Grabbing my morning cup yesterday I began thinking that while coffee culture has grown dramatically through time, but the public stage (the coffee shop) has changed as a place of social discourse. Coffee drinking seems to have moved farther away from the social activity that it appears to be, at least on the surface. Yes, coffee shops are full and people interact with each other, but the advent of personal technology has changed the dynamic from its pre-wifi beginnings. It’s far more likely to see people working on laptops, reading, playing Angry Birds or doing some other form of solo activity, be it work or leisure, at the coffee shop. The number who are there solely for social purposes seems very small.
Our coffee and coffee shops we frequent have become badges to signal who we are and what we believe. It is less about a place devoted to social interaction than a place to say “this is who I am” to like-minded individuals with whom we may rarely speak. Coffee is fashion.
Coffees offer us a way to look at our relationship to the larger world and see that sometimes our choices are not really our own. Brands create us even as we create them. It is not the transaction, but the relationship that matters. And that sort of dynamic is central to the new age of branding and marketing.