Maybe it’s the coffee talking. But this feels like one of the most brilliant marketing ideas I’ve heard about in a long time. The Toronto Coffee Conspiracy (TCC) is an initiative spearheaded by seven independent Toronto coffee shops that are committed to what they call Craft Coffee. To them, that means understanding quality coffee where it comes from and sharing that passion with customers.
I’m sitting here at Lit Espresso Bar in Roncesvalles where I’m enjoying an Americano (my 3rd coffee and it’s only 9:45am) and I’ve been handed what the National Post called a “disloyalty card” inviting me to try the coffee at other shops scattered throughout the city. So, if I get my card stamped at Lit, and then go and get my card stamped at place like Sam James Coffee Bar, Dark Horse, and Manic Coffee I can return back to Lit and get a free coffee. Their tag line says it all: “Sure. Go behind our backs.” It’s not cheating to go to another coffee shop. It’s helping grow the independent coffee movement.
The card itself however is not where the brilliance lies. The name and idea of a conspiracy is what gets that Americano-infused blood pumping through my veins. These folks are starting a godamned conspiracy. If you have walked into an independent coffee shop on the list, you know (as the Globe and Mail mentions) the owners are opinionated, strong willed and crazy passionate. It is in the spirit of this that they are standing up and declaring themselves co-conspirators in getting Torontonians to visit independent coffee shops.
In the short time that the Toronto Coffee Conspiracy has been percolating they’ve garnered enough press to be the envy of any large chain. This is not the kind of attention that is often bestowed upon independent shops in their own corner of the universe. How did they do it? They decided to pick a fight, delclare it and buck convention.
Convention would say that the various independent coffee shops are competitors, battling each other for share of heart and mind. Convention would say stay in your silo, put your head down, and promote yourself as better than other folks who do what you do.
Being independent thinkers, they realized (as they told The Star) “We all have something great to offer and we all do it a little different.” They also realized that coffee shops are community hubs. Because each of the shops are in a different neighbourhood they realized that promoting their coffee shops also meant promoting the neighbourhoods they’re located in.
What would be different about your business if you stopped worrying about the competition and thought about your higher purpose? Who would be your ally? Who could you join forces with? What shit storm could you cause?
It takes alot of energy to be consumed with what everyone else is doing. It’s like high school. If you’re so busy obsessing about the popular girl (and what she wears, what she drives, who she hangs with) you’re far less likely to discover your own style or thang. You’re also less likely to join forces with other chics who are like you–a little offbeat but cool in your own right (do I sound like I suffered in Junior High? This is like my almost 40 year old self speaking to my 15 year old self).
Take a tip from any one of Toronto’s seven Coffee Conspiracy shops. Competition is way over rated.