Profiles in Marketing: New England Coffee Company

When it comes to marketing themselves, you have to give a hand to the folks at the New England Coffee Company, headquartered in Malden, Massachusetts. Here’s one of their banner ads, showing their name in an old-style font and some idyllic little scene from what appears to be the late Colonial era or early national period in perhaps Western Mass.

(click image to enlarge)

There’s a stream wending its way through a valley. It’s mid-autumn. There’s a mill with a waterwheel. A meetinghouse. A Cape Cod colonial. A saltbox. A couple of barns. Stone walls. An animal paddock. The rolling hills from which the word ‘massachusetts’ is derived. Golden crops. Blue skies.

And in the center of it all, a covered bridge with a man in a horse-drawn wagon carrying sacks of, presumably, coffee. Good old, New England-grown coffee.

Except there isn’t a coffee plantation in a thousand miles of Massachusetts and there never has been. But the company has found a brilliant way to capitalize on the romanticized concept of circa-1800 New England. Just replace what would be an accurate load, like tobacco, with coffee sacks and hope nobody notices.

Of course, New England Coffee would not be the only company to have ever done that. (The Boston Beer Company, maker of the ‘Sam Adams’ line of beers, for example, was founded in Cincinnati and originally brewed their beers in Pittsburgh.) Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ: GMCR) refers to the Green Mountains of Vermont, but at least they make it clear that they are only roasting coffee.

I remember when everyone laughed about the Jamaican bobsled team in the late 1980s. Just the thought of a bobsled team from Jamaica is enough to elicit a smirk from most people if they stop and think about it for a second. But we can say ‘New England Coffee’ with a straight face.

Must be the font.


  1. Guy Shaffer

    As head of the team that developed the NEC brand in 1998 it’s kind of nice to read your carefully considered observations. Great description of the illustration, too.

    For the record, it never crossed our mind that roasted coffee beans could be delivered from town to town any other way back in late 1800’s.

    Happy to report many folks love the coffee and the brand — and now it’s quite a success story.


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