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Inside The Seattle’s Best Brand Relaunch

The PSFK team get the inside gulp on the Starbuck's brand's new approach.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
Piers Fawkes, PSFK on November 30, 2010. @piers_fawkes

PSFK was invited to Starbucks headquarters recently to be part of a discussion about the future of the veritable Washington State brand Seattle’s Best Coffee. We were shown the first store in Pike Market when the brews by the original owners of the brand were awarded the title of Seattle’s Best coffee. The owners took the title and used it as their new company name.

Over the years with the growth of coffee brands and also ownership by big-brother Starbucks, there have been questions about the direction the company should take. After review the new design and brand teams decided, we think wisely, to eschew current obvious trends and avoided the mountain-to-cup storyline and went for a strategy of a great cup of coffee everywhere every time.

To do so, they needed to look at how the coffee was being sold. One of the weaknesses of coffee distributed across many partners is consistency – customers didn’t know what a coffee would taste like in different locations even if it was from the same brand. To overcome this, the technical team at Seattle’s Best created a rapid brewing system machine that produces a fresh cup of coffee in seconds. The machine hopes to provide people with the same tasting caffeeine jolt everytime they try it in evert type of estblishment – from coffee shop to partner like Burger King to your gas station. With a touch of a button, the machine brews a fresh cup in 45 seconds which the company hopes will offer a “lighter, more nuanced northern European taste.” The machine can also integrate natural syrups to allow customers to personalize their coffee.

Seattle’s Best also invested in a smaller retail design. Taking inspiration from Italian and 50s style coffee bars, they reduced the footprint to make this a prop-up place to enjoy a quick cup on a move. The design mixes digital with analog – the wood is back lit with LED lights and the signage is both chalkboard and digital. The layout also enables off-site purchases without customers getting blocked by the stools.
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In terms of the coffee they sell, the brand has simplified the messaging anc gone for strength. They want customers to know their number – where 1 is the easiest to drink and 5 is strongest. Personally, I enjoyed a 2 after tasting the different versions but I told the team that I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t drinking a 4!

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The logo has been updated. It’s now a circle with an inner red semi-circle and a white drop. In some ways it looks like a cup of coffee and other ways it looks like a smile. The circle is supposed to represent equality (every cup the same great taste) and the smile a symbol of happiness they aim to bring to the world. Overall the main purpose is to “point the company towards a bold, happy and welcoming future:”

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The visual imagery of the retail pack has been designed to stand out in-store. Simple packaging includes the strength number and are color coded.
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In terms of roll out of the brand’s new look, the Seattle’s Best management told PSFK that it would take almost a year before most people experience the update. We really enjoyed the new approach to the brand. It was simple, bold and said what it does out loud. It’s very easy to get drawn into the big trends of storytelling – but explaining your purpose doesn’t always have to describe complex sourcing narrative. Sometimes the better story is ‘trust us’ on this, it’s going to be a good cup of coffee. It will be very interesting to see how people react to it.

Seattle’s Best Coffee

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