Costa has created a poster campaign, in which the brand says ‘the people have voted', and ‘sorry Starbucks, seven out of ten prefer Costa'.
Launching the campaign, Costa has said: "Contrary to popular belief, all coffee is not the same, according to the leading independent research company specializing in taste comparison tests. The cappuccino handcrafted by Costa's highly-skilled baristas beats that of Starbucks and Nero by an unprecedented margin."
The campaign is based on some research carried out in November and December, in which taste tests were carried out at neutral venues positioned close to branches of Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero. Runners were sent to each store and brought back camouflaged cappuccinos for ‘blind' taste tests.
The result, says Costa, was that seven out of ten customers who described themselves as ‘coffee lovers' preferred Costa's cappuccino to Starbucks', and more or less the same figure preferred Costa to Caffè Nero; Costa claims that its cappuccino was also preferred by those who stated themselves to be regular customers of the other two brands.
Costa said it will capitalise on the research findings with its first ever national advertising, a ‘confident and punchy campaign' to run throughout the UK in national press and online, as well as regional outdoor and breakfast radio promotions. The campaign is reported to cost £1.5 million.
Explaining the campaign, Costa marketing director Jim Slater said: "It is extremely rare to win a head-to-head blind-taste test by such an emphatic margin. When you consider that most coffee drinkers currently think that all coffee is broadly the same, the time is ripe for us to agitate discussion about our product superiority."
Marketing magazine, sounding a little unimpressed, commented: "One of the clearest hints that a market is maturing is an inability to find consumers new to the segment… Costa's campaign certainly seems to suggest that new custom is harder to come by.
"Using advertising to knock a competitor is a strategy that is often criticised by experts who believe it serves only to weaken a sector and cheapen the brand involved."
However, Marketing also suggests the economic downturn will bring a rise in such marketing techniques in the coffee sector.
By Ian Boughton