Old-School Chemex Coffee Pours a Path Toward the Future Through Design 

February 2, 2021

pour over coffee with milk in a container and two glass cups of coffee with a blank background

The Iconic Pour-Over Coffee Brand Offers Marketing Lessons for Thriving in a Post-Pandemic World

While the positive vaccine news has all of us excited about getting back to our normal lives at some point in 2021, there will be permanent consumer behavior changes after months of lockdowns and social restrictions.

This new reality presents an opportunity for brands ready to capitalize on the fact that consumers have discovered that they can replicate many retail and hospitality experiences in their own homes. From manufacturers of bread makers and luxury stationary bikes to online vacation rental marketplaces offering a proliferation of virtual “travel” experiences,” smart and agile brands can take advantage of our new normal.

Chemex, the minimalist pour-over coffee-making system, offers lessons for other brands hoping to find a permanent place in consumers’ homes in a post-COVID-19 world.

Chemex’s status as an objet d’art is especially relevant in an era when consumers are spending so much time at home.

pour over container with coffee in it and steam on the kitchen counter

Lesson 1: Bring the Trends Home

Consumers want to bring the latest trends into their homes. This statement might seem axiomatic, but there is often a disconnect between the trends consumers engage with in a retail setting and the products that are available for use or consumption at home. 

Coffee is a perfect example of this. For decades, Americans have been content to drink terrible coffee at home while saving the high-end coffee experience for cafés and coffee shops. In fact, it wasn’t until 2019 that more than half of American coffee drinkers reported brewing “gourmet” coffee at home, i.e., coffee that doesn’t come in a can.

However, COVID-19’s impact has given the average American coffee consumer the opportunity to brew their own coffee, which means they are more comfortable experimenting at home with the latest coffee trends. One of these trends is the pour-over method that Chemex pioneered over 60 years ago but until recently was only popular with aficionados and regulars at hipster coffee shops. Now, as Marty Thompson, president of Nestle Coffee Partners, says, “Consumers are trying to replicate what they were getting in a café at home.” For proof of this, just look at the increase in sales for at-home coffee equipment, including Chemex, during the COVID-19 crisis, and the median price of $139 per sale, as well as the huge increase in the number of consumers signing up for gourmet coffee subscriptions. 

Brands that follow Chemex’s lead in providing consumers with a memorable experience at a lower price than the competition will find it much easier to navigate the months ahead.

This same phenomenon holds true across many categories. Consider the trend of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions. Prior to COVID-19, CSA subscriptions were mostly confined to gourmands and organic produce enthusiasts, partially because of the commitment and partially because figuring out what to do with a large box of oftentimes unusual or exotic vegetables takes a certain amount of confidence in the kitchen. Now the idea of having a large box of locally grown fruits and vegetables available for curbside pickup, or even having them delivered to your front door instead of driving to the grocery store multiple times per week, just seems like good sense.

Brands that can locate consumer trends that increased in popularity during the pandemic, and seem likely to stick even after a vaccine, will be well positioned to succeed in the future.

pour over coffee studio shot with dramatic lighting

Lesson 2: Design Matters

The defining characteristic of the Chemex coffee maker is its elegant design. Because its hourglass shape is reminiscent of an Erlenmeyer flask, there is something precise and scientific about a Chemex; if someone saw a Chemex in your kitchen and didn’t know any better, they might think it was a unique vase or a piece of art. 

Chemex’s status as an objet d’art is especially relevant in an era when consumers are spending so much time at home. Compared to the drab, utilitarian nature of most traditional drip coffee makers, which many consumers hide in a corner of their kitchen, a Chemex is something you want to leave out as a decorative piece. 

Other home goods brands should take notice of this design-centric approach. Even after a vaccine, many analysts predict that working from home will be a permanent part of the business landscape. This likely means that many makeshift home offices will be transformed into more permanent and comfortable spaces where people will enjoy spending the bulk of their workweek. More importantly, home offices will also need to evolve into spaces that people are not embarrassed to share via Zoom.

Brands such as Spoonflower, which offers unique wallpaper designed by independent artists, will become the favorite, go-to sources for a new generation of home offices. More importantly, brands that help consumers turn their dingy basement workspace into a space for personal expression will thrive in a world dominated by Zoom.

person with tattoos on arms in white shirt sits at table drinking coffee
tight shot of coffee with bubbles as it is brewing

Lesson 3: The Price Is Right

Despite its midcentury design and its status as a slightly snobby way to brew coffee, a Chemex is priced at around $40, which is about half the price of a decent drip coffee maker. Pricing a luxury coffee experience so low enables Chemex to thrive in even the most dire economic conditions.

No one can know for sure what the economy will look like in 2021, and that’s precisely why most analysts expect consumer discretionary spending to remain low for the foreseeable future. Brands that are planning to debut an expensive new product will probably find that consumers aren’t comfortable parting with a large chunk of their uncertain paycheck. On the other hand, even many luxury brands are planning to offer lower price-point products in 2021.

Brands that can locate consumer trends that increased in popularity during the pandemic, and seem likely to stick even after a vaccine, will be well positioned to succeed in the future.

Brands that follow Chemex’s lead in providing consumers with a memorable experience at a lower price than the competition will find it much easier to navigate the months ahead.

 

BMDG Can Help Your Brand Learn from 2020

At BMDG, we have spent the pandemic months working with our clients to make sure they are ready for whatever 2021 and beyond throws at them. These solutions have included helping clients formulate new distribution plans without the help of networking at trade shows, as well as helping brands pivot more and more of their business to e-commerce.

Whatever challenges 2021 poses for your business, BMDG offers the strategy, planning, and creative solutions you need to take advantage of the new opportunities that will arise once these difficult months are over.

Contact us now.  

Images: Instagram

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