My guest today is Scott Snyder, the Chief Executive Officer at Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, a 31-year-old coffee franchise brand. Scott is an award winning marketing strategist and business growth consultant with a consistent track record of transforming early stage brands into category leaders. His special sauce is re-inventing legacy brands to realize new levels of success and relevance.
Prior to joining Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, first as a consultant and then as an investor, Scott was a founding partner at Xylem Digital, an international digital marketing and strategic growth agency that facilitated the rapid growth and expansion of over 40 brands in the food and beverage space including Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, Jamba Juice, Red Robin, Noodles, Einstein Bagel Brothers, and many more.
I invited Scott to be a guest on my show to talk about the meteoric rise of the Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii brand. I wanted to learn what role branding plays in the success of a franchise brand and I was curious to hear how COVID has affected the franchise world.
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Hi I'm Joelly, your Branding Badass, and welcome to season two of Branding Matters. My guest today is Scott Snyder, the Chief Executive Officer at Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, a 31 year old coffee franchise brand that's taken the world by storm. Scott is an award winning marketing strategist and Business Growth consultant with a consistent track record of transforming early stage brands into category leaders and especial sauce is reinventing legacy brands to realize new levels of success and relevance. I invited Scott to be a guest on my show to talk about the meteoric rise of the badass coffee of Hawaii brand. I wanted to learn what will branding plays in the success of a franchise brand. And I was curious to hear how COVID has affected the franchise world. Scott, welcome to branding matters.Scott Snyder:
Thank you, Joelly.Nice to be here.Joelly Goodson :
Oh, well, it's nice to have you here with me even though you're in sunny, warm Colorado and I'm in Calgary,Scott Snyder:
it's unseasonably warm and very comfortable. So thank you.Joelly Goodson :
Nice. Well, I'm really happy to have you here. So I obviously love the name of your brand. Can you share the story of the badass coffee story, where the name came from and how it all came to be?Scott Snyder:
Sure. We'll we'll start with the name because that's a lot of fun to talk about, you know, the badass coffee of Hawaii pays homage to the donkey's that for generations on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is really where coffee started in Hawaii and the islands, it was first grown on the Big Island of Hawaii and the Kona district. And you know, back then, in the 1800s, we didn't have machines and frankly, the steep volcanic slopes really wouldn't allow a machine even if they had it to be able to bring the coffee down those rugged slopes and so they use donkeys and they used the donkeys because of their reliable nature and being a little stubborn but but also being very committed and very loyal animals to bring down the precious cargo of coffee. The locals refer to them the the natives referred them as the badass ones. And that's really where the name started. And that's lived down. In fact, if you drive along the highway there in Hawaii today and into the Kona district, you still see the donkey crossing signs. And so that's a big part of the history. It's a big part of coffee in Hawaii are donkeysJoelly Goodson :
I love that. So when you say the badass ones, do they refer to that? Because they were stubborn, hard working? I mean, what what's your definition of badass? I'm curious.Scott Snyder:
Well, that's badass is a lot of things to a lot of different people as it relates to the donkeys Yes, it was because of the reliable strong nature. You know, that's one of the great things about this brand. I think there is a dual meaning and everybody has a different interpretation of what badass is or what being a badass is. We think that it's a great parallel coffee is a fuel and we believe that there's a little badass in everybody. And so for us badass coffee pays homage to the donkeys and pays homage to our Hawaiian heritage but deep down and coffees about fueling that inner badass and all of us there are remarkable things that everyday ordinary people do every day, you know, Without gratitude without promotion, and we celebrate that. And so you know, badass coffee of Hawaii is the place to celebrate the inner badass and all of us,Joelly Goodson :
me being the branding badass people have asked me but that name and you know, when I think of a badass I think of as someone who comes up against adversity challenges gets knocked down seven times and gets up eight times. Right. And you talked about stubborn I love that and persevering when you talk about the donkey. So that's why I love it. And that's why I love your name for your coffee. And I love the story where it came from because I think we all can tap into our inner badass. Right. And I think that's what helps us get through the day.Scott Snyder:
Absolutely. I think that Asri as we would call it isn't a title. It's something that you earn and you earn it by the way you live your life every day. And really for us our Hawaiian heritage is one of the three big brand pillars that this brand is built on. And it goes right there along with Ohana and family and so badass hurry isn't just about doing really extreme things. It's about doing everyday things the way you protect your family and you know getting up early in the morning to make your kids breakfast or to walk them to school bus or just the little things right and so badass hurry and being a badass and combine that with Ohana family, these are all things that are keys to our culture and their pillars of the brand and we celebrate that I love it. So can you describe me one of your franchise I've never been into one of your store. So can you describe if I were to walk in what would that experience look like? Sure tried to pay homage to our Hawaiian heritage. So when you walk in the door visually, there's some very subtle design elements that we integrate in all elements of the brand. I think that's another important part of this. What you see in the stores are some visual design elements that are very big part of Hawaiian culture, you may see tribal bands, right, which you may see as a tattoo and bicep of Orion. You'll also see it on our walls. You also see it into our bags, you'll see it into some of the background of our signage. And so you know, really tying all the visual elements together is important. We really focused on colors that celebrate Hawaii, land and sea. And so you'll you'll see blues that remind us of the waters, you'll see greens that remind us of the lush, tropical forests and the grazing areas of Parker Ranch and Hawaii, those are all part of the brand, you know, soJoelly Goodson :
you feel like you're walking into Hawaii, like if it's a cold winter day, let's say and I'm in Colorado, and I'm freezing and I walk into one of your badass coffee shops, am I automatically or do I feel like I'm being transported now to the island of Hawaii where I can relax and enjoy the culture? Is that the kind of feeling that it is? Or?Scott Snyder:
I sure hope so. You know, I think if you've been to Hawaii before, there's kinds of experiences if you've never been to Hawaii before you have a you have a vision for what Hawaii is like we hope that we fill in the gaps of that vision and give you a place to escape to if you have been to Hawaii before and you can, you know sort out what advertising has told us Hawaii is all about and you actually know what that experiences. We hope that when you come into the store you feel like it's returning to your happy place. It's a place that you feel home. It's very authentic. It's not kitschy,Joelly Goodson :
that's, that's great. Okay, I have to ask you, what is Ahana? Is that what you said?Scott Snyder:
Ohana.Joelly Goodson :
Ohana, you said that I gotta write that down.Scott Snyder:
It's Hawaiian for family. And again, that's part of our culture. If you spend any time in Hawaii, you see how family groups interact and how they have each other's back how there's literally nothing they won't do for each other. And they meet as a family, they enjoy life as a family, and they support each other. And again, we think that's a parallel, that's a big part of our culture. But it's also indicative of the relationship that we think is possible with a franchise company between the franchisor and the franchisees. They're all part of our ohana. And we're partners in our mutual success. So that's important. That's part of the brand.Joelly Goodson :
Okay, 100. Now, I know talking about franchise, why is brand awareness so critical to the success of a franchise?Scott Snyder:
Well, I think if you're looking to open a new business, any business, right, you've got some decisions to make. Number one, what is your you know, what is your expertise in that field? Was your reputation? What is your knowledge? Are you building a brand from scratch? So why would you possibly consider a franchise brand? I think that there's a lot of reasons why my people do that. One of the biggest differentiators is it is that business in a box, a lot of that hard work as has already been done for you. You don't need to create a brand from scratch, and then that out in the world, and whether using influencers or traditional marketing, you're still earning every customer and action. But with a franchise, you have a head start on that that brand awareness is out there, there's a reputation and there's a draw, right, there's a demand for that brand. And so if you're the one that's bringing that to your market, you're several steps ahead of going at it alone with no history and no brand recall and no brand affinity. And I think you know, for us, when I saw the opportunity that was here with badass coffee of Hawaii, it's rare as marketers that we get a chance to start from scratch and to build a brand honoring all the the most important elements but basically having a white canvas to do it. If you could do it all over again. What would you do? What best practice would you add to it right? And so we basically to become a 31 year old startup, which is a really odd to me. But it's kind of the same thing as starting your own business. There was a reputation before there was a brand awareness, there was a almost a cult following. And so if you're a franchisee, you're gaining that market traction, you're gaining that awareness and demand for the brand and a place where it's never been and you become the Savior who brings it to that market. So what are the disadvantages and advantages for being a corporate brand versus being a franchisor? What I think,Joelly Goodson :
Sorry, and why would a corporate brand like why would a business decide to franchise out?Scott Snyder:
Well I'll answer your second question. I think for most companies, I can only speak from my own personal experience over the last 35 years watching companies make that decision or in some cases, having worked with some companies that have switched where they started out as a corporate brand, and then decided to go to a franchise brand. And I think it's generally in most cases, not all, but in most cases, I think it's a capital decision. You certainly have a lot more control. If you're going to go a corporate route. It also requires a lot more capital to be able to open all of those stores and there's a whole collection of decisions. You know, but for franchise brands, I think it's a great way to expand and can expand quickly with not nearly you know the fraction of capital required to do that. I mean your focus Sound Like we said earlier focused on building that product in a way that can be replicable and repeatable with repeatable success. And your focus after that is really on supporting the success of those individual franchisees. And honestly, from a branding standpoint, that's where consistency is key. Right? So if you're in a corporate brand situation, there is no but so that clear understanding of, of what that brand is about and what that brand systems about, and then how do we achieve that consistency? That's critical. So if someone out there is listening in they're thinking of buying a franchise or investing in a franchise, I should say, because it is an investment, obviously, is there any movement? Or is there any opportunity for them to put their own personal brand into it? Or is it like you consistency, so every single badass coffee retail store that you go to is going to look and feel and everything is exactly the same? I think that varies from brand to brand. What do I believe is the most successful? I think, yes, also franchise brands have been those where consistency is key, right. And so it starts with the basics. You know, the franchisor really works hard, but a lot of money and effort into establishing those brand standards. And the key comes in how those brand standards are communicated, how they're modeled how they're checked for understanding and then helping that franchisee to execute them flawlessly. You follow that up with a toolkit that gives the franchisees everything that they need to be able to honor the standard in the way that it was designed, and that they know that they've got support from the home office to be able to execute flawlessly. Consistency is just that you expect a common experience from one end to the other. And as we said earlier, I think the difference here is it goes beyond just the products, you expect to have that same signature flavored latte in Virginia Beach as they do in San Diego. But what really makes that you know, where can that franchisee really put their special sauce into it. And I think that goes back to the fact that they are independent business owners, their pillars in their community are they're a very important part of that community. And so their ability to deliver on the emotional aspects of that brand, that aloha spirit that warm Aloha when you come in at mahalo that thank you for your business, and really being a part of that community and displaying and modeling what makes that aloha spirit different and a differentiator. I think that's really where the franchisees contribute to that they've got everything that they need from the rational elements of the brand, but their special sauce is what role they play in their community, you know, doing badass for good. And they're one of the things that we really realized real early into the ownership of this brand was COVID came along about eight months into it. And one of the things that we were really surprised, I guess is the right word, but really pleased to see was after years and years of supporting their communities as being a local coffee shop. Yes, it was a franchise, but we really didn't have many locations. And so I don't think many people realize that it was a franchise brand. But after years of supporting their communities, when COVID hidden, everybody shut down. It was heartwarming and wonderful to see the community support our stores back. That is something that differentiates a corporate store from a franchise store.Joelly Goodson :
I love that. And it's so true what you said about community and I love what you said about that consistency and how even though they're you know, you described it earlier as a business in a box, which really, you know, it is but then that each store, depending on location has their own unique personality they can put into it tell you a really quick, funny story. So when I was 16, I used to work at a big franchise with the big yellow arches. I think we know who I'm talking about. And I got fired. Because I didn't follow their mandate, my friends would come in and I would talk to them shocker, I know. And they would come in, I talked them to the cash register. And I kept getting reprimanded, like, you have to follow this is what you have to say when they walk in the door to anyway and I got fired. So I didn't do well. But I love that they're able to put a bit of their personality into their individual stores because i You're right, I think that's what creates that connection with people in their community. And that's what branding is all about is connecting with your community and your customers. Absolutely. So don't don't hold that against me because I got fired.Scott Snyder:
I had my stent there as well asJoelly Goodson :
Oh, that's funny. Oh, that's great. Okay, so let's be honest, coffee is a huge market. You have so many there's so many people out there. So what differentiates you talked about that earlier? What differentiates the badass coffee brand from all your competitors and what you do better?Scott Snyder:
There are a million competitors in the market. It's a very crowded space as I looked at the market, and as my colleagues looked at it with me, what we believed was that we had a better story to tell we have a better experience to offer to share. There's some fun in a name like badass coffee, there's an escape in going to Hawaii by visiting a badass coffee. Nobody owns Hawaiian coffee like badass coffee. There's a number of points that differentiate us From our customer service to the way the stores look, the vibe and the way that we honor Hawaii and the way that we honor coffee is one of our pillars of our expertise, again, coffee, Hawaiian heritage and that inner badass, I think when you put those three things together, that's a clear differentiator in the market, you know, you had on Adam Morgan several months ago on this podcast, and I really enjoyed it. It was great. It was great. And he talks a lot about challenger brands. That's a term I think that's generally thrown out and associated with startup brands, I believe that absolutely applies here. We're not trying to be number one. And we're not trying to be the same as the number one in the category. We're doing our own thing and doing your own thing means amplifying what our differences are, when you walk into our store, there's no question where you are. And we think that that's pretty bold. And I think that's another one of the three criteria that Adam talks about in his book, about being a challenger brand. So we really embrace that, from the products that we serve to the physical environment. Everything about our brand is differentiating,Joelly Goodson :
I want to dig a little bit deeper to the franchise world, because I haven't had anybody on here really talk about franchising, and I find it really interesting business model. So why would somebody invest in a franchise? I mean, I know we talked about a business in a box. But if I was someone out there, can you give me some other reasons, one of the some of the benefits of investing in a franchise?Scott Snyder:
Absolutely. You know, I think it runs the gamut between whether you are an individual or a couple or a group, right, whether you're looking open at one or two locations, or whether you're more of a professional franchisee, a company that's in the business of franchising, so why would you do it? Well, maybe to make more money, or maybe to be your own boss, or, or just the, you know, kind of the security and the safety net of knowing that it's kind of that combination of business in a box, but also knowing that there's going to be someone there to help guide me, right. I don't want to learn from my own mistakes. I want to learn from other people's mistakes in a way that I benefit from that right out of the bat. For some, it could be a retirement plan, we find a lot of franchisees are looking for their second career.Joelly Goodson :
I know someone who did that actually, she worked really world. Yeah, she retired and she and her husband bought a franchise. Tere you go, that happens a lot. We have some franchisees right now who are doing this, because they want to create an opportunity for their kids or an asset for their family. And so they start to build up a franchise business, you know, starting with a single location, and then adding more and more. And so over time, they've really created a viable money making asset or maybe they want to get their kids into management positions within each of those. If you're a larger franchise company, you may be looking at more franchising to round out your portfolio. I read a quote somewhere, and I thought this summarize franchise businesses really well. When you own a franchise, you're in business for yourself, but not by yourself.Scott Snyder:
I may use that.Joelly Goodson :
Yeah, I'll give you that one. No, but that really sums it up, right? Because that's exactly summarizes what you were just saying, You are intrapreneur. But you have this big backup, as you call it, the Ohana behind you helping you.Scott Snyder:
You do and I think what's most important, regardless of where you fall in that continuum is to know upfront what you want to do accomplish by going into franchising is that a good fit to do the thing that you want to do or to what you want to accomplish within the timeframe that you want to accomplish it, right. And if it is, then do your homework and make sure that it's a good fit for you that it's a good fit for your family. Right? I mean, your families are all part of this too, and that it's a good fit for your community. Right.Joelly Goodson :
That's great. Okay, so obviously, I would be remiss without talking about COVID. I can only imagine how it's affected you. So how has COVID affected your business? And how are things today? And what have you done differently since COVID?Scott Snyder:
That's uncharted territory for everybody. The restaurant industry as a whole just got hammered in three months. And you know, we saw business dropped in the highest 60% range over the first six to seven weeks. So I think really what COVID did was it really accelerated the adoption and integration of technology, you know, order had the integration of delivery services, you know, UberEATS and Grubhub. And all those guys, it forced businesses to pivot in terms of their ability to still receive orders to take orders to deliver them or have them ready in a timely fashion certainly put an emphasis on Drive Thru, it changed the way we looked at the no touch approach to things right. We're all much more aware of that. So I think in a lot of ways, it was already trending that way, but I think COVID really gave the industry you know, kick in the pants that became a requirement for doing business. Unfortunately for us, it happened about seven months into our ownership of the brand and we knew that we were vulnerable there. We had a number of POS systems across our network of franchise stores, very few of our stores had drive thru. So there again, I think this is where you know, the Ohana comes in, right we hold our heads together and assess the situation and very quickly implemented some technologies that It filled some of those gaps, you know QR codes where they didn't have an online ordering system or where they didn't have mobile ordering things like that. It really forced that element of the business. It was hard on everybody. And it was hard work. But we all stuck together and pulled it off. Wow. That's amazing. And what about So what about the digital space? Where are you as far as online goes? I mean, you have, obviously a website and I follow you on social media. So I see all the great stuff that you guys are doing. Can you tell me a little about your online presence? Sure. Two ways to answer that question from a franchise.Joelly Goodson :
I never have a simple question. I always have a bunch of questions.Scott Snyder:
That's okay. We like we like tough ones. A franchisee standpoint, as I said, we were vulnerable when COVID hid in that we didn't have a uniform online presence for customers to order from their favorite store, that integration is now taking place that'll be complete before the end of this year. And so we are making it easier for customers, whether it's buying a latte, or buying their favorite bag of coffee that they want to brew at home on the weekend when they're not stopping a badass coffee on their way to and from work. So we've made that much easier and partnered with our stores to make sure that that's done in a way that makes sense for their business.Joelly Goodson :
Amazing. Well, that's so great. Well, I love your story. I love your name. And I'm so thrilled to have you on here today Scott to share all that, you know, franchising is such an interesting industry and then with your coffee and the story and everything. It's just been such a pleasure. So if people want to learn more about you so speaking of social media, or you know, I know that I see badass coffee all over social media, but are you personally on social media or what's the best way for someone if they want more information to connect with you? Our website is BadAssCoffee.com That's Bad Ass two words whereas mine is one wordScott Snyder:
Bad Ass is the brand and badass is one word. You can follow us you can go to BadAss Coffee dot com to find out a lot more about our company and about our history and ways to shop and all sorts of links there to get into franchising and everything else from there you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram and other social platforms. If you'd like to get a hold of me directly I'd love to hear from you. And my email address is Scott a co TT at Royal Aloha com.Joelly Goodson :
Okay, wonderful.Well thank you again as they say in Hawaii Malala is that how you pronounce? Mahala is thank you in Hawaiian. I got it backwards! Well thank you again, and it's so great to be connected with you. So I hope we will stay in touchScott Snyder:
mahalo Joelly, I appreciate it.Joelly Goodson :
We'll talk to you soon. Bye And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the conversation and maybe learned a few things to help you with your branding. And most of all, I hope you had some fun. This show is a work in progress. So please remember to rate and review on whatever platform you listen to podcasts. And if you want to learn more about me and what I do to help my clients with their branding, feel free to reach out to me on any of the social channels under you guessed it, Branding Badass. Branding Matters was produced, edited and hosted by Joelly Goodson awesome. So thanks again and until next time, here's to all you badasses out there