Image of a brick wall representing why publishers should move to their own brick and mortar stores
Image of a brick wall representing why publishers should move to their own brick and mortar stores

As a marketer, I’ve always been curious about brands, especially FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) or grocery store staples, which move from the aisle to the street via the form of brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Popular Greek yoghurt company Chobani opened a café in New York City’s Soho neighbourhood in 2012, featuring its yoghurt as the main hero. Another example is Nestlé Toll House Café, which serves cookies, smoothies, and ice cream, the majority of which are made with Nestlé products.

What’s up with these brands, one might ask? Isn’t it good enough that they sell well at mainstream supermarkets? What does this extension strategy do for partaking brands? Does this move make these brands more accessible? Or is this meant to lift them from their current status to a position higher up on the brand perception hierarchy?

Nestlé's premium coffee pod brand Nespresso has nine self-described “boutiques” across the United States that serve a range of coffee drinks, alcohol, and food.

Nespresso uses its boutiques, which can be found in cities like New York City, Miami, and San Francisco, to show off to consumers how its wide range of coffees can be transformed into a host of delectable concoctions – with a peanut butter-and-jelly coffee milkshake being one of its signature drinks.

The Chobani café serves up its yoghurt in a heavy glass jar, topped with fresh toppings, and covered with a rustic cheesecloth. This has proven to elevate the product from one that is most often seen atop a cold supermarket shelf amidst thousands of SKUs, to one that is individually personalised to the customer’s taste buds and preferences.

These forms of branded restaurants create exciting consumption experiences for the average person on the street.

In fact, these experiential moments contribute to inspiring more creativity amongst the people consuming the product at home. In addition, these outlets are designed to be Facebook-, Pinterest-, and Instagram-friendly, featuring healthy recipes, a colourful look and feel, glass windows, dark woods, wall art, plush leather furniture, etc.

Chobani apparently uses its Soho café as a test kitchen and innovation hub. If a particular recipe they are trying turns out to be popular and well accepted by their walk-in customers, it could well end up on the supermarket shelves.

An example of this is the Chobani Flip, which is a container of sweetened yoghurt, packaged with a combination of “crunchy” toppings that customers flip into the yoghurt. Chobani’s range of Flips is inspired by creations at the café.

Nespresso boutiques pamper their customers by also serving wine and sparkling water. Nestlé Toll House Café is “on track” to open 43 new locations this year. Based on the above, it does seem that grocery-brand restaurants are clearly a financially viable concept and here to stay.

The story entitled, “Amazon does the unthinkable, opens its first brick-and-mortar-store,” which ran on the Your Story Web site, goes on to elaborate that “the biggest online shopping Web site in the world has realised that offline stores do sell, and it’s probably a good idea to have a physical presence rather than being only on the cloud and expect the average Joe to know about the products that are on sale on a Web site.”

Legacy newspaper publishers can afford to take a leaf out of the above by learning to structure their businesses across more lucrative fronts in search for “new cheese.”

With advertising taking a beating across most markets, there is something positive for all of us to take away from these examples. If grocery brands can go the brick-and-mortar route to premium-ise their product offerings, we should perhaps also be thinking far and wide to add extended value and sexiness to our range of products.

For example, why can’t a publisher give birth to a chain of artisanal coffee outlets and have its range of media offerings subtly imbedded amidst the aroma of freshly ground beans and brewed concoctions?

The ambience in these cafés would include physical copies of newspapers and magazines casually displayed for patrons to browse, free wi-fi courtesy of your brand’s digital portal or network, music piped in from your radio stations, and digital wall screens showcasing content fresh from the newsrooms and lifestyle portals.

The menu served up at your “media café” could be creatively crafted with brand or product inclusions. For example, fish and chips served up in an iconic newspaper wrapper! Journalists could even be encouraged to conduct their interviews with newsmakers at these coffee joints. Our sales folks can arrange to meet their clients there as well. The list of possible amplifications are endless!

To push this even further, café customers can buy a copy of a personalised newspaper by selecting their own content from a cloud repository and having their customised physical product created by a 3-D printer together with his or her name emblazoned on the masthead!

A newspaper, in today’s context, cannot remain a hard, cold commodity displayed at staid newsstands. It must be woven into the lifestyles of consumers across every fabric of society.

In the case of the brick-and-mortar café example, when readers start to enjoy this conducive and non-threatening caffeine-induced environment amidst the company of our brands, much like how Chobani and Nestlé Toll House have done with yoghurt and cookies respectively, the visibility of our media platforms will be automatically lifted and naturally reinforced.

Keeping our brands and products top-of-mind with our target audiences is everything these days. We need all the help we can get to solidify the efficacy of our platforms.

Double espresso, anyone?