It was a slow day. Mike was sitting in his coffee shop and giving himself a pep talk.
‘What’s the worst that could happen?’, Mike thought to himself. ‘At the most, I would need to move into my mother’s house. And that’s okay”.
Mike’s thoughts were interrupted when a truck driver entered and asked for the strongest cup of coffee. Mike served an Americano and got back to his anxious thoughts again.
Mike knew the reason behind his struggle – His coffee shop was a commodity. There were a hundred coffee shops out there and his shop was exactly like them. No differentiation whatsoever. The red ocean.
Mike was stuck in the same quadrant as the other coffee brands.
When you can’t separate one coffee shop from the other, the audience goes for the cheapest option, thank you very much.
“The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might actually win.” – Seth Godin.
In order to stand out, Mike had tried multiple things.
He added 25 varieties of coffee to the menu. (That’s a lot by the way). He also added 200 types of candy. (That’s a lot by the way). Nothing seemed to work.
And that’s when it hit him
Mike had been noticing that many customers were asking for ‘the strongest coffee that you have.’ A lot of his customers consisted of truck drivers, construction workers… people who engaged in heavy physical activity and wanted the power of caffeine to stay awake and feel energized.
They didn’t care about the taste. They didn’t care about the experience. They didn’t care about anything except the caffeine hit. This was his cue. The moment he had been waiting for. Mike took the leap of faith.
Mike decided to create and launch the ‘world’s strongest coffee.’
Fast forward to today, Death Wish Coffee has become a formidable brand in the coffee industry.
It isn’t about just being different
If I start dancing on the road, I am going to be different. I will stand out… yes. But will I earn trust?
When Seth Godin introduced the concept of Purple Cow, a lot of us misunderstood it. Purple Cow isn’t about being gimmicky. Resorting to tips, tricks and drama is not going to help us stand out in the long run.
Remember, before Death Wish Coffee claimed the spot of the world’s strongest coffee, Mike had tried different things like introducing a variety of flavors and offering candy on the menu. But none of these ‘gimmicks’ worked.
Today, Death Wish Coffee stands out, because its ‘uniqueness’ is in the service of the customer. This, right here, is the secret sauce.
Mike’s unique positioning
After Mike’s decision and the subsequent birth of the Death Wish Coffee, the story and the positioning shifted.
Death Wish Coffee now stood out from every other coffee brand.
What gave Mike such clarity?
A key point to note in Mike’s story, (and honestly in the story of most successful brands) is the fact that they showed empathy to a ‘specific audience’. Without a specific audience, Mike would have been confused. If for example, Mike would have said, “Oh I should also sell coffee to affluent fitness freaks”, then coming up with a precise story would have been impossible.
An amazing story needs –
A unique positioning is about going to the edges
A few examples of positioning done well –
Take “Safety” and add it to “Car”. Whoa… you just created a Volvo!
Take “Sustainable energy” and add it to “Cars”. You just created Tesla.
Take “Email Marketing Tool” and add it to “Creators”. You just created ConvertKit.
Take “Strongest” and add it to “Coffee”. OMG you just created Death Wish Coffee (the strongest coffee on the planet!)
Pick an edge
‘Safest’ is an extreme. So is ‘strongest’.
If we wish to create a unique positioning and a story, we cant choose to be just like everybody else. We have no option but to go to the edges… the extremes that would probably make us uncomfortable in the short run.
There are a lot of edges that we can choose from – easiest, hardest, most beautiful, most sustainable, the most comprehensive… and so on.
I urge you to find empathy for a specific audience that has a problem. And then define your edge so that your brand solves that problem. It will be scary, of course. It should be. But it’s worth doing.
(Image credits: Death Wish Coffee)
While I am pretty confident that Mike Brown no longer stays in his mother’s house… his mother must have been really proud of her son. He showed empathy to a specific audience. He was brave enough to pick an edge and build a story.