I discovered Sudden Coffee on a recent episode of the podcast, The Pitch. The Pitch podcast is a lot like Shark Tank where entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to VCs in search of investment. In this episode, the founders of Sudden CoffeeJoshua Zloof and Kalle Freese, were seeking $100K to add to their existing raise of $2.9MM. I won’t spoil what happens!

Sudden Coffee’s product is premium instant coffee. In other words, they’ve packaged up all the elements of a high-end coffee drinking experience that you’d normally get at a cafe and made it available anywhere.

Per their own reports, they’re attracting users, bringing in revenue, and most importantly have a really good product. I can confirm the last item, because after hearing their story and then reading more about them on their website I decided to give their product a test run.

 
(This is their standard intro package. Like being greeted at a local cafe!)

I’m not a full-on coffee snob, but I definitely appreciate great coffee. I have an espresso machine at home, I know how to use a French press, and I’ve certainly spent a ton of money buying coffee at shops.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m in Sudden Coffee’s wheelhouse of customers.

Having now tried their product, I think it’s excellent. It really does stand up to the bar of a premium cup of coffee that you’d normally have to get in a specialty shop.

 

So, they’ve raised a bunch of money, have a solid team, have a great product, and got me to purchase it. Why do a teardown of their messaging?

It’s because I genuinely like the product, and I believe there might be some ways to make their messaging even more appealing.

The following is a breakdown of who they seem to be targeting, what those customers need and value in a solution, and how their message aligns with those needs.

It’s not a comprehensive look at the company, just an initial pass on what jumped out to me as a new customer.

And to be clear, I’m not affiliated with Sudden Coffee, so this is an unsolicited, outside perspective.

What’s the Current Message?

 

“Sudden energy. Sudden delight. Delivered.”

“Make really great coffee in just a few seconds”

“Fit into your life.”

“Tastes like pour over. Works like instant”

There’s a recurring theme around finding the perfect blend of:

  • Fast: “Sudden”, “seconds”, “instant”
  • Convenient: “Delivered”, “fits into your life”
  • Delicious: “delight”, “great”, “tastes like pour over”

Is that the optimal value proposition for this audience? Let’s dig in a little more.

What’s the Product?

Sudden Coffee is a premium coffee product. Everything about their mission and process centers around using sustainable, high quality ingredients combined with a precise and rigorous brewing process implemented by world class experts. They’re not aiming to deliver a good cup of coffee, they want to deliver the best cup of coffee possible.

In their own words:

“Sudden Coffee is more comparable to coffee you’d get at a top cafe where you might pay $3–5 for a pour over.”

This is not a product aimed at casual coffee fans.

Who’s the Target Customer?

The level of quality and price point of around $3.00/cup reflects a mission of targeting serious coffee drinkers.

This is important to keep in mind, because it means, at least for this exercise, we’re not looking at how Sudden Coffee would appeal to the person who only makes drip coffee at home, or for that matter, Folgers instant coffee (markets at around $0.07 / cup).

That segment may be eventual customers for Sudden Coffee, but the extreme attention to quality wouldn’t be a big selling point for them and the high price point would likely be a non-starter.

Another customer segment for Sudden Coffee is the person who does their own pour over or comparable DIY process at home. However, because swapping one DIY process for another isn’t a drastically different experience, I’d like to focus on a more distinct segment.

The more interesting segment to me, and it’s a big one, are customers seeking a replacement for actually going to a high-end cafe.

What Does That Customer Want?

Here’s what a Job Story might look like for the coffee drinker looking to replace going to a high-end cafe:

 

Now we can map that customer’s motivations and expectations to the Elements of Value (highlighted in green):

 

If we bucket these Elements of Value into categories of convenience vs. fidelity, we see:

Convenience:

  • Saves Time: By not having to drive or walk to a cafe, there’s certainly a time savings component.

Fidelity:

  • Quality: This is a very high quality product in terms of the type of beans, brewing process, and expert oversight. It’s arguably better, or at least more consistent, than what you’d get at a local cafe.
  • Sensory Appeal: The smell and taste of the coffee are of course critical elements of the cafe experience.
  • Therapeutic Value: Studies have shown some strong correlations to coffee reducing serious physical health risks, as well as boosting mental functions. In addition, high-end coffees often tout reduction in use of chemicals or presence of mold that they claim could cause health issues.
  • Provides Access: A big part of the price for high-end coffee like this is to gain access to a quality of product you couldn’t get otherwise, as well as access to the experts that curate and brew the coffee for you.
  • Reduces Anxiety: This is less about benefits from coffee itself and more about reducing anxiety around maintaining a routine that provides daily happiness and comfort. It means you’ll be able to get your high-end coffee on a day where you might otherwise have to settle for a cup at the office (eek!) or go without (eek!+).
  • Affiliation / Belonging: Going to a cafe is also a social experience. You’re engaging with the knowledgeable staff as well as possibly some regulars. While it’s impossible to fully replicate the cafe experience at home with a DIY product, the personal welcome note, and coffee origin story from Sudden Coffee adds a real social element to the process.
  • Self-Transcendence: Part of the premium coffee experience revolves around being supportive of fair wages and sustainable farming techniques. This is an area Sudden Coffee highlights in their content.

Looking at all of the elements together, the theme that emerges is almost exclusively around the experience of enjoying a high-end cup of coffee.

This seems to align with the behaviors of these customers who appreciate, and even seek out, more intensive coffee processes in exchange for the best quality product.

Bringing Together the Customer and the Message

Looking back at the current messaging:

“Sudden energy. Sudden delight. Delivered.”

“Make really great coffee in just a few seconds”

“Fit into your life.”

“Tastes like pour over. Works like instant”

How well does this align with what the high-end coffee drinker most values?

The daily high-end coffee drinker definitely wants “great coffee” that “tastes like pour over”.

The misalignment I see is in putting so much emphasis on the speed and convenience elements.

For customers that appreciate all the great experiential qualities, focusing on speed, and in turn bringing to mind the horrors of a cheap cup of instant coffee, undermines the quality side of the Sudden Coffee story.

That’s not to say that Sudden Coffee’s “instant” form-factor itself is a negative, it just means that the aspect of speed might not be a helpful selling point for this audience.

A stronger message could instead be to focus exclusively on getting the high-end cafe experience at home.

In this context, the instant form-factor isn’t so much about speed, but rather the optimal mechanism to capture the flavor of the best beans and the expertise of the artisanal brewers and deliver it to your home.

The fact that it’s something you can enjoy at home, implies a welcome level of convenience without ever touching on its “instant”, “in seconds” preparation methods.

Messaging Tweaks

If we look at the different forces that might drive a customer to integrate Sudden Coffee into their existing coffee routine, one option is to focus on the “Magnetism of a New Solution”.

 

The “magnetism” of Sudden Coffee could be expressed through the message of a high-end cafe experience without needing to physically go there:

  • The best coffee you’ll ever have at home.
  • Like having a world class barista in your kitchen.
  • The cafe experience served to you anywhere.

Then the sub message becomes:

  • The rich taste of our hand selected, expertly brewed beans in individual servings you can enjoy any time.

This tweak removes any connection to traditional instant coffee and the mental baggage it conjures up, while retaining the story of an exclusive, yet accessible coffee experience.

It’s easy to imagine some accompanying visuals where opening Sudden Coffee’s very cool capsule doesn’t just pour out coffee, but “pours out” a cafe with a brewer, a barista, a coffee farmer, etc. wherever you happen to be.

Using the capsule as a way to deliver that experience and story versus simply a container for dehydrated coffee crystals could be really fun.

It’s not that you just suddenly have coffee. It’s that you suddenly have access to a full cafe experience.

In doing a little research, it appears Ninja Coffee Bar has taken a similar angle:

 

Of course with Ninja, you’re stuck with an expensive, complicated machine where you have to make everything yourself. But I won’t dig into a full competitive analysis here. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Sudden Coffee is a great product and they’re clearly doing a lot of stuff right.

They’ve no doubt spent way more time thinking about their customers and messaging than I ever could, and may have even experimented with a path like I suggested and found traps I’ve overlooked.

With any messaging change they or anyone makes for their offering and brand, it ultimately requires customer feedback to validate it.

The point of this teardown was to show how important it is to dig into the motivations and thinking of your customers to see if what you believe aligns with their needs, actually does.

By working on your messaging with a clear process fueled by client feedback, you can always go back and find valuable, new angles to explore.

Want Some Free Tools?

If you’d like some free worksheets with the exercises above you can download them right now on our site:

Click here for worksheets on Customers in our Product/Market Fit Series.

Click here for worksheets on Messaging in our Brand Communication Series.

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