Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When less isn’t more

Every coffee shop in Seattle seems to offer free wi-fi. Actually, that might be specific to the independent shops. I have no idea if Tully’s and Starbucks charge for wi-fi* or not. Suffice to say, it’s very common. So close to ubiquitous as to not be questioned.

Which is why these sandwich boards—put out by a small coffee shop called Cyberspace Coffee near my house—seem so ridiculous to me.

This ad message is horribly wrong on two fronts. First, it promotes an offer most people already assume exists: free wi-fi. They might as well advertise that they serve coffee. Second, it announces a limit on that offer—one that none of their competitors impose—and does so as if it were a generous benefit.

When you name your coffee shop Cyberspace Coffee, you’re telling people you’re all about the internet. It’s an implied claim that elicits certain expectations from consumers, most obviously the expectation of unlimited wi-fi and caffeinated beverages.

When you put out an advertising message that contradicts your very name, what that ad really says is “We don’t know what we’re doing and can’t be trusted.” (I don't mean to pick on the little guy here. Big brands do this as well.)

And what’s with the phone number? Am I going to call them to order a latte?

* A quick Google search led me to a recent article on the New York Times tech blog that talks about Starbucks beginning to offer two free hours of wi-fi to customers.


Anonymous said...

FYI: We have been offering FREE WiFi at Tully's for about a year and a half. No restrictions or sign up needed. Tom T. O'Keefe, Head Barista

David Bradley said...

The signs were a way to bring in new business in an area the was under exposed. You can comment all you like about how you think the signs are pointless. But to be honest those signs brought in more customers than anything. In addition yes you can call an order a latte as you put it. The name may imply Internet but people still asked every time they came in if we had WiFi. Maybe understand the business and the area before you go spouting off in a pointless manner. This is Seattle not New York.