Coffee Shop Branding: Beginners Guide

Coffee was introduced to America in the mid-17th century, and by the 18th century it was one of the most popular, and profitable, products in the world. The first Starbucks Coffee, a pioneer of coffee shop branding, was opened in 1971 – fast forward to today, and there are over 30,000 stores across 80 countries around the world. And that’s just one coffee shop. In America alone, statistics inform us that there are over 150 million daily coffee drinkers, with the average consumption being 2.1 cups of coffee per day. That’s a lot of coffee.

Despite it’s long-time popularity though, the success of coffee is no longer just because of it’s taste.

Three words for you: Coffee. Shop. Branding. 

There are four important things to keep in mind when creating the perfect coffee shop brand. The four branding pillars:  brand identity/purpose, experience, community, and delivery. Creating a brand isn’t just about making a cool looking logo – it’s way more complex than that. Your brand matters just as much as your coffee – if you’re only focused on creating the best logo, for instance, you’ll fall short.

Your brand should integrate all four pillars – your identity/purpose as a business, the experience you want to share with people, the community you build, and the way you deliver it to your customers. Each pillar is important on its own, but as a whole they will build a brand that customers can’t help but want to be a part of.

Brand Identity:

Let’s talk about Starbucks again.

As far as I’m concerned, Starbucks is coffee royalty…seated on the throne of the coffee kingdom as the reigning coffee shop of the world. A true champion of coffee shop branding. But don’t get me wrong – I don’t actually think that they have the best coffee ever. What I do think is that they are the best coffee brand ever. I’ll tell you why.

I did some extensive research on Starbucks. I wanted to know their origin story, how and why they became so popular, the number of stores they have, statistics on how much coffee they sell each year, etc. What I found is actually quite intriguing, and says a lot about their brand’s identity.  

A trio of gentlemen founded it in 1971 and – fun fact – actually named the company Pequod after a whaling ship in Herman Melville’s book, Moby-Dick. They eventually changed the name to Starbuck, after the chief mate on the Pequod. The logo? A twin-tailed mermaid or siren. In Greek mythology, sirens would lure sailors to death-by-shipwreck. The Starbucks logo represents the idea of the company luring in coffee lovers to discover their product. Talk about a brand identity! 

Moby Dick has a card game!

Starbucks created a logo that links directly to their goal as a company – to help people discover their coffee! And although the logo has evolved since 1971, it still is the one thing that everyone associates with Starbucks Coffee.

This is exactly what your logo and your brand should accomplish. It should be creative, yes…but it should also represent your company – your purpose, vision, goals, and values. When people see your logo, they should be able to instantly think of your coffee shop and imagine that warm aroma of roasted coffee beans and silky expresso filling their veins.

Starbucks Logo

A creative logo draws their attention; a meaning behind the logo brings out their curiosity; and developing an experience they won’t forget and a community they’ll want to be a part of, is not only what establishes your brand, but is what will keep bringing your customers back to you.

Creating an Experience:

Your brand is going to help build new communities. It’s going to represent an experience more than it’s going to represent your coffee. If you build your brand right, your customers will come just for the experience, and the coffee they drink will be the bonus – a very delicious bonus. 

I want to introduce you to a local coffee shop here in Michigan that I think effectively achieves a coffee shop culture that is all about the experience and the community.

317 Coffee.

This shop is located in Hudsonville, Michigan and is one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been to; and that’s saying a lot, considering the fact that I’m a writer and have therefore been to a lot, and I mean a lot, of coffee shops.

From the moment I stepped into this shop I knew I would come back. I think that is something that every coffee shop wants to accomplish – creating such a unique space and attractive brand that customers want to come back before even trying their product. 317 Coffee accomplished this. Their space is filled with antique couches and chairs, shelves and ladders displaying trendy sayings and their personal merchandise (featuring their unique logo), cool lighting, and a big chalkboard with their menu on it. (Check out their space here:

Creating a Community:

When you are at 317 Coffee, you experience the kind of community that can only be described with one word: diverse. I have seen people in business meetings there, a group of young adults with special needs, teens hanging out after school, college students working on homework, etc. This place oozes acceptance. 

One of my favorite things they do is serve their hot drinks in a variety of ceramic mugs – I get a different mug every time, and every time I feel as though I’m settling into my living room ready to relax and enjoy life. My experience there was what brought me back. I’ve tried several drinks, and they’ve all been delicious, but I was more interested in the experience I had there, and the community of people I found there. I felt at home, I felt respected as a customer, I felt trendy, I felt good.

So, you have your brand identity. Based on that, you know what you want your customers to experience and the community you want to build. Finally, you build a unique logo that is rooted in those things. There’s only one thing left to do.

317 Coffee
Coffee Beans

The Delivery:

Where you put your logo matters too, and helps to influence and increase your brand. The logo should be appealing in order to achieve this, but so should the product it’s branded on. 

I think if a teenager were writing this article, they’d tell you to make it “Instagrammable”. And I gotta say, they wouldn’t be wrong. Social media is a huge part of society these days, and having your original logo on a stellar looking paper or plastic product would definitely boost your brand. 

But hey, there actually isn’t much more advice I can give you for this one. If you’re confident in the brand you’ve built and the logo you’ve created, then all that’s left is for you to do your absolute best to introduce it to the world. Apply these lessons successfully and just maybe you’ll become the next great coffee brand!