Starbucks Stole My Marketing Strategy!
Tell us about your experience with Second Cup Coffee Company and how you introduced it to the UK market competitively?
It was back in 2013, right after serving as a full-time Chemical Engineer in operations when I had just about finished a few real estate projects; I was looking for a retail F&B franchise business with the view of opening and outlet to fund opening more outlets. I was a coffee fanatic and a hobbyist cook with a love for culinary and indulgent desserts and drinks, yet a passionate bodybuilder and health enthusiast who knew how to eat or drink almost anything whilst staying in shape and good health. My friends and family always commended me for my choice of dine-out, improvising recipes at home and the selection and methods of making teas and coffees. When I was 15, I would put milk in a blender to make it frothy and then pour it over freshly brewed instant coffee to impress my family with a homemade cappuccino. I was so addicted to caffeine as a teenager, I would usually say in a joke to my friends ‘guys, I think my blood levels are dropping in my caffeine, can we go to a café quick!’
After analysing the market gap, growth, the highest profit margins of coffee within the F&B sector and my passion for the beverage, it all made perfect sense to me to look for a brand within the coffee sector. Second Cup Coffee Company Inc. and I found each other by coincidence as they were looking for a first U.K. partner and I was eagerly looking for a territorial Master Franchise coffee brand license. I opted for buying out the Manchester territory of the brand and worked closely with the franchise team to recruit more partners nationwide by advertising the agreed anticipated launch, and we were lucky to have signed up a strong candidate for Birmingham and a billion-dollar group for London right before opening our first outlet and my store in the U.K.
In the year of 2014, we opened our first pioneering flagship café which was my store in the heart of Manchester, and Europe’s inner-city largest shopping mall, the Arndale Centre. We began trading in October 2014 by fiercely competing with all the mainstream high street brands, but much to my dismay, within ten days of trading, the local city council shut the street from both ends for building a new tram line that not only caused a halt to the instantaneous growth but resulted in negative and declining revenues. We found out that the landlord had knowledge of these events in advance and was dishonest with us – when we approached them to ask for a reduction in rent, they refused our offer and tried to take the property over that was just revamped with my liquid capital of £ 300k fit-out. It was then that I had to structure my budget to fund the ongoing losses and look for a way to magically send customers to the outlet. I would stay overnight at the café and keep sampling products with young instagramers to find a niche Instagram audience that will promote one of my USP products and start sending customers with organic reach. In those days, the organic reach was much easier and with my past years of social media experience, I managed to drive 50 unique customers a day for this unique product to the café. The product was so scarce and unmatchable at competition, the new customers organically produced more customers, who then explored the other dessert offerings with the drink too. We drove that café from start to a 75% increase in sales in under 24 months, with all the adverse insurmountable-to-beat conditions against us.
Corporate espionage by big brands was beyond unacceptable, to the extent that Starbucks baristas were coming in to order a drink and would then drop a hair follicle into the drink to post on social media. At this stage I knew that the competition would take every measure to kick me out of the high street, with the addition of Costa Coffee opening an unwanted loss-making café right next door to us, whilst having three cafes on the stretch of the same street.
Pret A Manger hired my own so-called friends and staff to seek our data and expansion plans to see if they could stop the proliferation of the brand and I was really only trying to run my own small independently-owned franchised café business that was supporting local businesses and creating a mix of 15 part-time and full-time jobs. I was only 27 with just under ten years of work experience and I still managed to give all the players a hard time in capturing their punters away from them and sending them to wrong locations to open stores, beating them at their own deceptive, unethical and immoral game.
The USP product that I chose was called the ‘Green Tea Latte’ – a very soothing, indulgent drink that had a unique-to-Second Cup recipe. I shook Starbucks with my product selection and marketing campaigns so much that it resulted in them copying the product, replicating the marketing tactics, and launching it globally in their own stores – which badly backfired at them as the drink was nowhere near the original recipe of what we were offering. As I was growing the business year on year at way above the industry average, later in May 2017, a bomb went off inside of the Manchester Arena just about 300 meters away from the café, killing innocents, destroying trust in the public, and reducing footfall and our sales all the way back to where they were. On the day of the blast almost every business shut their doors and ran away, but I saw a lot of children, women, ambulance personnel, journalists and our valiant police officers stranded in the city with nowhere to sit for a drink. It was a hot sunny day – I and my friend Jack who was café manager at the café back then, we opened the café and provided shelter, support and free food and drinks to everyone, and supported GMP (Greater Manchester Police) until closing our doors for good.
The philanthropic action was witnessed, covered, and my interviews streamlined on Sky News, CCTV, Reuters and many other agencies. Manchester City Council started giving a lot of relief and help to businesses in our vicinity out of which most of them were big groups. We had our hopes high and were expecting similar aid and assistance but instead we got a bizarre, inflated, incorrect business rates bill. When we challenged it, their response was ‘pay this now and we will compensate later’. As we were arranging for bill correction with our advisors and setting up a payment plan, they shut our store down, killing jobs and the business. Second Cup was busy with their expansion plans and the high demand from investors and my stance of investing heavily in digital marketing was overlooked by everyone involved within. Ever since then we have filed multiple cases against all parties involved for the malice and destruction of my honest business. Second Cup is an amazing concept with its versatile food and drink offerings, and it has evidently competed against its competitors globally, and will prove the same in the U.K.
Just a year before parting ways from the Second Cup business, I knew my digital marketing prowess, its strength and recognition amongst marketers around the world – I, along with some friends in the industry, put together a document of evidence of all of my successful marketing stunts and we approached some very well-known brands of our time whose names I can’t mention. I was instructed to do some digital marketing strategies for them which proved a significant difference in revenues for them. Today, I am working on building the world’s largest AI and ML driven digital marketing agency, alongside a number of tech firms that will revolutionise the digital marketing we so far know. One of my experiments proved a reach of over 65 million viewers worldwide with a single organic stunt. I have mentors and clients that are both older and younger than me. I work very closely with people that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in digital marketing personally and we are a community of friends where everyone teaches each other the ever-changing new tweaks of algorithms.
To speak to Masood directly, you can contact him via his own personal website:
Adam is a digital marketing entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in the industry. His copywriting has contributed towards building multimillion £/$ e-commerce brands with proven email marketing strategies. Today, Adam is fiercely passionate about helping SMEs optimise their customer value journeys with effective content marketing and scaleable digital strategies at Magnet Monster.