Marketing Miracles

“Few people think about it or are aware of it. But there is nothing made by human beings that does not involve a design decision somewhere. ”
–Bill Moggridge

One cannot help but notice, or perhaps we do not, that over the past few years there have been a resurgence in, and appreciation for, design in coffee. A scan of retail locations, coffeehouses, online sellers, websites, offices, break-rooms, restaurants, individual homes, and allied products reveals that we are becoming more appreciative of the aesthetics in the coffee category.

But in terms of considering design in marketing, among many marketers themselves and especially in the coffee space, there should be more attention placed on this vital area that serves to bridge from what something simply is to what it does, and from who is designing it to who is using it and for what end need it fulfills. When marketing miracles happen, design is present.

I have grown to appreciate and admire designers not just because of their skill, but because they have taught me that all of us at some level appreciate design because it impacts our decisions and because all of us can design. True, my design skills may not be that of the great artists, but the simple, quiet act of putting pencil to paper to draw out from hand what is imagined in the heart and mind unleashes the child-state creativity we all once had – and still have.

There was a day in time when these designers definitely got it wrong and it was a miracle that these products made it to the marketplace. Remember New Coke, the Edsel, and even Clairol Yogurt Shampoo? Or in 2009 when Pepsi Co. introduced a new design for Tropicana Pure Premium and had to withdraw it from the shelves because consumers missed the orange with the protruding straw and up-market package design.

These fumbles can, for the most part, be attributed to not thinking of the end user and the needs that they are trying to fulfill. It sounds simple, but design has its greatest glory when it unobtrusively serves the consumer to achieve what is most important to them, delivers that unexpected surprise, and reveals its beauty in admiration.

Design is an important factor in life because it easily moves the consumer to transition from the functional aspect of what something is – a product, a service, an offering, an experience, etc. – to the emotional aspect of what something does to help us reach our personal values. Powerful designs can be found around us, even in nature, and are taking on a greater presence.

Design is about several traits that when done right positively answer what it unleashes:
• Creativity: Does it inspire?
• Appeal: Is it beautiful?
• Association: What does it relate to?
• Projection: Am I better because of it?
• Personification: Is it personally relevant?
• Adoption: How does it create demand?
• Action: Does it help me make a choice?
• Efficacy: It better work!

Think about what you see in your area that unleashes and answers these questions.
It is uplifting that all around the coffee category we can see such strong design, and it is truly pulling the consumer into a new experience with the product.

One could argue that in our modern age this began with Chemex. Born before by time, Chemex was invented in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm and in 1958 the Illinois Institute of Technology praised it for both function and form design. While it may resemble the old chem lab glass beakers, there is something about the design that draws the user back to the basic essence of the product and the process by which it is made.

But look around and you will see fantastic design in the coffee sector: coffeemakers and brewers, coffeehouses and experiential interior designs, emerging micro-markets, new packaging innovations, brand identity and expressions, locations of where and how coffee is placed, and even the manner in which coffee is served with one of a kind designs.

Bill Moggridge was right that few of us realize the role and importance of design. But no matter your role or relationship with coffee, put that pencil to paper and let your child-like creativity take you to how design can enhance your involvement with that magical beverage.

Mike Dabadie is the founder of Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, a research consultancy that continues to pioneer the use of personal-values insights and marketing. He can be reached at

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