Nespresso – the ‘Crema’ de la Crème

Rogue researchers at Nestlé had tinkered around with the coffee capsule and brewing technology that was to become Nespresso since the 1970s. At that time, Nestlé dominated the soluble category, but that category was stagnating. It took Nestlé over a decade and several failed business-to-business model tests until the home-selling model was tested as a ‘last attempt’ from 1989. Because there were so few users initially, no grocery store was willing to stock the ‘pods’ and they had to be ordered via phone and shipped directly. What started out as a tactical fix quickly developed into a unique service experience that had the allure of exclusive membership -the Nespresso Club. From a few hundred, its membership and sales have grown double digits annually ever since, to exceed 10 million members globally by 2010 and over $4 billion by 2013. In addition to the – now online – Clubs, some 450 brand-owned boutiques and cafés have been opened around the world as of 2015.

Behold! – So much more than coffee in a pod

With Nespresso everything revolves around the product. From its name to the unique form of delivery to its communication, the brand succeeds in making its coffee perceived as the holy grail, creating a product experience, language, rituals and visual identity. An inimitable cup of coffee that is always fresh – in every sense of the word.

Nespresso’s advertising is indicative of this celebration of the product as Ueber-Hero. In European ads, George Clooney is shown being out-attracted by a fine cup of Nespresso or mistaken for a valet by Club members. The print and billboard ads show the star as a Nespresso drinker and simply affirm ‘What Else?’ in their confident manner. The consistent message: the product is more suave and sexier than the sexiest man alive (at least according to People magazine, 2017). It’s not just any coffee, but espresso in its most unique and truest form, the essence of espresso – as simple and as perfect as that.

Nespresso gives Clooney halo

Nespresso gives even George a halo (note the crema)

True magic seems to happen when the precious coffees, encapsulated in their mysteriously potent pods, are extracted by the proprietary machines. It is an intricately designed, sensorial experience that involves a muted purr, a room filling with coffee aroma and a distinctive ‘crema’ forming on top of the small espresso potion – which is consistently celebrated in Nespresso communications by using glass cups that let the thick froth show through.

The idiosyncratic, fine wine-inspired language used helps to further the brand elevation: there are some three dozen ‘Grand Crus’ and ‘Limited Editions’ like the popular ‘Arpeggio’ or the more complex ‘Pure Origin Bukela Ka’. For Nespresso disciples who want to dig deeper, the brand website brings the creations to life in in sights and sounds and provides tasting notes that describe the aroma and ‘gustatory-olfactory persistency’ in minute detail.  The most ardent brand fans – we call them ‘Ueber-Target’ – might even join appreciation classes at the boutiques and get the ‘Codex’ book, Nespresso’s tasting and pairing bible.


Appreciation time – Becoming a suave connoisseur… without too much effort.

Such connoisseurship lets the rest of us sip with awe (and with some pride) on our little Nespresso cups. Looking at those pods and machines which blur the lines between art and object. The outward simplicity, the high tech innards, the sensual curves… just like a high-performance car, there are tiers of machines, from the small, youthful Pixie model, all the way to limited-edition machines. And, of course, there is also a plethora of unique accessories, all in the recognizable, post-modernist design and with suggestive names like the ‘Totem’ pod holders or the ‘Aeroccino’ milk frother. – On a strict business development level, they serve to ensure households are richly stocked, regular coffee serving habits are supported and incremental sales generated.

To keep the icon fresh, new flavors or machine designs are released at regular intervals and with the kind of product reveal hoopla Apple is famous for. Whether the recent introduction of the larger, more US-portion making Vertuo line is an ingenious brand extension or a sign of over-scaling that will dilute the brand remains to be seen (pun intended).coffee_b2c_espresso_capsules_volluto_040920081320.png

Further Reading:

The above is but an excerpt of our full Nespresso Ueber-Brand analysis which focuses on the product.  Read the complete case study in our bookRethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands“.

If you want us to help elevate your own brand to Ueber-Brand status, then contact us here.

– Check out the Nespresso brand website and their company website.
– See George Clooney being outshone by Nespresso (and more Ueber-Brand films).
– Read about special ways in which Ueber-Brands leverage celebrities in this post.


About JP Kuehlwein

JP Kuehlwein is a global business leader and brand builder with a 25+ year track record of translating consumer and brand insights into transformational propositions that win in market. Principal at ‘Ueber-Brands’ a New York consulting firm, he now helps others to elevate brands and make them peerless and priceless. JP also teaches brand strategy at NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and leads the Marketing Institute at The Conference Board, all in New York. Jp previously was Executive Vice President at Frédéric Fekkai & Co, a prestige salon operator and hair care brand and lead brand- and corporate strategy development and execution at multinational Procter & Gamble as Brand Director and Director of Strategy. JP and Wolf Schaefer have co-authored the best-selling books “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” which lays out what drives the success of modern premium brands and "Brand Elevation - Lessons in Ueber-Branding" a guide to developing and executing a brand elevation strategy. Find the books here:
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3 Responses to Nespresso – the ‘Crema’ de la Crème

  1. Pingback: Questions To Answer: How ‘Live The Brand Dream’? | Ueber-Brands™

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