Hot Take: Coffee Is the Shapeshifter of Pop Culture - 19 IDEAS

What is it about coffee? With the mere interest of an integrated communications agency, we’d love to know.

Take a moment to ponder how the scent of grinding coffee beans has successfully permeated its way into nearly every generation and trend of modern American culture. This concept of resilience in marketing: it may very well be the “once in a blue moon” to which the idiom refers. Whether we approach our craft as an executive, developer or strategist, we all understand how time moves marketers: trends evolve, opinions change with them and all content is not created to be eternal.

Coffee, in defiance of time and longevity, exists in blissful ignorance of all of this. It has been a set standard of physically occupied social spaces since it first hit the mass market. Some would say it’s actually a token of functioning society, with its ability to bring groups together for a face-to-face meeting – even withstanding the digital era.

The warm libation that was such a staple of our favorite group of Friends when they got together at a 90’s-encapsulating Central Perk also had a place within office culture of the 80’s: most often, in my mind, taking the form of a crummy pot destined for Styrofoam cups, brewing in an office that features a drop ceiling with water damage.

One of our most current beliefs about how marketing and advertising works at-large would be how essential it is to target your audience. Who are you speaking to? What does that demographic look like? Which medium is likely to be the most successful in delivering that message?

But when it comes to coffee, go forth the deliberation. Coffee is equally segmented between office life, brunch cuisine, Twitter memes and blue-collar workdays. It belongs to all proportionately, without any one demographic having to fight for its right to caffeinate or declare joe-wnership (sorry).

Even within the confines of the year 2018, locally roasted coffee breathes life into any grassroots movement. Latte art rendered in steamed milk or cold brew served in a mason jar is justifiable enough to be eternalized on Instagram. Our dependence on it is satirized, an obsession with it makes you an exclusive member of the “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” social circle. In the era where showing that you are indeed part of something is just about everything, coffee has, again, found its fit.

To any marketer’s true disbelief: there is no target audience for coffee – it is malleable to all types of consumer lifestyles. It defies linear time and the universal understanding that trends come and go. Think: the jean jacket is making its comeback, coffee has always been back.

It’s not for a lack of other products and services that have occupied this position as a staple to pop culture: it’s the extent to which coffee has been able to do that’s worth noting. Marketers, we have to say, these are the ultimate #BrandGoals to achieve: to attract a fervent devotion to your product or service, yet one that is not so defined that it alienates other potential segments, to be pliable enough that you not only establish a place, but actually make a home within a variety of lifestyles, decades, neighborhoods, and movements.

As fans? We could be convinced that perhaps coffee, like many of the finer points of the universe, is not something we’re meant to fully understand or even think twice about.

As an agency? We look to java for motivation, in more ways than one. It fuels our process, but we also look to mirror its shapeshifting properties by creating evergreen concepts and content for our clients.

An ode to coffee, simultaneously existing as a marketer’s beginning, end, and means.

Bottoms up.

Public Espresso + Coffee’s Take:

Within the industry, coffee culture has been defined in distinct “waves”: represented by cultural shifts and general attitudes towards java. We are currently experiencing the third “wave”. The first wave was characterized by the dawn of the commodity coffee industry, represented by instant coffee, cans of pre-ground Folgers and Café Bustelo. Coffee was cheap, accessible and the diner mug was always bottomless. The second wave introduced chains like Starbucks; coffee was as accessible as ever, but it could also be dressed up and presented in new ways.

This current wave re-introduced coffee as a luxury item. Education, rarer coffees, and more involved preparations became the emphasis. Like craft beer and cocktails before it, consumers have embraced this new, specialized “wave” of coffee culture.

Coffee means different things to different people. It’s astonishing that every coffee varietal – and there are thousands – originates from a single plant. Coffee has taken many forms over years and will continue to do so. At the end of the day, it’s about conversation and community, and coffee, in all of its forms, will always foster that.


19 IDEAS is a New York State Woman-Owned Business that believes in the power of integration. With specialties in design, development, marketing and PR, we fuse strategy together with creative solutions to discover the possibilities for our community and our clients.

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