Singaporeans have been consuming coffee for over 200 years. Our forefathers would roast the seeds taken from the fruit of coffee plants in big roasting drums at a temperature of over 180 degrees Celsius. Later they would grind the beans, bearing in mind that different types of coffee required different levels of granularity. Only then, would they pour the ground-up bits of coffee into a boiling pot of water and leave it to brew. It’s quite an arduous process to go through for the end-result that is one cup of coffee.
It was not long before scientists and researchers started coming up with ideas and inventions to speed up the process. In 1938, a Swiss company called Nestlé perfected the world’s first freeze-dried instant coffee mix. They called their new creation, Nescafé. Prior to this, many companies tried their hand at inventing the world’s first soluble coffee; however, many consumers complained that it did not taste as good as normal fresh-brewed coffee.
In 1940, Nescafé was introduced into the Singapore market. Although Singapore, at that point of time had a reasonably strong coffee drinking culture, there was uncertainty among the consumers with regard to the taste and quality of this new foreign product. To counter this issue, Nestle started an advertising campaign to build the awareness level and also change the perception of instant coffee in this market.
Through our research, we found a print advertisement of Nescafé in The Straits Times dated 20 February 1940. The advertisement focused heavily on the fact that the introduction of Nescafé had revolutionalised the coffee drinking world. This was its point-of-difference that set its product apart from the rest.
The copy “How on Earth Did You Make It So Quickly?!” and, “… the wonderful new product that enables every one of us to be an expert coffee maker …” shows that Nescafé was positioning itself as being a brand that is number one in convenience.
However, it was also mindful of not compromising on the taste and quality of its new creation. Nescafé was aware that the word “instant” could adversely affect the perceived quality of the brand. The Singaporean consumers might have this perception whereby “instant coffee” was not as good as regular coffee. In order to address this problem, they had to emphasise the quality and the taste of its coffee in its advertisement too. “My dear, this coffee is marvellous!” and, “Nescafé makes not only quicker coffee, but better coffee,” were just some of the lines used to bring across the quality of its product.
Nescafé also turned to sampling to help speed up the process of consumer acceptance. They included a coupon in the print advertisement that consumers had to send back to with a 5-cents stamp enclosed for a free tin of Nescafé.
Ever since the early 90s, many companies started introducing luxury coffee into the different markets. With Starbucks introducing their own personal brand of instant coffee, and numerous other brands claiming that they only use the best ingredients, Nescafé decided that it was time to introduce their own “luxury coffee” into their repertoire.
The Nescafé Premium and Super Premium category coffee boast 100% Arabica beans from the finest coffee regions in Latin America. They are also roasted to achieve the intensity of flavour and deep, rounded taste. The introduction of such categories gave Nescafé a competitive advantage over its competitors, and we can also see just how much the markets have changed over the decades.
Now, Nescafé has a diverse range of over 25 different products catered to the different social classes and also to different cultures rather than one product that was marketed across the globe.
Written by Chow Lian Jie, Chong Jun Wei, Jenny Teo, Mohamed Naufal, Natalie Choo and Samuel Tan from Diploma in Marketing @ Temasek Polytechnic School of Business in 2015.
(Special thanks to Nestle Singapore, in conjunction with 100 Years Nestle with You campaign.)