Nothing compares to that first sip of coffee in the morning—especially when that cup of Joe is accessible, affordable, and flavorful. Nescafé, the ubiquitous instant coffee brand introduced in Switzerland in 1938, hits all the marks. The brand evolution’s tracks over nearly a century of coffee culture, during which time Nescafé’s coffee marketing has stayed true to its core principles: connection, culture, comfort, and reliability.
Here’s how Nescafé does it.
The medium is the message: using technology to connect IRL
Over the past decade, Nescafé has managed to maintain its status as one of the most sophisticated coffee marketing brands around by organizing a number of sophisticated social media campaigns.
In particular, the company entices followers with an alluring mix of images of luscious coffee creations (remember the Dalgona fad?), interactive GIFs, photos of coffee growers in Ethiopia, Brazil, and beyond, as well as user-generated videos of pretty people sipping Nescafé.
What do all these images have in common? They capitalize on the connective power of authentic storytelling.
Coffee marketing does this often, of course, but Nescafé takes this tactic to the next level. A case in point is the way the company used Arnaud, an average 37-year old with 1,200 Facebook friends. His job? To meet as many of his Facebook friends in real life over a two-month period and catch up over a cup of coffee. Arnaud filmed these interactions, resulting in a video series known as Nescafé’s “Really Friends?” project. The videos are genuinely touching, spontaneous—and perhaps a little rough around the edges. In other words, the appeal of the campaign is that it doesn’t feel like a slick advertising campaign.
In other words, Nescafé has leveraged the power of the platform du jour to its advantage, demonstrating how coffee is a portal to human connection, friendship—and maybe even romance. Nor is this a new tactic. In the 1980s, for instance, Nescafé aired a short love story over a series of TV spots about a long-distance couple bonding over their mutual love for Nescafé’s Gold Blend. The campaign has since become a classic of British advertising.
The takeaway? Nescafé exploits coffee marketing as a common denominator among people who may be wildly different or distant. It transforms something as quotidian as sharing a cup of coffee into the match that sparks an extraordinary moment. In other words, the company isn’t just selling coffee. They’re selling a sense of potential—and they’ve been doing it for over 30 years.
Variations on a theme: novelty in an old standby
Gather round, friends, and I’ll tell you about the Nescafés of my youth. There was always a jar of Taster’s Choice in my house growing up, which my father made daily and occasionally let me dunk my toast in. I relished afternoon frappes on my honeymoon in Greece, and purchased slim packets of Nescafé Gold (hazelnut or vanilla) from the Carrefour in Istanbul when I lived in Turkey. During quarantine, I too jumped on the Dalgona trend and whipped up a frothy treat from just instant coffee, sugar, and hot water. I didn’t have time for sourdough, but coffee? Always.
Without even noticing it, Nescafé has always been in the periphery of my life wherever I’ve traveled. As a Brooklynite, I can find a good latte on every other corner, and I still stand by my good old American drip coffee maker. Even so, as has become clear in the writing of this post, I’ve also had a long relationship with Nescafé.
To put it another way, who doesn’t love a standing order with a little variety now and then? Nescafé is a master of iteration, meaning it uses the same process but switches up one variable to come up with a different product time and time again. It might be packaging, flavor, temperature, style or blend, but it’s always a variation on the theme of Nescafé. Just mix and stir—literally.
With simple descriptions of different types of coffees, it’s easy for travelers or new fans to shop around until they find a version they like. In a similar vein, Nescafé teaches readers about different varieties of coffee, how to brew it—and how to enjoy it. Even if you’re an American making Egyptian coffee for the first time, Nescafé makes it easy and accessible. Once again, repeatability, connection, and culture are touchstones throughout.
In marketing-speak, these successful iterations result in repeatability. Customers know what they’re getting—even when they’re getting something new—and consistency allows the brand to bridge contradictions. It manages to be sophisticated and simple. Local and international. A novelty and a reassuring treat.
MarketSmiths Case Study
A prestige dairy company, Savencia Fromage & Dairy has been making prestige cheeses since 1956. And now, Savencia needed help perfecting a name for one of its most iconic brands: Dorothy’s® Cheeses. As experts in crafting elegant, witty names, MarketSmiths was thrilled to help. Pretty soon, we’d come up with four brilliant titles, from Holy Smoke to Somethin’ Brewing. Naturally, we made sure to reference the cheese themselves here. Holy Smoke, for example, was infused with smoky flavors. Somethin’ Brewing was washed in beer. With names these delicious, no wonder Savencia renewed its branding for another century—and seduced new cheese-addicts too.
Socially conscious coffee marketing: how sustainability succeeds in creating connections
How has Nescafé managed to compete with craft coffee culture that values bespoke, rarefied, and expensive beans? In short: by adding a compelling backstory behind those flavorful coffee crystals, one characterized by intention and awareness.
On Instagram, Nescafé features the images and life stories of its partner coffee farmers. It links the brand to coffee business sustainability and economic growth, and positions respect for people and the planet at the center of the brand. Its website also features a “coffee journey” vertical that highlights the history of coffee and provides a rudimentary education about different types of beans. It’s all very wholesome—and people, not product driven.
Sure, you could find the same Coffee 101 crash course elsewhere. But by putting a brand spin on the story of coffee, Nescafé positions the consumer at the center of a compelling narrative about a drink that’s both culturally rich and historically significant. The brand also puts faces to a behemoth company, and adds transparency (or at least the perception of it) about its production and employment practices.
This achieves two things at once. First, it satisfies the craving for authenticity among consumers, and second, it satiates the desire for clarity about precisely where food comes from (part to the farm-to-table trend and the growing awareness of the food supply chain.) An origin story is always part creation myth, part historical document, and while it paints a distinctly romantic air around coffee, Nescafé still harkens back to its trusted pillars of relatability and connection.
Ultimately, many people reach for a cup of coffee in the morning for a simple reason: to wake up. With a sophisticated and consistent branding campaign, Nescafé doubles down on this premise, promising not just to wake up consumers, but to make them feel fully connected and alive.
Looking for fresh and flavorful copy to elevate your brand? Our ‘smiths will brew up something special. Contact MarketSmiths today.