Why I like Nespresso (not just the coffee)

I made a coffee using an old Philips Senseo machine this morning.¬† The coffee was OK, but I know Senseo will be obsolete in a few years, as the machine looked dated and the experience of making the coffee was not especially memorable (should it be, some might say?) Others have tried to produce coffeemakers with the aim of becoming the standard-bearer (Lavazza, Saeco) but I’m guessing they’ll fail too. Nestl√©, with their Nespresso brand, have however been spectacularly successful. What have they done right?

  • Quality. No question, the coffee tastes awesome. It could perhaps be a little stronger, but it’s better than or as good as anything else on the market.
  • Variety. Not only is it good, it caters to all tastes. It’s dead easy to make an espresso, but just as easy to make a bigger coffee, and hey presto, get yourself an accessory and you can bang up a cappuccino in a minute.
  • An affordable luxury. It looks better and more expensive than other machines, but the pricing approach is clever (for the machines, not the capsules the coffee comes in). They’re priced just about high enough to be deemed a luxury good, but not quite high enough to be too expensive for most middle-class buyers (and there are ways to get money off when buying one).
  • Most of all, the story: the branding effort has been really clever. Not necessarily the ads featuring George Clooney, but the rest of it (although the self-deprecating, yet effortlessly cool and urban Clooney is a good choice). What is the story? Basically, that drinking Nespresso is about as unique an experience you can have drinking coffee, and that you’re part of an elite group if you drink Nespresso. Why? Most of all, the gorgeous little capsules. Having scores of dinky looking, brightly coloured capsules with classy Italian names is clever, because it makes a coffee so much more than just a coffee. Each coffee is an experience in itself, you get to know the colours and names, establish your favourites, and can share your stories with other Nespresso drinkers. What’s more, most people join the Nespresso Club after buying a machine, which makes it really easy to buy capsules and allows members to get freebies at the Nespresso shops dotted about most major cities. What this all does is make Nespresso drinkers feel a bit special.

Moral of the story? Very basic and repeated by scores of marketers every day: if you’re the purveyor of a good or service in a competitive market, make your product as good as it can be, and be sure to build a story around it so as to differentiate it from your competitors.

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