Branding is about distinguishing yourself from the competition, and to be ethical and effective it must be based on truth. That’s why if you happen to be unique just by virtue of who you are, you’ve hit a home run.
Take The DAZBOG Coffee Co. article, featured in the Denver Business Journal for its 2012 expansion push. I’ve known DAZBOG Co-owner Anatoly Yuffa, or “Tony,” since high school. He and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Leningrad in 1979, and one day I invited him to sit at my table in the Hinkley High School cafeteria. Winkley Hinkleye’ve been friends ever since. When he called me in 1996 with the idea of creating a niche coffee company, I was excited to help. The first task, of course, was to stake out a new claim – a new brand – that would be different from any other coffee on the market.
Tony and his brother Leonid have thick Russian accents, so I said, let’s embrace that, because otherwise it could be something people might struggle to understand. I thought, Why not have them just be who they are? Leonid had been working in the coffee industry, importing espresso and learning roasting techniques, so we decided the coffee would be imported from around the world but roasted through Russian pride and work ethic. Hence the slogan, “World grown, Russian roasted.”
Then came the name and packaging. We wanted to be bold (as opposed to romantic like Starbucks), and also culturally authentic. To achieve that we used bright colors, stark images associated with the Russia of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Russian words – even the Russian alphabet. We found that people were puzzled by the name DAZBOG, which means good fortune or blessing, and the fact that people hadn’t heard it before made them curious and interested in engaging with us. It also let us define the brand because there was no expectation or comparison. Drawing on the Yuffas’ Russian heritage, we created drink names like KG Blend, Hermitage House and Babushka – We knew that if we used authentic names, no one could compete with us.
Tony and his brother had a true American immigration story, but they also had a high-quality authentic product. The Yuffas pride themselves on a roasting technique that rules out the bitter tinge found in many coffees. “Coffee is a complicated beverage – if wine has 250 constituents to play with to create the wine, then coffee has twice that,” Tony says. “It’s a difficult achievement to get a specific taste. The difference we bring is that everything we do is authentic to what we say on the bag. If we say it’s bold and rich, it is.”
The DAZBOG launch and subsequent expansion has worked so well because the product, the company story and the brand itself are all built on a rock-solid kernel of authenticity. And that, my friends, is what I mean by building a brand based on truth.