World’s Worst Coffee


coffeeA question for all you marketers: Would you have approved “World’s Worst Coffee” for a poster at the door of a breakfast-lunch café? Note that the poster was bright yellow with orange letters.

Me neither. And neither would the vast majority of my fellow members of the Marketing Executives Networking Group.

Why would anyone come in to buy the world’s worst coffee or any other food prepared by the folks who want to serve you bad coffee? It would be crazy to insult one of your key products, wouldn’t it?

You know there’s a twist coming to this story.

“World’s Worst Coffee” was one of three posters outside my dad’s café in Maryville, Mo when I was growing up. And it was a great message for dad and his business.

  • First, the sign may not have been far off, at least given today’s high-coffee culture. Back then, coffee was warm, tasted best loaded with sugar poured directly in a stream from a large fluted glass container, and came without flavors, variation, foam, or extra espresso. Not even decaf. Refills were free, however.
  • Second, the few strangers who walked down Main Street always stopped, pointed and smiled. Some even ventured in.
  • Finally, and most important, this poster communicated the brand personality. My dad was an upbeat, quick to smile, outgoing personality who worked in the heart of town. The café was on a classic Main Street after all.

A Dragnet type sign that just gave the facts wouldn’t have felt right. And a hard sell “World’s Best Coffee” would have been equally off base (as well as irrelevant to the times and potential customers).

Remembering this sign reinforced a key lesson for all marketers: Brand personality is as critical as brand benefit.

In this day of social media, people as well as brands must project their personality to stand apart from and above their competition.

Personal branding must emphasize the personal.

As I close, and this was a big deal for a town of about 8,000, this poster was reproduced nationally in hundred’s of newspapers by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. That was my dad’s 15 minutes of fame.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.



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