Build Your Brand Identity by Studying Pacific Northwest Coffee Culture

Build your Brand Identity by Studying Pacific Northwest Coffee Culture

There’s a lot of things PNW Coffee Shops have gotten right when it comes to building a culture around their business and developing their own brand identity.


Here’s a list of a few things that have helped them develop a cult following and continue to attract young people:

  1. These coffee shops provide an intellectually stimulating environment for customers to further discuss and develop their culture.
  2. Products and facilities are customizable. Everyone has “their drink” and “their spot” at the coffee shop.
  3. Employees are almost indistinguishable from customers.
  4. The best coffee shops are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, morally or politically (PC or not, right or left, etc.). Whatever it may be, everyone knows where they stand on that subject.
  5. These Pacific Northwest coffee shops take “local” to a whole new level. They have a local ad agency to do their advertising, they locally source their pastries and drinks, and they may go as far as furnishing their shops through a local carpenter/ antique store.
Pacific Northwest coffee culture brand identity
Seattle Coffee brand identity vs brand image

The early beginnings of American coffee culture; setting the foundation for strong brand identity in Seattle, Portland, and Bend Oregon.

First of all:

Let’s just say that if you wanted to order a latte outside of the Pacific Northwest a quarter-decade ago, there was a good chance that the person serving your coffee wouldn’t know what you were asking for.

The term “barista” wasn’t common American vernacular at the time, and the chances of finding someone who fit that description outside of the Pacific Northwest was rare.


Back then:

Starbucks was still a small shop running out of Seattle, Dutch Bros was still a pushcart in Grants Pass OR and Black Rifle Coffee wasn’t even an idea yet.


25 years later:

The idea that good coffee and specialty drinks should be available everywhere in the US has really caught on.

A lot of this is due to the expansion of major brands like Starbucks on the West Coast, and Dunkin’ Donuts back east.

However, a lot of the best coffee isn’t found in a large corporate chain where the over-priced coffee complements the IKEA furniture.

The giants that created Pacific Northwest coffee culture are past their prime, and now, there is a changing of the guard.

PNW coffee shops stay relevant by allowing their brand identities to adapt to their newer customer's changing preferences.

Back to the old days in a big way:

Coffee culture is experiencing a new revolution, transitioning back to the hometown and repurposed-craft coffee shops of old.

These new “old coffee shops” have the cozy feeling of a 50’s diner, the industrial décor of a 1918 manufacturing factory, and coffee made by the Gods themselves.

These places do very well to attract young urban professionals and students from local universities.

Small-town coffee shops could more appropriately be referred to as coffee lounges, providing the same intellectually stimulating atmospheres as the lecture halls of ancient Greek philosophers.

Portland Coffee brand identity examples

These are the kinds of things that most people in 2017, especially millennials in their 20’s and 30’s, are looking for. Intellectually stimulating, inviting, open, and honestly, a little run-down and rustic. Add to that some engaging social media marketing, and you have yourself a strong brand identity to further develop your business and customer culture.

If you’re looking to build your company’s culture, put down the Starbucks and try the local place across the street. You might just find your next burst of inspiration; or at least your new favorite place to grab a hot cup of Joe.


If you’re still looking for some brand identity inspiration, here’s a list of 25 examples of brand identity design done right.