Ever since the inception of the Marperations concept, I have been searching for  examples where operations completely defines a brand and marketing simply must reflect the differentiated operations. Last weekend I found an example where I would have least expected it.
I was in the Cherry Creek area of Denver waiting for a meeting. To kill time I looked for a place to get a cup of coffee. To me, coffee has become synonymous with Starbucks. So naturally I was looking for the nearest Starbucks when I came across a local coffee shop called Aviano Coffee, I walked in and immediately realized that this was a different kind of a coffee shop: the décor was modern, trendy, but unassuming and not in my face. They were not trying too hard.
I walked up to the counter and ordered my usual, a small cup of coffee with room for cream. My first surprise came when the coffee maker did not look surprised with my use of the word “small”, as in the Starbucks world, “tall” is the new “as small as it gets”.  Then he started making my coffee.
First he poured some hot water into the coffee pot, and then he ground some fresh coffee beans, fresh just for me. After that he poured the ground coffee in the filter and a little hot water on the coffee grounds, then he paused. I was anxious now. All I could think was, “Come on, pour the rest of the water and give me my darn coffee!”
That is when he explained, “I soak the coffee grinds for a few minutes first so that when I brew your coffee you get the best flavor.”
Now I was intrigued and thoroughly engaged in the coffee making process at Aviano Coffee, as the impatience in me was overcome with interest and curiosity. I was ready to play this coffee making game. A few minutes later when the coffee maker started pouring more hot water into the filter, he further explained, “The pre-soaking makes sure that any carbon dioxide or other gases trapped inside do not make it to your coffee.” I had not yet tasted the coffee but by now I was nearly sure that this would be the best cup of coffee I will ever have.  I was getting really excited to taste this special coffee.
Finally, he poured my coffee into a small cup, and again I was happy to notice that the small cup was actually small. As he handed me my coffee he said, “Please let me know how you like the coffee.”
I simply loved the cup of coffee. As I left the coffee shop I realized what Aviano Coffee had done to me: they had completely changed the definition of the best cup of coffee for me. All of a sudden I could see through the branding and marketing of Starbucks where branding was everything. I could see that the coffee at Starbucks is made by a high dollar machine that the barista simply stands behind and operates. Starbucks had suddenly become a production facility in my eyes where Aviano practiced the art of coffee making.
Aviano Coffee had no fancy branding. It was not trying to appeal to my five senses by building a store that follows the Disney principles where every interaction is planned and orchestrated. Instead they were simply making the best cup of coffee they could, just for me. Now if that is not pouring your heart into coffee, I do not know what is. It was not the marketing of the brand that intrigued me to try the shop. There were no coupons, no marketing stories, and no feel good charity promotions. Instead I discovered the shop on my own and they offered me an experience that was etched in my mind forever. The experience was simple yet detailed, nothing too complicated yet intriguing, very personal and simply memorable. When a brand has operations so breakthrough, marketing does not have to work extra hard to scream about the brand, instead it should simply take a back seat and showcase the experience.
Please do not get me wrong, I will still visit Starbucks as they have me surrounded where ever I am. But every time I get a coffee at Starbucks I will ask myself, “Hmm, why the machine? Why not hand grind? Did you release all the bad gas? Did you soak the beans? Did you give me a small when I wanted a small? Did you make me feel that I just had the best coffee I could have?”
Brands like Aviano Coffee are few and far between, but they are out there and deserve a place in the Marperations hall of fame.  Next time you are in Denver, venture out to the Cherry Creek area and try Aviano Coffee for yourself.  Let me know what you feel. And if you have experienced a brand that has broken all paradigms for you, please share your story with me too.
Please note: ZenMango has no connection with Aviano Coffee. In fact they do not even know that I am in love with them.

ZenMangoAdmin

3 Comments

  • This is a great example of how your people are your marketing; proving that training and marketing go hand-in-hand.

    April 4, 2013
  • Corey

    A strong marketing program can only go as far as the systems and procedures backing it at the store

    April 24, 2011
  • Nice story. For many small company the personal attention to the detail is often the winning formula. But is it scalable? Branding becomes important when you replicate the model 100 (in case of Starbucks 17K+) times. We have a coffee shop in Bay Area called Barefoot coffee, there you have the baristas making nice 'foam' art work for you on the lattes. I am not sure how scalable that model

    April 7, 2011