Failure is a part of doing business. After a certain amount of time operating, you’re bound to fail and that’s okay. Failure can also be used as a learning experience. Earlier this year, I asked my followers if any would be interested in talking to me about their coffee marketing failures – big or small. I was curious to know if people jumped on marketing trends or invested too heavily in a new product. This Q&A series is titled “Coffee marketing failures and their lessons.”
What if you can’t afford to fail? Failures can cost a lot of money, especially for small businesses. As a solution, you learn from other small businesses’ failures to inform your own decisions. Always keep in mind that their failures don’t mean they’ll become your failures. Every small business is different – successes and failures are never guaranteed.
For this first Q&A installment, I interviewed David Yake, co-founder of Camber Coffee
in Bellingham, Washington. Camber Coffee is a roasting company @cambercoffee
and a retail cafe @camberholly
. I’ve loved Camber’s coffee for a long while now. Every coffee I have had from them is consistently beautiful. Their Instagram aesthetic similarly matches with a stunning mix of environmental and people scenes.
We cover two failures here: one when David was working at a second-wave coffee roaster and another when Camber announced a new drink. This interview has been edited for clarity and is not a full transcript.
Jenn: Tell me about a marketing failure in coffee that you’ve done.
David Yake (DY): When I saw your [Instagram] story, the first thing that came to mind is a really short story from a few years ago. When I was working for an old-school, family-owned roaster, there wasn’t a whole lot of structure behind any marketing efforts or brand identity or anything like that. There was a roasting team and some delivery drivers but no marketing department or anyone who had any marketing experience (evidenced by the fact that I was involved with it at all). We were working with a couple of different designers on a possible new brand identity. We’d paid for a few different new logo pitches.
David was in charge of managing the business’ Facebook page at the time. This was pre-Instagram. The Facebook page was only about one to two years old.
DY: We were trying to decide between these two different logo variations and I decided it would be a good idea to put them both up on the business Facebook page and ask for feedback. It turned into a total shit show where people had really strong opinions. People were like, “Why are you changing? Are you under new ownership?” The students [said it’s] “such a corporate move” and people who’ve been following the company for years were really upset. And then one of the designers chimed in with “the other design looks like crap” and started talking shit about the other designers.
I ended up just taking it down after the other employees were like, “What are you doing?” They [said], nothing can be done about it. But what are you thinking? You should’ve run this by someone. It all happened quickly, all of this went down in an hour or two. The other designer with that we ended up going with was kind of hurt that we put their work up without asking, which was totally valid. It was just – everything they could have done wrong went wrong.
If you’re questioning something, run it by someone that you respect and ask. That never hurts.