Gold Blend Couple Flirting

The original ‘Gold Blend couple’ campaign ran from 1987 to 1993 and had 12 45-second parts. They star Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan, a couple who embarked on a fiery romance over coffee. They were extremely popular and received a lot of media attention upon their release ‘Gold Blend couple’ which is still one of the most famous examples of serial advertising.

Luxury lifestyle: Nespresso and more

At the end of the 20th century, the coffee industry’s marketing landscape changed again. As Nespresso became more popular, Coffee was increasingly marketed as a “lifestyle” product, a luxury for the elite.

It all started in 1988 when Jean-Paul Gaillard, formerly of the Philip Morris tobacco company, joined Nespresso. Gaillard drew inspiration from the wine industry to market Nespresso’s capsules as a “luxury” item, even though they were reasonably priced for most consumers. He also reduced the price of Nespresso tablets so they could be sold in more stores.

Within a few years, he also developed Club Nespresso to give the brand a sense of exclusivity, even though membership is accessible as soon as you buy the machine or the tablet. However, this “Membership” conveyed to consumers the feeling that Nespresso products were an essential part of a more luxurious and privileged lifestyle.

Nespresso boutique in Finland

Nespresso then launched its online platform in 1998. And the brand’s first physical store – known today as “Nespresso boutique” – opened in 2000. But it was its presence on the internet. TV helped build momentum in the 2000s and beyond.

In the mid-2000s, Nespresso hired American actor George Clooney as the face of the brand. He starred in the brand’s first commercial in 2006. Clooney embodies everything Nespresso wanted to convey about Nespresso: elegance, charm, and a sense of humour.

Coffee shop chain marketing strategy

However, coffee marketing hasn’t just changed for home-based consumers during this time. Beyond the family, the idea of ​​a coffee chain was reshaped at the end of the 20th century, fundamentally changing the concept of a coffee shop.

Take Starbucks, for example. The brand opened its first store in 1971. It wasn’t until 1987 that Howard Schultz bought the company for US$3.8 million. A few years later (for a period), the brand opened a new location every day worldwide. Starbucks’ aggressive expansion policy continues to this day, But how is this linked to effective coffee marketing?

Back to Mark Pendergrast: “When Howard Schultz took over Starbucks, he pioneered the marketing of espresso drinks in the coffee shop. “Much of their marketing is presence and word of mouth. At first, Starbucks didn’t spend money on advertising for several years.”

Starbucks store in Milan – Italy

For chains like Starbucks, instant recognition and consistent brand identity set them apart from independent companies. According to Jonathan Morris, it marks a new development in out-of-home coffee marketing.

  • Photocopy shops follow a series of basic interior designs that are key to representing the promises the brand intends to deliver. Communication objectives are similarly accomplished in this way.
  • Usually, they build a brand origin story to conjure up some image of identity. For example, in the UK, popular Costa Coffee’s Italian-style Coffee… Starbucks stores often post pictures of the Costa brothers, Italian landscapes, etc.
  • In addition, introducing coffee shops as a “third place” (somewhere between work and home, where consumers can study, read, or socialize) has become an integral part of the process. Lacking in coffee shop marketing from the late 1990s and early 21st century.

What will coffee marketing look like in the future?

Today, the third wave of Coffee is marked by several key characteristics. These include a greater appreciation of the bartender’s skills and craftsmanship, a focus on sustainability and transactions based on fairness, accountability, etc., as well as transparency and ability to wider traceability throughout the supply chain.

In recent years, each of these characteristics has been used by coffee brands as a way of communicating information that resonates with consumers. Modern consumers (especially young people) care more about sustainability and social responsibility than ever before.

Kenco’s Coffee Versus Gangs initiative, with its advertising campaign allowing 20 disadvantaged Honduran youths to train as a barista, contributed to a 52% increase in revenue when it first aired in 2014.

Kenco “Coffee Vs Gangs” from Blind Pig

Even Nespresso’s “luxury” message is changing. If 2006 saw them bring in George Clooney to market their products as an elegant and exclusive lifestyle, today’s coffee scene is different. Brands are starting to address capsule waste issues and discuss their ethical sourcing. Recent Nespresso ads use images of farmers in coffee-producing countries, highlighting the most vulnerable actors in the supply chain.

Marketing coffee in the age of social networks

In addition, brands change not only what they communicate but also how they communicate. Social networking has become a massive tool for marketing professionals; Coffee shops and roasters now have access to a vast and constantly evolving digital space. However, this presents its challenges. Coffee brands now have seconds to sell themselves to consumers.

The Internet has made it possible for us to tell stories of origin much more effectively. Not just a few try-and-tasting notes; Instead, we’re watching videos of the landscape, farmers, and processing methods that make a particular coffee – Jonathan Morris

Coffee Marketing
Chase & Sanborn Coffee Advertisement 1946 – Through the image of South American coffee farmers, introduced to users the concepts of ‘Shade Grown Coffee’ and ‘Tree to Cup’

What has changed for the third wave of Coffee is the digital marketing environment and the possibilities that this brings. In the future, marketing will likely evolve with a deeper focus on the journey from seed to cup. Jonathan concludes: “Discovering and exploiting new avenues to communicate with customers in ways that align with brand values ​​will result in successful future coffee marketing strategies.”

Marketing in the coffee sector has come a long way, but this story is far from over. As technology and popular culture continue to change and shape consumer needs, we will inevitably see entirely new marketing strategies and methods emerge.

Notes & References :

  • Note

(*) Mark Pendergrast is the author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee . PrimeCoffee has published a series of articles on coffee history and many other commercial articles. .

(**) Jonathan Morris is the author of the book  Coffee: A Global History , and many other studies, such as Why espresso? Explaining changes in European Coffee,[…] recompiled as The Historic Revolution of Espresso on PrimeCoffee.

  • Reference source :
  • The History of Coffee and its Concurrent Marketing, Strategies Kristin Rudeen; Hanson & Wales University – Providence,
  • A brief history of marketing in the coffee sector

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