By Robert Tuomi
(WINDSOR, ON) – Events are a prized marketing tool to maintain or enhance customer relationships. Even better are those that strike a chord with customers. Such is the case for the Eight O’clock Coffee Company which found a way to capitalize on the much loved television serial, Friends. Recently, fans of the show were seen lining up in
New York’s SoHo neighbourhood, outside 199 Lafayette St right where it meets Broome St, to grab a free coffee and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their once favourite sitcom. They were doing it at the “Central Perk” coffee house, the very hang out that often appeared in the show’s 256 episodes during its ten year run.
But, there is no Central Perk coffee house in New York. This didn’t stop the coffee roasters from creating a replica to pop-up in the Naked City to mark the 20th anniversary of the show’s launch. It is one of the most innovative marketing initiatives since Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame, opened his “Dumb Starbucks” in Los Angeles. It precisely resembled a regular Starbucks right down to its altered logo which had the addition of the word “dumb” in front of the words Starbucks in the proper typeface.
Fielder used the shop to promote his Comedy Central “Nathan For You” program. His venture into pop-up coffee shops did nothing but generate considerable publicity for a television show which had not started off with a big bang, so to speak. While the local health unit closed it down within 72 hours, New York’s Central Perk will enjoy about a month of existence.
Eight O’clock is effectively taking advantage of America’s fascination with all things Friends although it had nothing to do with the fictional coffee house. To commemorate the anniversary, it has also released its own limited edition Central Perk offering.
Its product is certainly not your father’s coffee. It is probably more likely your great, great grandfather’s. The company first appeared as a store brand at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) in 1859. It is now owned by a unit of Tata Global Beverages and says on its website that its success in the coffee business is not, “without reinventing yourself every once in a while. Throughout the years, we’ve explored new varieties. Changed our look. Added ground coffee.”
If there is a message in this, it is that companies should, as Lowe’s will tell you, “never stop improving.” It also doesn’t hurt that, as Wikipedia reports, Friends had a following of 52.5 million.
Coupled with the coffee house is a contest with free trips to New York. When the winners get there, they will find a bit of a modified Central Perk. Although it features many artefacts from the show, it also includes Eight O’clock memorabilia and references as well.
Events don’t always have to be historically accurate. This is not new for marketers who often commandeer images that may have nothing to do with their products. A good example is a slight alteration to a famed scene featuring silver screen crooner and dancer Fred Astaire. It was recently revised to have him dancing with a floor cleaning product.
These creations allow companies with boring histories, or even no histories, to upgrade themselves. Many long-standing small businesses, particularly retailers, probably have a few pieces of history in their closets that could be dusted off and reactivated to cause a bit of buzz by playing to their market’s interest in the good old days. It also allows them so signal that they have been around for a while.
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