Blue Tokai is a specialty coffee brand with inspirational growth over the last decade in India. The brand has been in the news recently with its series B funding and investment from Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone.
I want to write about how Byron Sharp’s work with his famous book – How Brands Grow applies to the growth of this business.
As far as I remember, Blue Tokai started off with its first roastery in the Saket area of New Delhi which was my first experience with the brand. For me coffee is important, but equally important is the experience or ritual of actually going to the physical cafe.
Today the brand boasts of 80 stores, 4 roastries in multiple Indian cities, and regular pop-ups in Japan.
Would this be ever possible if they had ignored the laws we talk about?
I will let you ponder over it.
The Law of Double Jeopardy
Being a small and early brand, Blue Tokai would face the law of double jeopardy. Not only would they have few customers, but even fewer loyalists. Hence, the law would direct the brand to focus more on new customers and penetrate the market rather than just focus on loyalists.
Yes, I was a big loyalist and would assume there were other handfuls. But no way they would be able to grow into a big brand just by hoping that loyalists would give them the growth needed to grow commercially (unless they aimed to be a one roastery/cafe brand in a community)
The Importance of Mental and Physical Availability
Mental availability involves creating strong brand associations in consumers’ minds, while physical availability involves being present and accessible to consumers when they are ready to make a purchase.
Now Saket was a bit far for me to go out to every day, and it was not a great location that would have footfalls. So I kept going to Costa, Barista, CCD, and later Starbucks. At max, I would make the effort to go out to their cafe on a weekend.
“Mental availability involves creating strong brand associations in consumers’ minds, while physical availability involves being present and accessible to consumers when they are ready to make a purchase.”
Over the years things would change on physical availability especially.
- Opening in Cyber City: Things only changed for me as a store opened in Gurgaon but was still far from my office, making it impossible for me to go there every day. Until the store opened where I could literally walk after my lunch, I started having coffee here every day.
- Opening in Vasant Vihar and Vasant Kunj: While weekdays were now getting them their loyalist every single day, I would still go some other places till it opened a store where I shopped for my groceries.
With the strategic physical presence over the years, they finally made it possible for a die-hard fan to consume their coffee every day.
Distinctive Brand Assets
Sharp suggests that brands should develop distinctive assets such as logos, colors, and jingles that make them easily recognizable and memorable to consumers.
Thankfully, the company and marketing team created and stuck to their distinct brand assets since the beginning.
Continuous Reach and Mass Marketing
Sharp advocates for continuous brand reach and mass marketing, as opposed to relying solely on targeted, niche marketing.
I agree that they must have started with a niche targeting to begin with. But they understood that reach is important and so is going mass as you grow. There has been consistent marketing communication over the years via their social, digital, and very interesting collaborations which bring in new cohorts into the brand.
As I have visited Blue Tokai over the years, I can see for myself how the crowd of customers has evolved. There are more casual customers in cafes these days – people doing business meetings, freelancers working in cafes, gym pals meeting over a cup, Sunday breakfast, and brunches, or book lovers when they open a cafe inside a book store.
Here you can see for yourself and judge if these laws apply only to large corporations and well-established brands vs. newly created small brands.
Yes, loyalists are important.
Yes, having a differentiated positioning would play a role in getting noticed in a market ( they were actually the first ones in this space in India, so I doubt if differentiation was the key thing at all)
Yes, they use their CRM very well, especially for people who order beans for their home or office consumption.
But they are not as important as we might like to think.
This is how BRANDS GROW!
The views expressed in this article are personal, and not necessarily those of the author’s employer.
Image by Igor Haritanovich