Inside Marketing: The Coffee Shop Craze

many customers working on laptops at a coffee shop
Online Content Specialist
Kearley & Company

3 minutes

What can credit unions learn from our obsession with these caffeine-selling establishments?

This article was first published on and is reprinted with permission. Read the original here.

Certainly you’ve seen them; probably you’ve visited many yourself: little establishments with the sole purpose of selling coffee in a welcoming environment. Sometimes they sell alcohol, sometimes they sell pastries, sometimes they don’t roast their own beans. But they all have something in common: There is clearly something special about the coffee shop atmosphere, because they’re consistently popular.
They don’t have to always be Starbucks—there are a lot of individual, locally owned coffeehouses, and this local feel tends to permeate the atmosphere of many of these establishments.
Why are coffee shops so popular? What lessons can we draw for marketing? Here are three reasons for the coffee shop craze along with how we can use this information to our benefit in marketing.


In an opinion piece for Psychology Today, Dr. Lindsay J. McCunn talks extensively about how coffee shops provide a social atmosphere for people to make new friends, connect with old ones, and feel a sense of belonging. She attributes their rise to popularity to this feeling of connection.
What We Can Learn: Your brand, your advertising, your branch—they all should make members feel like they belong. Your brand should feel approachable. Your advertising should have content that people relate to and make them feel at home. And your branches should be comfortable through and through—everything from inviting interiors to friendly customer service should work toward this goal.


Shana Lebowitz from Business Insider wrote that people feel more productive in coffee shops than their day-to-day environments. She cites a study that suggests mental effort is “contagious:” When participants were working hard (or giving the impression that they were working on a difficult task), it motivates those around them to work just as hard on their own tasks.
What We Can Learn: We should always strive for excellence in our marketing and advertising. We may not think the public notices, but when we put forth low-effort work, they can tell. So everything from our community relations to social media campaigns should be implemented with the intent to inspire.

Good Feeling

Coffee in general makes people feel good. As Tom Stafford writes for The Psychologist, “Caffeine has been shown to affect dopamine. … Dopamine is strongly associated with the subjective feelings of reward and heavily implicated with the physiology of reinforcement.” Couple this with the positive reinforcement of getting more work done in a motivational environment, and we can clearly see why coffee shop customers keep coming back for more.
What We Can Learn: Reward people for seeing your ad. Your campaigns should evoke a sense of satisfaction. Quality advertising and marketing gives something back to your members—acknowledgement of their hard work, a smile in reaction to a joke, a sense of pleasure at seeing a beautiful image. Put your heart into your marketing; the public will appreciate it.
The coffee shop craze has risen to something of a frenzy in the past several years (especially this time of year). Chain and independent coffeehouses continue maintain popularity and influence in our culture. Evaluating the psychology behind any wildly popular trend is valuable; understanding what makes our culture tick really drives what we do in the marketing sphere. Someday soon, coffee shops may move over and something else will take their place in our society. But for today, we will stake out our usual table, take a sip of our dark roast and dig into this week’s marketing plans.

Samuel Cook is the online content specialist for Kearley & Company, a full-service marketing and branding firm specializing in financial institutions and small- to medium-sized businesses. If you need help preparing or executing your marketing plan, reach out at or follow us on Twitter or Facebook @KearleyAndCo.

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