How using emotions helped Nescafé beat the competition in the Philippines

Nescafé was the dominant instant coffee brand across the 7,641 islands of the Philippines, but its dominance was being threatened by new brands entering the market.

In order to outmanoeuvre these threats Nescafé asked The Marketing Clinic to profile coffee across the 5 regions of the archipelago and to recommend a single Taste Profile that would work across all 5 regions and beat the key competitors that were currently taking market share.

As we studied consumers’ emotional reactions to Nescafé and to the competitors, it quickly became apparent that there is significant variation in consumer attitudes towards, and expectations of, their coffee in different regions across the country. 

Broadly speaking two regions are coffee growing areas while the other 3 are fruit growing regions and this leads to very different attitudes towards their coffee.

In the coffee growing regions they have traditionally grown Robusta coffee beans. These have a strong bitter flavour. The traditional Baraka Coffee in these regions is boiled on the stove for a prolonged period which brings out the strength and bitterness of the coffee. Even when drinking modern instant coffee these consumers were looking for a strong, robust flavour which stimulates and awakens them, to give them energy and a pick-me-up.

In the fruit growing regions there is not such a strong tradition of Baraka coffee and consumers are more used to instant coffee. They were not looking for the same stimulation and energy from their coffee. These consumers were more interested in the relaxing, calming, rewarding aspects of coffee. They were looking for a less robust, gentler and easier drinking coffee experience.

Nescafé Classic was the dominant brand across the nation, but in the coffee growing regions its share was being eroded by San Mig – a more robust coffee – while in the fruit growing regions Great Taste Premium – a milder, warming coffee – was the main competitor.

If Nescafé was to maintain its dominance it had to deliver greater stimulation and pick-me-up values in the coffee growing regions while, from the same formula, it had to deliver more warming, soothing, calming values in the fruit growing regions.

 By understanding how the sensorial journey of the coffee consumption delivered each of these apparently contradictory sets of emotions, we identified that the stimulating, pick-me-up emotions are delivered by one part of the sensory journey, while the calming and relaxing emotions are delivered by another.

We could then draw up a recommended Taste Profile for the Nescafé team that not only delivered both sets of emotions but also managed the transition between the two different parts of the sensory experience. This meant that consumers could focus upon the part of the experience that they desired while feeling no contradiction from the other part of the sensory journey. 

Consumers in the coffee region would enjoy the robust stimulating, pick-me-up while the milder comforting part of the journey prevented the experience becoming too intense and overpowering. Whereas consumers in the fruit growing areas found that the comforting, relaxing sensations from the coffee were emphasised, and thus enhanced, by the more robust part of the consumption experience.

 On testing the resultant development coffee, Nescafé were more than pleased to find that it won in preference testing not only on a national scale, but it beat every competitor and the current recipe in each individual region.

Since this project, we have worked with Nescafé to improve their formulas of pure coffees and coffee mixes in markets across the world and have worked on many Nestlé brands in markets in Asia, Africa, Europe and North, Central and South America.

Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic.