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How To Create A Coffee Shop Brand That Stands Out

How to Stand Out

When I first bought my coffee shop, the brand was incredibly basic.

Basic message - “We serve coffee with a smile!” No real esoteric language.

Basic logo - typical coffee cup vector image. Nothing that couldn’t have belonged to the next coffee shop.

Basic color scheme and branding - Light blue color scheme, some cutesy hand-written menus, and some basic decor with “coffee sayings” on them.

It was the typical neighborhood coffee shop. Pretty much indistinguishable from the next one.

Your brand is one of the most important things about your coffee shop. It will distinguish your coffee shop from the others around it, and get customers to become loyal fans. Without a strong and clear brand, customers won’t remain loyal, and will just consider you the “neighborhood coffee shop.” And while this doesn’t sound like a bad thing at first glance, it discounts your reputation as a serious competitor to the other shops, particularly major chains.

Unless you are going to be doing something incredibly ground breaking with coffee, your brand and marketing will be your unique identifier. Trying to rely on friendly service, great coffee, and a “non-judgmental” staff are just the barriers to entry in the market. Those things will help you stick around, but they won’t make a lasting impression that gets customers to keep coming back. This will propel your business forward to growth and profitability.

A recent study showed that 23% of restaurants fail within the first year. Do you think it was because they had an inferior product? Or was it because they didn’t have a clear brand that people could connect with?

Unfortunately, I believe too many coffee shops and restaurants think they just need to serve a good product. The “If you build it, they will come” mentality. These business owners don’t think through a clear brand or message before they open their doors. Then when their customers try to communicate what’s great about it, they’re kind of at a loss for words. “It’s just really good. Go try it.” Is not good enough when it comes to creating a compelling reason for people to come in.

Creating this brand will help you retain customers and maintain a thriving business. It is also very necessary for growing your business into multiple locations. (You’d be really surprised to see a 6th Street Coffee on 27th Street, right?)

I decided to rebrand and rename the coffee shop. I knew I could take the shop that my customers knew and create a brand they would fall in love with. That would stand out.

Not My Brand

Step 1 - Brainstorming the Feeling

What are you going to rename it? Tom’s Coffee?

I heard this one a million times. My personal opinion on this is that it ties the brand to me. The issue with that is when I stop becoming a common face around the shop, it won’t translate as well. What if I open more locations? Tom can’t be at all them. What if I sell the shop? Would you want to buy Tom’s Coffee if your name isn’t Tom?

When I decided to rebrand the first thing I started with was the feeling I wanted to create with my brand. The words I kept coming back to were “warm” and “bright.”

In its essence, a brand is the feeling created when purchasing or visiting. What kind of feeling do you want your customers to have when they visit your shop? Do they want to feel like they can take their whole family there? Do they want to feel higher class because they can afford coffee from a more expense brand? Do they want to feel like part of the sci-fi crowd because they bought their coffee from a coffee shop with Star Trek memorabilia hanging from the walls?

Knowing your customers (or crafting your customer segment) will help you define what you want the feeling of your brand to be. Don’t try to be something that you want but your customers have no interest in.

Let’s say you really love experimental jazz music. You create a brand around jazz and play jazz music all day.

But you’re located in the middle of West Texas and half of your customers are cowboys. You missed the mark.

Don’t try to create a product and then find the market for it. It is much better to find your market then serve them exactly what they want. While it may not look like your avant-garde dream, it will be successful. And it's much better to be in a business that is successful that you’re less passionate about than one you’re passionate about but is a failure.

Step 2 - Brainstorming Related Words

I took these words and made a list of all the related words I could think of. I wanted the name to be simple, preferably one word, easy to spell, and not immediately related to coffee. Why not related to coffee? For the brand to become iconic, it has to transcend its industry. This is difficult to do when you are tied to the industry because of your name. Think of many of the big brands you know, and see if this holds true.

I realize that this is partially my own personal idea for branding - to create something that can transcend its industry - but I think it is important to consider.

I used and to come up with ideas related to the feelings I wanted to create.

After brainstorming my word list, I cut it down to 5-7 of the words that resonated with me the most. Then I also did a Google search of those words with ‘coffee’ to see if they were already taken. I also searched domains to see if they were taken or not. Having a single word followed by “coffee” will most likely either be taken already or considered a premium domain and be very expensive. Just type the domain name into the URL bar in your internet browser and see if it takes you to a website, or maybe a parked domain, or hopefully a Domain Not Found page. You could also search for availability on domain sites like

After picking a few that I liked, I bounced them off everyone I could think of. One of the big mistakes I see other people make is they don’t survey enough people before jumping in on an idea. They try to keep their idea a secret until they’re ready to unleash it to the world. And often, they don’t realize the small issues with their idea until it’s too late. All this because they didn’t ask other people what they thought.

Most people say they don’t want other people “stealing” their idea. But what exactly does that mean? That someone thinks the name you came up with for your coffee shop is so good, that they completely change their goals and the course of their life to steal your idea? And all this, before you make it happen?

I think this “fear” is real. But it’s not actually fear of someone stealing your idea. That’s just a mask. The real fear is of vulnerability and rejection. They are afraid that their idea won’t be as incredible as they imagined. But guess what? No one’s first iteration is really that great anyway.

Don’t worry that some people won’t get your name. That they’ll make fun of it. That they’ll think it doesn’t make sense. Criticism will come, but take all this in before you get started and decide if it’s something you can handle.

One of the names I seriously considered, like even started drawing up logo designs, was Quiver Coffee. I still like it alright. But I bounced the name off everyone I could think of. Then someone told me when they heard it, they immediately felt a sexual vibe.

Definitely not what I was going for! But I’m glad I heard that beforehand, and not much later down the road.

I settled on the name Illuminate Coffee Bar.

Bright, warm, and brought to mind images of lights, fire, etc. I knew I could use this imagery in my logo, messaging, and images in the shop.

They are afraid that their idea won’t be as incredible as they imagined. But guess what? No one’s first iteration is really that great anyway.

Step 3 - Messaging


Once you have the name down, use this as a springboard for your messaging, logo, etc. I attached the Illuminate to the image of a lightbulb. So, I thought of how I could use this image and some of my feelings and related words to create messaging that my staff and I could use when talking to our customers. This is important because it provides multiple connection points for your brand in your customer’s head. And the more connection points they have, the more likely they are to fall in love with your brand and keep returning to your coffee shop.

Another word I wanted to use in my branding was “craft.” The word has an artisanal feeling to it, that I wanted to communicate to my customers. I also wanted other people searching for coffee shops to view mine as one that takes coffee a little more seriously than the next.

So, I created the tagline “Craft coffee to brighten your day.”

I was able to use the words “craft” and “brighten” in a short, concise phrase. Your messaging should be clear enough so that your customers know who you are and what you are offering them immediately upon reading it. After reading our tagline, you know that we are a coffee business.'

Don’t make the customer work really hard trying to figure out what it is that you offer exactly. If you are a coffee shop, make it clear. I could’ve just gone with “Brighten your day,” but I wanted it to be clear that we are a coffee shop and we see craft coffee.


I changed the name of our most popular drink to the “Illuminate Latte.” I also put it at the top of our menu boards. I knew that this was a crowd favorite. When people would come in to try my coffee shop for the first time, my staff and I would suggest the “Illuminate Latte” and they would never be disappointed.

This is another point of connection for the customer to tie the brand to the incredible product we serve.

The previous name was the “Coconut Honey Latte.”

And people would always mess it up. Honey Coconut. That latte with coconut. etc.

But with the name of the coffee shop and our signature latte being the same - it was an easy choice. It helped people keep coming back, deciding what to order more quickly, and really easy for their friends to remember when they told them about “this amazing drink you have try.”

Don’t make the customer work really hard trying to figure out what it is that you offer exactly.

Step 4 - Logo

While the logo is a small piece of branding, it’s very important. Have a logo that stands out. Make it more than just a coffee cup. Make it clear and simple so that customers will begin to recognize it when they see it in your shop, on your signs, on their cups.

Make the logo reinforce the feelings you are trying to create with your brand. My words were “bright,” “warm,” and I added “craft” in there, too.

I had decided to fixate on the lightbulb aspect, so I created a logo with a lightbulb, light rays coming out of it, and a coffee bean in the center. The coffee bean was subtle because I wanted the lightbulb to be the focal point, not the coffee bean. This would reinforce the name Illuminate in my customers’ minds.

How to Create a Coffee Shop Brand

I created my own logo because my wife is an artist and I knew my way a little around Adobe Illustrator.

However, hiring a professional to create a logo for you is a great idea if you are not artistic. It will be well worth the time you save trying to do it yourself. That being said, you don’t have to go to a professional design firm. There are many logo designers on the app Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs. You can get a design from one of these platforms for around $100 compared to possibly several thousand at a professional design firm.

Along with my logo is the font I used. I chose two fonts - one for Illuminate and one for Coffee Bar. I wanted both to look bright and warm. For Illuminate, I chose a font (Arial Rounded MT Bold) without hard edges that would make the word look soft and inviting. For Coffee Bar, I chose a font (Shelby Basic from that reminded me of the style popular on neon signs.

However, I believe that the logo itself is more important than the font. This is because humans tend to think in pictures rather than words. So, creating an image-based logo helps bridge the gap in your customer’s mind between your business and the feelings it creates. Your customer will remember your brand more quickly and easily if they only have to see an image rather than read words.

The same goes here for colors as well. I kept my logo black and white, while only adding some yellow and green accents inside the shop. But having a color associated with your brand will help customers more quickly identify your business. And the business that is identified more quickly, wins.

Coffee shops are typically associated with the color brown, but think about how your’s could be different.

Step 5 - Images

Take this step as far as you’d like, but not so far as to be kitschy. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need coffee stuff everywhere - signs with coffee sayings, picture of lattes, etc. People will know they’re in a coffee shop.

Use these opportunities to reinforce your brand. Images of coffee beans and latte art are what I like to call “coffee shop fill,” they don’t fill the space but don’t really add anything meaningful to the experience.

I put the logo and name where it was typical - glass doors, by the point of sale, on the menu boards. I also hung lightbulbs that were similar to the one in the logo over the espresso machine. I also had several little lightbulb terrariums around the shop lobby. Subtle, but still tying the warm and bright to the customer’s mind.

I believe that it's imperative to put your name and logo on takeaway cups - hot and iced. This isn't to remind the person drinking it where they got their coffee from, but so that everyone else sees it when they arrive at their destination. Again, think about how other beverage companies do this same thing - they make their brand easily recognizable to someone from across the room. The customer drinking the beverage becomes a billboard for your brand.

I suggest doing this for some artwork or larger graphics to hang in your shop as well. In the lobby, bathrooms, any big statement walls, and on any glass windows facing high traffic areas.

Think of different ways to incorporate your brand identity and logo into the images around your shop. Don’t just fill your shop with typical coffee shop graphics of coffee beans, latte art, etc.

Get creative with it. I held a contest on Instagram where people could submit their own hand drawings for sticker designs. didn't matter what it looked like, as long as it had our name and logo on it. Then, I choose a couple of my favorites and had them digitized and then turned into stickers for sale at the counter.

Bring your brand experience to a full circle by reinforcing it wherever you can.


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