Well lads, in case you haven’t heard, Costa are giving people FREE COFFEE today at all of their Costa Express machines. Can I get a ‘yeo’?
That’s right, pop into any wee garage or shop with one of these ‘Costa Express’ bad boys and grab yourself a free coffee. And, this is available all day (1st October). No conditions and no hidden charges. Except you’re only allowed one per person, but sure there’s nothing stopping you caffeine junkies doing a wee tour and hitting them all up. #RoadTrip. Not that I would condone such behaviour. Not at all.
So, why is Costa doing this? Well, to celebrate National Coffee Day and promote their snazzy machine coffee. But, why this specific tactic?
Well, to raise awareness. They want to shout about the fact that you don’t have to visit a Costa to get Costa coffee. There’s the sort of assumption that machine coffee isn’t as nice as the “proper stuff”. So, they want to tell everyone that you don’t have to choose convenience or good coffee. So, good news for people who like Costa coffee but don’t live or be near one. And of course, good news for Costa who are able to ‘go’ to those who aren’t ‘coming’ to them. But, the thing is, you no don’t have to want to go to Costa or have a Costa coffee. You just have to want a coffee. Being realistic, if you’re driving about at 8 in the morning in rush hour traffic, you’ll probably take any brand of coffee you can get your hands on. “There’s a garage, I’ll pop in there while I get petrol”, “There’s a shop at the top of the road, I’ll pop in there while I grab a meal deal”. Whether it be Frank and Honest, Barista Bar, Centra’s own or Costa, you’ll most likely buy it.
The point is, Costa aren’t restricting themselves to deliberate purchases. They’re increasing their convenience and impulse sales, too. More people are buying and drinking Costa coffee, whether or not they intend to.
So, where are these machines? Which shops or garages? Well, you can figure out where your nearest one is today, can’t you? “We’ve got decent machine coffee at selected retailers” doesn’t exactly motivate people to jump to Google and see where, does it? “We’ve got FREE COFFEE at our coffee machines” does. I’m guessing Google’s got A LOT of recent searches asking where these machines are. So, Costa doesn’t really have to promote where exactly the machines are, because customers are hella motivated to figure it out for themselves. Then they’ll know for future where they can get this decent machine brew. It’s a wee coffee-fuelled treasure hunt. Move over, Easter bunny.
Normally, the point of offering ‘free’ things is that you’re hoping people will buy other items off you while they’re there; but, it would be the retailers benefiting from this, not Costa. If they offered free coffee at Costa cafés, people might buy biscuits, buns or food while they’re there, so Costa can still make money. But, in an independent retailer, Costa won’t reap the benefit of any add-ons. Unless they’ve agreed to get commission for every Kit-Kat sold or something, I don’t know.
They’re probably hoping for repeat purchases and loyalty. Once people try Costa machine coffee, they’ll never go back to anything else. Well, in theory, that’s possible, yeah. But there’s always gonna ‘brand switchers’ who just want the freebies or whatever’s on offer, regardless of the brand (@ me). This is always the case with this type of marketing promotion, but maybe even more so because of the ‘convenience’ nature of these coffees. Like I said, it’s not just people who want a Costa coffee, but a coffee in general. So, they’ll likely buy whatever the quick and handy option is.
The thing is, whether people decide to be brand loyal to Costa Express coffee or not, depends on if they reckon the taste and quality is worth the price. The fact is, once the offer’s over, you have to pay the same price for the machine coffee as you would a barista one from a Costa café. So people need to decide whether they’d rather have a Costa machine one for like £2.50, or if they’d be happy to go back to their regular 99p or £1.79 or whatever they normally pay. If it’s a small price difference to their usual, standard machine brew, chances are yeah, they will become loyal. But again, this mightn’t be through specific intention.
So, it’s a bit of a risk for Costa, and an expensive one at that. So, what else is in it for them? Well, they’re getting people talking. They’re getting free publicity. Everyone will be saying, “Here, did ya hear there’s free coffee at the garage down the road?”, “Costa are doing free coffee, Google the closest one for us there”, I can’t even mentally prepare myself for the cued Insta stories “Thank u @Costa!!!”. We all know how powerful word of mouth is, you trust your mates more than ads, so if they like the coffee, chances are it’s good. They’re not being paid to say it like. Plus, not to state the obvious but Costa have managed to get ME to write about them so they MUST have hit the jackpot. Lucky duckies.
So, Costa can sit back while consumers spread the word and promote the offer, their brand, the machines that do NICE coffee (I didn’t know it was possible either) AND the location of them, for free. Maybe that’s worth more than the £2.50 coffee is.
A wee downfall is that Costa cafés might get fewer sales, but, mostly for takeaways or pre-planned visits. People who are passing by and aren’t near an Express machine will still call in. People who wanna sit on comfy seats and leech off their wifi and electricity for a few hours will still call in. People who take a wee notion for a coffee will still call in. Plus, it’s national coffee day so they should be busy enough like. So, it’s good news for them. But, bad news for baristas who were hoping to skive for the day. Sorry, mate.
But, this tactic doesn’t just benefit Costa, it potentially harms competitors, too. Double whammy. If Costa are serving more, then, their competitors might be serving less. Costa could benefit from ‘sales’ from those who would usually get their coffee elsewhere. Just say you go to Caffe Nero or Starbucks normally (even though they leave their water taps running CONSTANTLY), would you not be more likely to give the Costa one a go since it’s free? You never know, you might actually prefer it. There’s not much in the price anyway. So that’s another thing, Costa are able to encourage consumption by those who would otherwise not be motivated to switch brands. They could become some people’s “new favourite”. So, increasing consumption of your own brand while possibly reducing that of your competitors, not a shabby idea, lads. Chapeau.
So, go forth and enjoy your free Costa coffee (unless you live in the north of Ireland of course, SHOCK we’re
*Not sponsored by Costa. Although, if you want to repay me in cappuccinos, that would be nice 🙂