Murchie’s targets the young

One hundred-year-old Murchie's Tea & Coffee of Vancouver is making gains by targetting consumers only a fraction of its age.Last fall, Murchie's hired Moreland & Associates of Vancouver as its ad agency, and since debuting a youth-oriented marketing strategy later in...

One hundred-year-old Murchie’s Tea & Coffee of Vancouver is making gains by targetting consumers only a fraction of its age.

Last fall, Murchie’s hired Moreland & Associates of Vancouver as its ad agency, and since debuting a youth-oriented marketing strategy later in the year, the company has watched its cappuccino bar sales climb 34% and retail product sales rise about 19%.

Says agency President Bill Moreland:

‘The theory was if we could drive product trials through the cappuccino bars, it would result in driving retail sales, and it looks like that’s true.

‘Supermarket sales are up a little bit, as a reflection of this campaign, although there has been no advertising in terms of packaged branded products,’ Moreland says.

Murchie’s also sells its tea and coffee products through mail order and through supermarkets in Western Canada, parts of the u.s., the Prairies and Ontario.

Advertising efforts have concentrated on driving business at its combination cappuccino bars/ retail outlets, of which it has seven in Vancouver and one in Victoria.

Up until five years ago, Murchie’s was the region’s foremost coffee and tea supplier.

Then Seattle-based Starbucks moved in and put its coffee bars on almost every corner: the company has 43 outlets in the Lower Mainland of b.c., and two in Victoria.

Moreland says while Starbucks has not stopped or hurt Murchie’s directly, there was some slippage.

He says Starbucks’ aggressive marketing approach also developed a whole new user set in the Lower Mainland and Victoria and drew in a much younger crowd.

Moreland’s mandate was to position Murchie’s more clearly in the current non-user’s mind as an acceptable place to go for a younger age group.

Research found that Starbucks had a yuppie image, while Murchie’s was seen as ‘old’ and ‘affluent.’

Moreland says Murchie’s ‘was not in the consideration set. It was seen in competition with hotel dining rooms, rather than Starbucks or other coffee specialty stores.

‘That’s where the volume was, the coffee specialty stores,’ he says. ‘That’s why we tried to reposition.’

The ad campaign, a combination of print and radio, is trying to do that, but is still appealing to an older crowd than Starbucks – mid-20s to mid-40s.

The strategy is based on taste superiority and delivering the message that Murchie’s is an acceptable place for ‘me’ to go.

The newspaper buy has been in entertainment/counterculture publications such as The Georgia Strait.

Five-color, or full-page executions are running in magazines and appeal to the dating crowd.

The visual is a cup of coffee, tea or cappuccino sitting atop a newspaper opened to the ‘Personals’ section of a newspaper.

Headlines such as ‘Fall in love with a short dark Italian,’ ‘Get your hands on a full-bodied Guatemalan,’ and, ‘Have a hot encounter with some exotic little teas,’ correspond to circled Personals ads that talk about Italian espresso and other blends of teas and coffees.

The 30-second radio spots are more satirical and focus on taste and freshness.

Bluesy music is the background for the introspective musings of the young characters featured in each commercial.

Lines such as, ‘I used to sit in trendy coffee houses and feel burnt about life. The environment, politics, unemployment. It all left a bad taste in my mouth. I was too young to be bitter,’ are meant to compare the freshness of Murchie’s coffee to the old, bitter, over-roasted beans of the competition.

Moreland says freshness in coffee is everything, and is a real selling feature for Murchie’s because it roasts its beans locally and they are returned to the factory for grinding and canning by the retail outlets if not used in three days.

Part of Starbucks’ success, in addition to advertising heavily, is that it has a consistent theme in all its stores.

Moreland is working with Murchie’s to update the look of its cappuccino bars.

More lighting has been added, as well as point-of-purchase materials that tie back to the advertising campaign and cross-sell products in the retail section of the store.

Other materials such as standardized menu boards and product brochures on teas and coffees are in the works.