You start your day with a coffee. But not just any coffee from anywhere. You have a routine, a certain place, at a certain time. Maybe you saw an ad for a coffee shop one day and decided to just make the local location a quick in-and-out stop on your way to the day ahead.
In todays’ world of fast food, fast service, and fast-paced in-and-out, we often fail to slow down and allow for moments to arise with the potential to matter. The mornings are particularly neglected as we are rushed to get the day started and go to work.
In the pre-fast area, the morning started with a coffee – maybe even a stop by the local coffee shop to chat with fellow community members over a mug of fresh brew with just the right amount of cream and sugar, or none at all. You had plenty of time to decide.
Coffee shops were small, intimate places where you went to experience the unique ambiguity of a community of neighbours. This daily tradition dates back hundreds of years to the coffee houses of old Europe. These were the houses of community, philosophy, gossip, science, and ideas. Where people of all classes, professions, statuses and places could gather over a mug and all would receive a warm welcome as equals (per the status quo and cultural norms of the regions and areas across time and country).
The atmosphere was that of sitting at your own kitchen table, seeing your own friends and family, seeing your regular server who was also always happy to see you, and drinking your usual out of the usual mug.
Ah, the mug. Today very little about it has changed. It remains the thing we have at hand that serves as the medium to the rest of the world. Without it, nothing of the experience would be possible.
Yet in the fast world, it has become all but invisible. The cup shape has remained, but the substance and materials have been altered to be disposable so as to not weigh us down as we race to the next thing, making many coffee shops of today just another place.
But the mugs we have at home are different. They’re made the right way.
We all have our favourite one. Odds are you are holding yours right now. Odds are it is your favourite because of a certain esthetic or memory. Odds are, you bought it yourself or someone who knew you well bought it for you as a gift. It may have even bought it from a familiar place.
Many coffee shops today sell mugs. Maybe the same type which they use to serve the rare dine-in customer. Chances are even better that they sell a lot of them if they successfully create a dine-in experience with the feeling of the intimate kitchen table setting of community described above, or communicate something unique about the place itself.
But chances are slim to none that they offer the following interesting twist to the standard merch model – selling you the one you are holding – the one directly involved in your experience.
This is not a new idea. It is likely done in several small shops around the world. But think of how many of us have never considered why this small change could be so important.
If you go somewhere while travelling or even in daily life, you go there with an expectation. Something drew you to that place. If you’re satisfied, you remember that place.
This creates the most valuable commodity of them all… A memory. One that starts, and ends with a mug. The memory of why you went there.
If something about that place has grown on you enough by the end of your visit, you’ll likely refer to the mug you’re holding as your mug – without even noticing – once the server asks if you are finished with it.
The object itself may not seem to matter that much on the surface, but it has become the connection to your experience. Part of you now considers that mug yours.
Now flip the script and see yourself as the owner of the coffee shop.
You know you just created a great experience for a happy customer, so much so that they’ve referred to the mug – that in reality is yours – as their own. Now how do you solidify that connection?
You offer to sell that customer, that same mug. Not packaged merchandise, but something they have seen fit to call their own because of the memory they’ve just created around it. You clean it in their view, make the sale, and the connection is solidified in ceramic.
You’ve just experienced a free ad marketing model for brand loyalty creation. One that doesn’t rely on a complex and expensive marketing budget or airtime, but instead is focused on valuing individual customers and the stories they create around experiences.
People love to tell stories from memory and they love to have something tangible to tie those memories too.
Memories don’t need ads, they just need to make sure they create a “my mug” experience.