468 Retail and Channel Management Blog

Friday, February 5, 2016

Second Cup, Second Choice

Second Cup is often the second choice when trying to decide where to go for a coffee date or a mid afternoon pick me up. With so many other competitors in the market - namely Starbucks, McDonalds, and Tim Hortons, their brand is stagnant, stuck between the convenience of Tim Hortons and the luxury of Starbucks, and facing a challenge in offering something new to coffee lovers.

In an effort to combat this, they introduced a brand overhaul towards the end of 2014, replacing their old logo and signage with something much more minimalist - simple white text on a black background. Along with this, the storefront of each of their locations, based on their boldly named “Innovative Café of the Future” in Toronto have been designed to “complement the culture of the neighbourhood” (Second Cup Press Room, 2015) and appeal to a younger, more fashionable consumer with features such as a Slow Bar, wireless charging pads, and an increased focus on high quality coffee.

Second Cup's "Innovative Café of the Future"

The problems that they have encountered with attempting to update their brand image stem from the inconsistent feel in their stores, and potentially a move to become “cooler” much too late after Starbucks carved out its reputation in consumer’s minds. I personally love the design and updates to the packaging, including the Artist Series cups that feature commissioned artwork, as well as the styling of the Innovative Cafe. At this point, Second Cup doesn’t lack a beautiful image, they lack follow through. This brand redesign was a hope for a turnaround, and meant to represent the “premium brand experience” offered by Second Cup. However, with the rollout of the new store design intended to take place throughout 2015, many of the stores now have mismatched decor that creates a cluttered and uncomfortable effect.

More problematic than the lack of consistency in the interior is how this improvement has not been carried over into the rest of the Second Cup experience, which is an area their competitors are particularly strong in. While Starbucks provides personalization and familiarity to their customers across their locations, Second Cup does not create the same sense of a “home away from home”.

My neighbourhood Second Cup, which I frequent more out of convenience rather than preference, is a first hand example of the inconsistent feel between replacing the signage and packaging in the store, but nothing else.

For Second Cup, in order to compete with the major players in the coffee shop world, something more radical will have to be done than a sleeker logo.


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