A Marketing Story from the Colectivo Bus

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My senses are still confused whenever I order a Decaf Espresso Toro from the local coffee cafe. I smell and taste Alterra coffee but my eyes are seeing Colectivo.

By now Alterra aficionados know that the successful local coffee chain sold its name to Mars Inc. Hence the name change and my coffee-induced “sensual” vertigo. The proceeds from the sale, inked three years ago, enabled Alterra to expand to their current 13 locations in southeastern and central Wisconsin.

But what did Mars Inc. get out of the deal?

One of the reasons that marketers like to create brands is to be able to build a story about the brand. Owning the Alterra brand provided Mars with a good story:

According to their website, “Alterra coffee was born in Milwaukee in 1993 when three friends, working nights while keeping their daytime businesses afloat needed a strong brew. In order to get it, they decided that they had to roast their own — and ALTERRA™ was born!”

A good, unique story gives a brand authenticity and a way to differentiate a product from its competitors.  It might seem like an expensive way to get a brand story, but probably not for Mars, which produces M&Ms, Snickers, Wrigley gum, and has $33 billion in annual sales. Consider it an investment in brand equity.

Incidentally, the new name was borrowed from the colorful buses found in many Latin American countries. The name comes from “vehiculos de transporte colectivo” (“vehicles for collective transport”).

Perhaps the local coffee roaster has global expansion plans?

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