Choices, choices, choices

far coastfar2

Finally got around to visiting the Far Coast coffee shop on Orchard Road. It’s an interesting concept – basically Coca-Cola has moved into the coffee business by developing a range of instant ‘gourmet’ coffee machines which it intends to sell to hotels, restaurants etc. They’re the idiot-proof type – load the appropriate capsule, push the button and the machine whips up your cappuccino/macchiato/latte. To create consumer awareness of the Far Coast brand (did they really pay someone to come up with that name?) they have created the Far Coast ‘concept store’ in the centre of town to enable people to enjoy the Far Coast experience (Singapore is the second store – the first was in Montreal). And what an experience it is. You get to select from 7 different types of coffee (or 8 types of tea or 2 types of chocolate) with natty names like ‘Art Haus’ and ‘Opale Noire,’ each of which has a helpful description: ‘This robust, earthy cup demands your attention then seduces with whispers of chocolate and fruit. Give in.’ (who the hell writes this stuff?). So if you happen to be looking for an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You then get to apply your chosen coffee variety to the usual matrix of production methods and sizes – adding up to about 100 different options for coffee alone.

It seems to me that too many companies are taking the ‘consumer choice’ thing way too far. Do consumers really need 100 different coffee options? I can see that a coffee connoisseur might conceivably want the option to choose between a Jamaica Blue Mountain or a Sumatra Mandheling, but Coke isn’t giving them the option because they’ve given all their coffee types fancy-schmancy names. Increasingly companies are overwhelming consumers with such an embarrassment of choices that they become confused and disoriented. I read somewhere the other day that one of the reasons sales of organic fruit and veg are growing in the UK is because consumers find them easier to buy because there is less choice. ‘Technology’ is, in many ways the worst offender. Electronic devices are loaded with so many features, you need a manual the size of War And Peace to explain them all. There was a magnificent rant by Stuart Jeffries in yesterday’s Guardian on the complexification of the mobile phone. It seems to me that increasingly ‘options’ are added for their own sake, rather than because there is a real need – I’m seeing what those Trendwatching hipsters might call Selectyranny – companies forcing more and more choices on consumers. It used to be that a company would come up with a formula – a recommendation, if you like – and present it to the consumer.”We’ve mixed a bunch of whiskies together to create what we reckon is a pretty bloody good blend. We’re sure you’ll like it.” Increasingly companies seem to be saying: “You lot want choice? OK. Here are your options, now you make up your own mind.” I’m not arguing against choice – I love it. What I am arguing against is companies trying to appeal to all of the ‘Nouveau Niches’ at the same time and confusing the hell out of people.

And the coffee was crap.

1 comment so far

  1. Amelia on

    Interesting post…was the coffee really that bad??


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