There is a natural tendency for new coffee business owners to try to attach some familiar brand identity to their own when planning a new concept. Take for example, the promotion of a name brand of coffee from Seattle or Italy – theoretically as representing quality in the minds of the average consumer. “Bob’s Coffee Shop featuring Seattle Coffee” is how the advertising and promotion may read.

My advice to you is to step back for a moment and question whether this is really the best strategy for the long-term success and growth of your business. Would it not be better, after all, for your consumers to have a unique perception of “Bob’s Coffee” independent of “Seattle Coffee?” What happens to Bob’s business if and when Seattle Coffee is no long en vogue and when Miami Coffee is all the new rage? Do you really want to put yourself on the same playing field as a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best… or any other Seattle branded coffee for that matter?

Attaching your own concept to another’s image may give you a short-term benefit, but places many variables outside of your control; not to mention, you cannot own the perception of Seattle Coffee. Sure, you may receive some incidental benefit from the promotion of Seattle Coffee when you live in Seattle, but otherwise, why spend all of your money promoting something that is 1) available to any competitor that opens up shop next door and 2) does not even wholly benefit your own business?

As one new business owner stated when indicating his plans to source coffee from Seattle solely for the consumer perception: “Everybody in LA KNOWS that coffee from Seattle is best.” Perhaps, but there was a time when everybody in LA KNEW that American cars were best and plenty of Japanese beef importers that promoted “everybody KNOWS American beef is best” before the mad cow scare. Consumer perception changes for a number of reasons outside of your control; my advice is to use another’s brand to your advantage only when it directly supports your own — don’t tie yourself to another city, country or roaster’s label in the attempt to build your own credibility with the consumer.

It will take more effort for you to refine and project your own image to your consumers than hitching on to another – but at the end of the day, you own it.