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Belgium: a closer look at coffee's image.

Belgium: A closer look at coffee's image

Prepared by the Belgian Coffee Federation

It all started when the members of the Office Belge du Cafe became curious about the attitude of youngsters towards coffee and their consumption patterns. The roasters, in collaboration with the Promotion Fund of the International Coffee Organization, decided to finance a study on a specific age group (20-24 years of age) and received the following inventory of important and relevant considerations on coffee.

For a growing category, coffee was sharply defined as a physical and psychological drug. Coffee drinkers were seen as neurotics, beings out of control, drinking coffee at appropriate and inappropriate moments. Where heavy coffee drinking used to be a symbol of strength and virility, it was now often a symbol of weakness and lack of character. This definition resulted in less social acceptance.

Health considerations were and still are a major reason to cut down as much as possible the number of cups. These considerations are rarely based on exact facts or general knowledge but mainly on vague claims s.a. "coffee is bad for your health, makes you nervous, or sleepless." As an immediate result parents refuse coffee to their youngsters. There is less automatic education.

The leading press, doctors and schools put a lot of effort in negative articles and advice. The "man in the street" felt less secure in his habit.

Coffee used to be part of the standard social reception. Beer, soft drinks and alcohol tended to erase coffee at these occasions or reduce its presence to very limited social moments. Coffee lost its valuable evident social character.

The brand communication for coffee in Belgium never aimed at young people, young adults. This category felt neglected and used every available argument not to drink coffee. Coffee left the scene of young people and as a result was not "in" anymore.

Coffee is still our first national drink but we lost territory in areas that are important for continuity, s.a. younger age-brackets, big cities (Brussels, Antwerp), upper classes. Although tea shows a poorer penetration overall, its profile ensures a better continuity. Beer, colas and apero's are highly appreciated in small and larger reunions and tended to be serious rivals since coffee was losing its entertaining qualities.

Those results made us conclude that a collective coffee campaign was needed.

Most of the problems coffee had to cope with in Belgium needed a new generic upgrading image. Not of the product, because coffee as a drink is well known, but of the coffee-drinking person.

This "new" person had to be healthy, living a healthy life, strong, in control, sociable, pleasure-seeking, refined, urban, physical and "IN." Also this new person had to belong to a young age-group (21 yrs.) and show off all the correct signals of this age group.

Now each brand of coffee in Belgium needs all the money it makes to position the brand towards heavy users. The budgets in Belgium are not big enough to cope with problems of a generic character. The only solution to reverse the negative current of image-damaging elements was to join efforts and tackle the image on a corporate level.

Out of this inventory we developed opportunities, restraints and conditions for a collective campaign.

Health considerations cannot be reversed by advertising but public relations releases can stop the actual beliefs, correct them, and stop the negative influences altogether. Furthermore the "new coffee drinker" can be an explicit healthy person, staying away from "heavy" signals.

The social acceptance can be seriously improved through positive positioning of the coffee-drinking person e.g. no more old weak neurotics but young strong adults, in control of themselves (a new generation).

This new generation values coffee, not as a drug, but as an integrated gesture, being alone or with company, enjoying work, a moment, music, lecture, friendship, whatever activity a young strong adult, in control of himself, stands for.

This new generation likes coffee, enjoys it, underlines it with careful gestures versus careless gestures s.a. cola or beer. The personal handling involved offers the opportunity to control the quality of the drink and the drinking ritual.

Research also proved that:

Coffee scores generally positive on items s.a.:

* creates an atmosphere (still less than beer)

* procures pleasure

* is a tradition

* is a ritual (so is tea).

Coffee scores generally poor on items s.a.:

* is unhealthy (so are colas, in a lesser degree)

* for old people

* makes you nervous

* is expensive

* doesn't fit all occasions

* not for original people

* not destined to drink among friends

We do not want to go into details of the campaign as those details have been published by ICO. Nevertheless we want to mention that the following means have been used: French national TV (spots), Flemish national TV (spots), cinema (spots), Abribus (luxury posters), magazine advertisements, small posters, hot drinking pricing charts, stickers, beermarts (with contest), student welcome pack (university), cinema packs, Metropole sponsoring (Sunday morning film + breadfast, festival sponsoring, press releases, indoor school program and ex-door school program.

As you can see, the target group has been infiltrated with the slogan "Moi, je suis cafe," through all channels.

Effects of the Campaign

Before the campaign, coffee accounted for only 15 percent in the total advertising expenditure in drinks. Gradually this percentage increased because many coffee roasters took advantage of the campaign and increased their own expenditure.

From October '86 - September '87, coffee accounted for 15.9 percent of total drink expenditure.

From October '87 - September '88, coffee accounted for 16.9 percent of total drink expenditure.

From October '88 - March '89, coffee accounted for 25.8 percent of total drink expenditure.

The campaign was seen by 47 percent of our target group (18-24 yrs.) and up to 73% in strategic parts (big cities, social class A and B in upper classes). The highest score of contacts with the campaign was undisputably due to TV (60% of the persons between 18-24 yrs. saw the campaign on TV).

The slogan, "Moi, je suis cafe" "Koffie, zo ben ik" has entered in the daily language. Young people use it or paraphrase it.

Other leading advertising campaigns in Belgium imitate the styling of the campaign e.g. Stassano, Sugar Tirlemont or the slogan e.g. Nescafe - "Koffie drink ik zo" (Koffie, zo ben ik") or use coffee as an eye-catcher in their visuals e.g. Knack, Mewar modular office system, Esprit collections, jacky `O, Akai, Mignonette, Office Nat. de Tourisme, Casa, Pink Elephant Productions, Ouders van Nu magazine, KB banking...

The first spot was highly appreciated by different communication-institutions s.a.: Silver Award on European level, Second best on a long list established by universities, and RTBF nomination.

The second spot already scored second best in an overall public test after its first run on TV (Sobemap panel).

The big posters are a hit. Young people keep asking for them for their own use. The total of 6,000 abribus copies was thus distributed.

The press has produced a large number of solicited and unsolicited articles on coffee, all of them very positive.

As we progress through the years with our collective coffee campaign, it becomes obvious that the real problem coffee faces in Belgium, is less the drink as such (coffee is still no. 1 on the list of consumption) but more the image of the coffee-drinking-person.

The individuals introduced in our collective campaign reflect an image that is appreciated by our target group (18-24) and by adults in general (25+). The changes in attitude, so far measured, prove this. Nevertheless, as we stated from the very beginning, it is essential to spread the message loudly and frequently in order to change the beliefs, and thereafter the pattern of consumption.

Reassure young adults; A coffee-drinking young adult is a person one likes to identify with.

Tell people they drink coffee because they choose to do so, enjoy it, its ritual, the moment. As such a coffee drinking person has no limited age properties. Profile coffee towards young adults through a correct use of semantics. As such coffee adheres to the aspirations and experiences of young adults. Bring a campaign that is made for the viewer rather than for the product and maneuver coffee in a top of mind position.

Dissipate associations with stress, nervousness, and educate young people on the qualitative aspects of coffee and their ability to intervene in the process of selecting, preparing, presenting and drinking a cup of coffee.

Educate opinion leaders, s.a. schoolteachers, dissipate their misbeliefs, and in doing so ensure correct education of small children and motivate catering-schools and pupils in favor of qualitative coffee, and in doing so ensure a better ex-door experience for young adults.

Coffee is less appreciated by young adults because coffee lost its social value, coffee lost its personality-strength and the coffee-drinking adult is no longer a person you want to identify with.

The Promise: A young adult drinking coffee has a strong personality, has maturity and sensual appeal. Reason Why: Coffee integrates perfectly in dynamic, young, sympathetic and above the level situations.

During three years, the Promotion Fund and the Office Belge du Cafe spent almost $3,250,000 in trying to change the attitude of youngsters towards coffee and give them a positive message of all the good things coffee can bring you. Along with this positive change in attitude, consumption increased by 6.4 percent over those three years.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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