Thursday, June 5, 2014

What’s In A Name?


Mythos has nearly, if not completely, died out of coffee houses. My good friend Google defines mythos as a myth or mythology (reoccurring themes); a set of beliefs or assumptions about something. It is my position that people want, maybe even need, mythos to bring value into their lives. For example: religion, political parties, and fraternities/sororities. These groups all have a reoccurring theme or established assumptions. What is the first step? The name. Christian, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. When we read those names, we all pull certain assumptions and beliefs about those groups.



 An example of mythos in the current coffee world that everyone knows is Starbucks. Starbuck was the first mate in Moby Dick and their logo is that of a siren, tying together the nautical and literary theme. The mythology was added after Schultz purchased the name. They wanted to add substance to the name. They have long since abandoned their theme as the logo and name have become so ingrained in the public’s mind that there is no need to support it with a story.

Another example of mythos is quality. This would be the “set of assumptions or beliefs” part of mythos. When I worked at the Bucks they told me my goal as a barista was to make the same quality drink at my store as the person in a different state made at their store. That way, when a customer bought coffee, they always knew exactly what they were buying, no matter where in the world they were. If you push customer’s expectations, by meeting that expectation consistently, it will become an assumption. Customers will then enter the store with a set of assumptions and beliefs about quality, and by extension, your shop.

One of my pet peeves of coffee houses is the unfortunate attempts at witty names. There is a shop in my part of town called Java Grounds. What is the only thing that comes to your mind? To me, they better be selling beans from Java, or I’m going to be upset.  But really, their name is just telling the world that they sell coffee. That’s it; nothing more, nothing special. What’s the point?

Then we have companies like Cartel Coffee. In Arizona, our culture is charged with border conflict. We have had Joe Arpaio, built a fence, murders, and lots of drugs. To name a coffee shop “Cartel” in this cultural climate pulls so much meaning it would be hard to list out. In this state, that name is powerful and rich with implications.

I have started with the name Muertos Coffee. To be honest, I’m not sure it will stick. It does apply to the local culture and art style of a large people group, but will alienate others. A lot of people don’t understand the cultural beauty of Dia de Los Muertos and think it morbid. I will have to overcome a lot of assumptions people will make just by the name. I stuck with the name because that is exactly what I want to do. I want someone to walk into my store and see some tatted up rock ’a billy chick working next to a Mexican kid and think, “oh my god, who do they hire here?” Then when they interact with my personnel, the customer service and coffee experience will be so good it will blow their perceptions out of the water. I want to leave a mark when they leave (on their social assumptions of course, I won’t be splashing hot coffee on anyone). Destroying social perceptions in that way will make a difference in people’s lives, which what I ultimately want to do.