Assessing the Costa Coffee Brand

Each week in association with retail and marketing consultancy Pragma, MarketingWeek.co.uk looks at a high-profile UK brand, assessing its performance against a range of criteria and offering suggestions to improve its overall score. Marks for each section are given out of five stars, while the overall rating is given at the end of the review.

Brand ***

The Costa brothers’ heritage story is giving way to a more corporate feel for the coffee chain. Costa has a strong presence, with 400 stores, but the passion for the brand may be fading. The real challenge for the Whitbread Group is to reignite this passion and position Costa as something more than a run-of-the-mill coffee shop.

Experience ***

The comfort and cleanliness of the stores varies, but most are well specified, spacious and comfortable. The mix of tables, leather armchairs and sofas is the usual formula. In some locations staff provide a friendly and efficient table service; this in turn ensures a smoother visit for customers and employees alike. The Costa (ex Whitbread) Book Awards Taster (a book of excerpts from award nominees) is an opportunity to increase the length of visits.  However the likelihood is that this might actually be more profitable if the book was free (rather than £1).

Product ***

The coffee compares well to other high street chains, and is the main attraction. Food is well presented but lacks an authentic Italian appeal; it has also stretched into very general snack range for people on the go. The emphasis on biscuits and muffins for sharing is something new.  Healthy eating is not particularly well catered for apart from fruit juices. Costa’s own retailed coffee packs are positioned at the point of purchase, though it is questionable how this impacts on sales.

Value Positioning ***

The prices of coffee and food offer are very much in line with other chains, with cappuccinos and lattes at the higher end of the price range (£1.90 for a take away).

Recommendations

1) Innovation in the food offer to include healthier foods, as well as a focus on a more authentic Italian feel.

2) Provide Costa Coffee Book Award excerpts free to increase visit times time and spend.

3) Develop personality behind the brand through local community initiatives and cultivate a more vibrant Costa voice

4) Ensure café basics are adhered to – tidy and clear tables, clean environment.

Overall: ***

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