Brand Leadership in Volatile Times – K. Ramakrishnan, President Marketing, Cafe Coffee Day

“Someone once said, that coffee is a serious man’s drink.”

We, at Café Coffee Day believe that the café culture is inherent and so is the need for people to connect. We saw the opportunity to humanise the affair and that’s why we went ahead and added a smile to it. Talking about challenging conventional methods, we often hear people stating, “I have 25 years of experience”.

One needs to understand that what matters more is wisdom and not the number of years, unless things are done differently.

Talking about challenging conventional methods, Social Media has been a great revolution and we as a brand have adopted it in a big way. It has been the cause, catalyst and outcome of challenging convention. The core of this medium is that it catalyzes change and that’s the first step in challenging convention!

We believe that simplicity is of utmost importance and it is critical to ignore the noise around you. Further, it’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel all the time.

I would like to share some examples from our own experience back in 1996, when Café Coffee Day started its first CCD in Bangalore. People, at that time couldn’t imagine paying more than 3 rupees for a cup of coffee. When we launched, we started with a cup of coffee for 25 rupees and with the concept of providing cyber cafes where people can manage to carry on their work using free Internet while enjoying a cup of coffee.

It was interesting to see that people were willing to pay more, simply because they saw the value.

When we look at the youth of today, one strange, but interesting insight that comes to the fore is that the “Indian” youth on one hand is modern, while on the other hand is traditional to the core. We at Café Coffee Day call it the Gemini soul. Therefore, we looked at tapping this opportunity by transforming our commodity into a lifestyle and offer a platform that connects the youth of today.

Three key factors that come into play with this regard are –

  • Location
  • Customer engagement
  • Formats

We have the perfect example in this case as far as challenging convention is concerned. Nobody ever thought that places of religious belief could become a huge footfall for cafes. Sticking to metros alone is not enough!

Transportation hubs, highways form another major footfall for cafes with over 200 million cars hitting roads every year.

When we talk about formats, we have many customers who have grown up with CCDs. They probably met their girlfriends or broken up with people, but as people grow up with age, they may not be able to relate to CCDs and we didn’t want that to happen. That’s why we introduced multiple formats in our cafes like lounges etc to retain customers.

Customer engagement is the key for any consumer-facing brand and we looked at utilising social media as the perfect platform to listen, act and engage with people. We realized that’s it’s critical as a brand for us to engage with our customers, not just when they are in our stores but when they aren’t as well.

More importantly, listening to customer feedback is key. With over 1100 stores across 150 towns, something may go wrong somewhere and people do express their opinion on social media.

As part of challenging the convention, we need to understand that luxury of time does not exist anymore and therefore using social media to gather insights is the need of the hour. At Café Coffee Day, we have been able to utilize this medium for gathering insights, adding to our menu, change things as per customer feedback.

Simplicity is the key, be the format or location.

We started as a cyber café, assuming that Internet will be focal point and converted them into hangouts that became the center of attraction. We took a stand that café culture is there to be and leveraged on this need to have “addas” for people to gather and have a conversation.

As they say, “A lot can happen over a cup of coffee”.

 The above article is an excerpt from the speech delivered by Mr. K. Ramakrishnan, President Marketing, Cafe Coffee Day at AIMA’s 6th National Brand Summit held few months back.


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6 thoughts on “Brand Leadership in Volatile Times – K. Ramakrishnan, President Marketing, Cafe Coffee Day

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