Sublime design is intertwined with the third wave coffee movement. This is a great thing.
In my opinion, having an appreciation of aesthetics enhances the whole experience, it’s part of what makes the experience of specialty coffee different (which I’ve said before). While I don’t have any hard data to hand, my personal experience of working with a number of coffee shops and roasters indicates that there are a number of really talented visual artists and designers in this niche but growing industry.
So why is design bad for marketing?
Actually, it really isn’t. Great design is essential for great marketing. The problem is, great marketing also requires a whole lot more. Much of which isn’t as apparent to the naked eye. There are a ton of coffee companies using fantastic design aesthetics that are transcending the industry in terms of their marketing. Just don’t fall into the trap that of thinking that it’s great design alone that got them there.
Building it does not mean that they will come
It may be patronising to point this out, but it’s a legitimate point. There’s something innately uncomfortable about putting your stuff in front of other people, it’s so much easier just to leave it there, sit back and wait for approval. However, making something that looks fantastic is of little benefit (to your marketing) if no one actually sees it. Whether you are putting it up on your brand new Instagram with zero followers or building a stunning website that gets no traffic, putting stuff that looks great out there won’t naturally bring more attention.
It doesn’t matter how pretty your work is if no-one sees it
At it’s most basic, marketing is about selling more stuff. But it’s hard to convey the value of your coffee to anyone if there is nobody listening. Yes, it’s important to make a strong first impression, which design can help with, but it also takes a fair bit of work to start making those impressions at all. At some point it’s going to be time to shift away from perfectionism and towards going and telling people about your business in as many ways as possible.
Great design does not equal great branding
To be fair, this is less of an issue in the coffee industry, but it’s still worth bearing in mind. As it gets harder and harder to stand out form other coffee brands, it becomes more tricky to convey the purpose of your business in a sufficiently simple yet original manner. A super stylish logo and fancy foreign name may be very cool, but will people know you sell coffee? If your branding is a little less obvious, that’s fine, just make sure that the rest of your marketing leaves no doubt in people’s minds as to what you actually sell. This brings me to my next point, which is that you should also leave no doubt in Google’s artificial mind of what you sell either.
Google doesn’t care how great your design looks
Since Google has yet to become sentient it is, generally speaking, underwhelmed by aesthetics. Google search results are a massively important way of getting your coffee into cups, so it’s worth paying more than a little attention to the things Google actually can evaluate. Adding loads of relevant content, building up a solid link profile and generally making your website better will have a tangible impact when it comes to people finding your business online as Google can see and measure these things. If your design gets a million likes on Twitter then Google may start paying attention, but it’s still because of the likes, not because it looks good. Don’t forget, even if you’re trying to get people through the physical door of your shop, more and more people search on Google via their mobiles, when looking for a local café, so being top of the list still matters.
Competition is tough
Generally speaking, competition is a good thing and if it helps you bring your level of design up a notch that’s great. But not all of us are super talented in this department and that shouldn’t get in the way of selling good coffee. Sometimes, spending hours on a new illustration, or minutely tweaking a design isn’t the most effective way to do this. By all means, play to your strengths and if you enjoy design, knock yourself out, but don’t kid yourself that spending days on end doing this will suddenly brings in loads of orders. I’m certainly guilty of doing the work that I want to do rather than the work I should do and designing is a good way of letting this happen. Especially when there is no obvious, let alone easy, alternative.