In 1993 Bill and George Ginnakopolous opened a small little coffee house in Stratford, Ontario called “Williams Coffee Pub” the small coffee house struggled in the Canadian coffee market which is already a fierce battle ground between coffee giants Tim Horton’s and Starbucks. However, able to cling on to small demographics the over-price frappuccino became popular among student demographics by installing free wifi, having electrical outlets in all the booths and not enforcing a time limit on it’s patrons.
But in 2011 all that changed, Williams Coffee Pub was bought over by Dean Braund who made a brilliant branding play that would forever change the market Williams operated in. Rather than focus on Williams’ coffee Dean thought it was time to focus on the unique food that Williams Coffee Pub had become famous for offering, toasted sandwiches, all day breakfast, quiche, and fresh soups that kept it’s customers filled to the brim on unique taste experiences while drinking the over-priced and mediocre coffee. Braund re-branded Williams Coffee Pub as “Williams Fresh Cafe” rolling out new menus that would be changed each season to reflect fresh seasonal ingredients, and artisan delicacies created by a top chef. The food catered more to an upper-class demographic and Braund was strategic opening any new Williams Fresh Cafe in communities where a little extra expenditure would not be an issue. Needless to say it became an instant success.
The unique flare of fresh seasonal ingredients, unique food choice and presentation and the combination of fast-food counter-service and table service makes this upper-class fast food chain a great experience. I often now find myself sitting in Williams with my work, ordering myself a coffee and one of their speciality sandwiches or quiche as it is something refreshing and different. It was only recently I looked at the price tag and realized what a brilliant branding play I had fallen for. This seasons speciality sandwich is the “Toasted Tuna Avocado Melt” – it’s delicious and refreshing, it’s also $14.50 for just the sandwich without a side (and let’s be honest if you have ever had their sweet potato fries with dijon honey mustard sauce – you WILL be getting a side). Here I am sitting in this “fresh artisan cafe” paying $15 for a tuna sandwich. It just goes to show you the power of branding, the same play held true for Starbucks but Williams was smart and created a unique market niche a “fresh artisan fast-food cafe” and was able to be seen as upper-class and worth the few extra dollars.
So the next time you examine your brand or niche, don’t look at “how can I enter this billion dollar market” instead ask yourself how you can make one!