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How a creator brand is shaking up the coffee category
I have a confession to make. I am a geek who loves video games. However, as I’ve got older I find myself spending more time watching YouTubers play games than actually playing them myself. That’s why this week’s newsletter holds a special place in my heart. Being a long-time fan of Sean William McLoughlin (aka Jacksepticeye) I’m hyped to see the relaunch of his coffee brand Top of the Mornin’ Coffee. And what’s even more exciting is the way his approach to marketing is, in my opinion, better than 99% of other creators out there right now. Want to know more? Let’s break it down…
(btw I am away on holiday for the next 11 days, hence why the newsletter is coming out one day early)
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#1 PROFITABLE HABITS
If you have ever considered starting a startup, one of the biggest challenges can be knowing what to build. Some fairly important questions you may ask yourself might be; what is a big market with lots of growth potential? which category is ripe for disruption? Or where could I secure a healthy customer lifetime value (CLV)? When it comes to answering these questions, you couldn’t do much better than the coffee category.
Coffee has a massive addressable market. In the UK 80% of adults (~46M) drink around 2.8 cups of coffee a day (~117.6M cups). In the US around 83% of adults (~214M) drink 3.1 cups per day (~665.4M cups). The coffee category also has huge potential customer lifetime value (CLV) thanks to its high-profit margins & purchase frequency. And it is the latter of these two, purchase frequency, which provides the greatest opportunity for Top of the Mornin’ Coffee. Let me explain why in more detail below.
In ‘How Brands Grow’ Byron Sharp shows that ‘consumers like and know more about the brands they buy more regularly’. In short, the more people buy from a brand the more familiar and top of mind it becomes. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. When you think about supermarkets or streaming services, you will most likely think of the supermarket brand you shopped at last or the streaming service you watched most recently. Understanding this helps us to see why Jacksepticeye’s move into coffee, is a genius move. First, Jackepticeye already produces a vast array of content on a frequent basis. This enables his broader personal brand to remain top of mind and provides the perfect setup for launching his coffee brand, Top of the Mornin’ Coffee. Second, growing into a category with high purchase frequency enables him to double down on these frequency effects. Simply people can now interact with both his content & coffee brand on a daily basis, creating a flywheel of familiarity that will help keep both his brand(s) top of mind.
Fig #1 Jackepticeye has engineered a flywheel of familiarity first with his YouTube content & now with his Top of the Mornin’ coffee. A familiarity that will benefit all brands within his portfolio.
What can we learn from this? Well if you are a startup or scaleup there is a lot of merit in trying to tap into existing habits. The truth is most people don’t change their habits, they are long-established and hard to shake off (especially when caffeine is involved), so try to tap into them rather than fight against them. Look for those habits where your product can provide a better alternative or a superior service and double down on owning it. Don’t believe me? Then it might be worth checking out a campaign I personally worked on many moons ago for Fridge Raiders. A campaign that identified a habit (snacking), disrupted it and in turn unlocked record growth.
Yet good occasions & habits alone, are not enough to guarantee success. Given that the coffee category has such huge potential, it is unsurprising that there is also a huge amount of competition. However, Top of the Mornin’ Coffee mitigates this by establishing a brilliant brand world.
#2 BRILLIANT BRAND WORLD
Top of the Mornin’ Coffee is entering an incredibly competitive category. It doesn’t just compete against other DTC coffee offerings. It competes against a far broader competitive set including legacy brands (ie Kenco & Nescafe), new disrupter brands (ie hardlines coffee), supermarket own brands & coffee shops brands (ie Costa, Starbucks). Of course, Jacksepticeye does have a great place to start from, with his sizeable social media presence (52M followers & 16M views on YouTube). However, despite this solid start, it’s important to remember that the competition greatly outspends Top of the Mornin’ Coffee when it comes to marketing. Brands such as Costa, Starbucks, Kenco & Nescafe are juggernauts, with each spending hundreds of millions per year on advertising & marketing.
Fig #2 Top of the Mornin Coffee faces huge competition in the coffee category.
However, there is some good news, despite the competition the coffee category is incredibly formulaic. Most legacy, coffee shops & supermarket brands distribute either in-store or within coffee shops. And they spend millions on developing fairly generic brand identities & tv campaigns. Top of the Mornin’ Coffee cleverly sidesteps this competition in two ways. Firstly, they leverage Jacksepticeye huge following to directly promote the brand and sell directly to consumers. This enables them to avoid being outspent on advertising and out-shelved in-store. Secondly, Top of the Mornin’ has established a distinctive brand world that cuts through in the coffee category. You see when it comes to branding, most coffee brands blend into a sea of sameness. They tend to use the same colour cues (browns, reds) and talk about similar things (taste, roasting). A quick snapshot below reveals how generic the category has become.
Fig #3 The coffee category has become incredibly generic with many brands using the same colours & cues
Top of the Mornin’ Coffee cuts through this sea of sameness with its brilliant, bold & distinctive brand world. What is a brand world some of you may ask? Well, when done properly it should bring to life your brand purpose (your reason for being in the world) and live across every touch point of your brand (packaging, design, messaging & comms). The recent Top of the Mornin’ rebrand brilliantly does this. It reflects the personal brand of Jacksepticeye (optimistic, wholesome, witty). And creates a world full of vibrant colours and characters that cuts through all those generic browns and reds, too often used by other brands.
Fig #4 Top of the Mornin’ coffee rebrand is brilliantly bold
What’s particularly clever about this new brand world is that goes beyond a mere colour palette and typography. They have created a world (Planet Positivity) with characters that inhabit it (Sonny). This is particularly smart for three reasons. First, the world and its characters help the brand to stand out in a category which is too often overly serious and a bit pretentious. Second, it enables the brand to more easily stretch into merch (tote bags) and other product variants (tea, hot chocolate) as there is a simple brand asset (Sonny) they can replicate and stretch. Third, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Suuny eventually being animated and interacting with Jacksepticeye on his YouTube channel. This in turn would enable his brand to more easily integrate with its existing Youtube content in a fun, natural and engaging way.
What can startups & scaleups take away from this? Two things. First, stop rushing into tactics and producing content or product shots. Take the time to really figure out your brand purpose and world. Once you have this locked in, it will help to guide everything else you do more effectively. Second, if you can’t outspend you need to outsmart. Look at the tropes of the category and disrupt them, with a distinctive and unique brand world.
#3 BROADER BENEFITS
As outlined above Top of the Mornin’ Coffee has developed a brilliant world, born out of the personal brand of its founder Jacksepticeye. I think it’s more important to delve a little deeper into the personal brand & strategy behind Top of the Mornin’ to reveal how smart it is.
It only takes a few seconds to notice that when it comes to marketing most coffee brands are fairly generic, when it comes to their brand strategy & messaging. Beyond a sea of sameness in terms of colour cues, coffee brands all tend to revert to talking about the same things. I am sure you have all seen coffee brands with the same generic messaging around ‘their passion for coffee’ or ‘superior blend’ or ‘slow roasted process’. What’s fantastic about Top of the Mornin’ Coffee is that it doesn’t just focus on the features of its coffee, like every other brand. They instead focus on the broader benefits Top of the Mornin’ Coffee brings. The sunny disposition of the brand world reflects the multiple positive benefits the brand brings; ethically sourced beans, 1% of sales go to Crisis Text Line and Sean’s own positive personality. As Sean himself points out
“With Top of the Mornin’, my goal was to make delicious coffee a good time as well — take out the stuffiness associated with a solid cup of Joe and make the experience as fun as it is tasty. We’ve totally revamped our branding to be bright and positive, while also using Top of the Mornin’ as an opportunity to help others in need through the Crisis Text Line — an organisation I’m extremely passionate about, which spotlights youth mental health.” Sean William McLoughlin, Founder Top of The Morning Coffee
The brand focus on broader benefits is incredibly smart. First, it helps it stand out in a category that is too often obsessed with product features. Second, the positive benefits of the brand and the sunny brand world evoke an emotional response (which we know is more effective for growth). Third, it ladders right back to founder Sean William McLoughlin's personality. If you spend a few minutes watching his content you will see his whole vibe his positivity, fun and irreverence. And Top of the Mornin’ is the perfect reflection of this. Fourth & finally is how the brand provides the added benefit of donating 1% of its sales to the Crisis Text Line. Beyond the good business ethics practised here, it speaks directly to what Jacksepticeye’s younger audience looks for in brands, ones that give a net positive contribution to society (beyond profit).
Fig #5 Emotional campaigns are more effective at driving brand growth than rational ones
There is a really important lesson here for any startups & scaleups here. As mentioned previously really spend the time to define your brand strategy. Even if you have built up a social following, it’s worth spending the time working out what your personal brand is and what the marketing strategy will be when extending it into new products. Finally, when doing this avoid getting bogged down in rational features. Instead, it can be far more effective to work out the broader benefits that your brand(s) provide.
To recap there are three important lessons here that any scaleup or founder-led brand can learn. First, whenever possible try to identify habits or occasions you can tap into. Second, if you cannot outspend you need to outsmart. Always look to disrupt category norms and build a distinctive brand world. Third, spend time working out your brand & marketing strategy. Really uncovering the broader benefits your brand provides.
Before I go I just wanted to say a very quick thank you for all subscribing. We have just blown past 1,000 subscribers in less than 3 months! Thanks for sticking around, reading and forgiving all the many typ0s along the way.
Please excuse the typ0s i’m proudly dyslexic
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