Campaigns: Food and drink - Costa's £10m tongue takes the taste test

Campaign: Seven out of ten coffee lovers prefer Costa
Client: Costa Coffee UK
PR team: Paratus Communications
Timescale: March-April 2009
Budget: £35,000

Costa commissioned independent research that established seven in ten coffee drinkers preferred Costa to other brands such as Starbucks and Caffe Nero. Paratus Communications was asked to communicate this message and support an advertising campaign around the 'seven out of ten' message.


- To communicate the research findings

- To change consumer perception that all coffee tastes the same

- To switch Starbucks and Caffe Nero drinkers to Costa

- To support the 'seven out of ten coffee lovers' advertising campaign.

Strategy and plan

Paratus developed a news idea around Gennaro Pelliccia, Costa's Master of Coffee and the man behind every single cup of Costa sold around the world. In order to protect his expertise and the taste of Costa, Pelliccia's tongue was insured with Lloyds of London for £10m.

Photos of Pelliccia at Costa's roastery and media information were prepared to roll out alongside the launch of an advertising campaign communicating the seven out of ten message.

More than 300 media kits containing research findings, advertising and pre-paid Costa cards were sent out. Interviews with Pelliccia were offered at Costa's roastery in Lambeth. One-to-one meetings with key media in ten UK regions were held and in-store Costa baristas helped engage stores with the campaign. Paratus also worked with ZenithOptimedia to maximise opportunities with key titles.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign achieved eight national TV interviews and features with a total of 26 minutes on air. It also achieved three separate slots on BBC Breakfast and a live interview with Pelliccia on Channel 4 News. The story was also covered on BBC News 24 and BBC World News. It appeared on Sky News radio, BBC World Service, Capital FM, BBC Radio 4's Today programme and BBC Radio 5 Live.

It also appeared in 15 national newspapers including The Times, the Daily Mail and The Sun, as well as in regional newspapers including The Irish News and Glasgow Evening Times. Marketing media also covered and debated the campaign.

Online the story was the third 'most shared' story of the day on BBC News and was tweeted by Jon Snow before the interview on Channel 4 News. A Facebook fan page for Pelliccia was set up. The campaign also generated more than 100 items of news coverage internationally.


Costa's UK sales rose by nine per cent on the day of the launch. Costa's key performance indicators (customer satisfaction, recommendation and revisit) increased by six per cent while Starbucks' decreased by eight per cent. The campaign was covered by media in more than 40 international markets.

It also won a PR Lions International Advertising Festival Award at the end of June.


Richard Brett, Director of planning and strategy, Shine Communications

This is a well thought through campaign that, with a relatively small budget, was able to deliver some superb editorial results.

The campaign highlights the importance of truly meaningful consumer research that has been the foundation for some strategically focused tactics.

This taste test story could have foundered had it not been for the use of a credible spokesperson with true provenance. The tongue insurance angle is a great piece of tactical spin; whether led by the PR team or not, it really substantiated the story, and gave it added credibility.

With these pillars the story was able to deliver broad coverage, and by luck or great timing, forced Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to comment at a time when the chain was under fire for a variety of reasons.

Adding on some digital and experiential tactics would be another way to reach consumers directly with the message; I can easily see coffee aficionado online communities proclaiming their love for Costa - the Costa Lovers only drink the best tasting coffee.

However, despite all of this I cannot help but feel that Costa remains a relatively weak brand in the UK, and trying to own the best tasting coffee territory is a brave step without a strong brand foundation. Costa does not have the underlying strength of Caffe Nero, and it would be great to see how the campaign linked back to a simple proposition for the consumer. Best tasting is not a territory that can be easily protected.

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