On Rebranding

On Rebranding
January 4, 2019 Summit Coffee
In Blog

By Brian.

In a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, 84% of consumers believe that leaders “sharing their reasons for business decisions” builds trust in a brand, making it the single most important direct-to-customer communication strategy. So as Summit flips the calendar from 2018 –> 2019 with a rebrand, here’s a glance inside the process.

In his landmark book, “Good to Great,” the author Jim Collins writes:

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

On Monday, we launched new retail coffee bags that, in earnest, completed an 18-month company rebrand I didn’t even realize was happening until at least six months into it. And I think that’s what excites me most about this evolution — it occurred naturally, from a place of curiosity and led by people who understand what Summit is aiming to achieve.

The conversations started in early 2017, when we put pen to paper and committed to a retail cafe in Asheville. As Tyler and I crafted a vision for a new store, entirely from scratch, we started with core feelings: clean, bright, alive, vibrant, remarkable, unique, Instagrammable. (Yeah, that last one’s not a real word but y’all get the point). We wanted a confluence of farm and factory — aged woods, steel beams, big lighting. We wanted to make the cafe feel like Asheville, while also feeling like Summit.

So that begs the question, “What does feeling like Summit” mean? For the longest time, the Summit brand colors have been orange and dark green. Our logo, our merchandise, the walls in our cafes, even the accent colors on our coffee bags. All orange and dark green. But it started feeling antiquated, and representative of what Summit had been. So while our history, our culture, our 20 years in Davidson, all define us, we simultaneously felt a pull to evolve into the Summit we intend to be for the next 20 years.

That led us to some new colors, primarily a jade/neptune green that accents mugs and flower pots in our Asheville cafe. And THAT led us to owning those colors even more with a makeover of our Basecamp cafe in Davidson — repainting the entire cafe, ordering color-matched mugs, designing new merchandise. Still in the green family, and still with the iconic (in my eyes, at least) Summit mountain. But different. New. Fresh. Clean. Bright. Alive. Vibrant. Remarkable. Unique. Instagrammable.

Just as Summit the cafe brand birthed Summit the coffee roasting company, the cafes catalyzed the change in our roasting brand. We’re making a sincere push both regionally and nationally to become one of the highest-quality coffee brands around. Our cafes are dynamic. Our people are dynamic. Our coffee is dynamic. There was just one thing that didn’t fit: our coffee bags.

It’s funny how perceptions change over time, because when we launched our Kraft retail coffee bags with the black labels in 2016, I thought they were kick ass. And for 2016 Summit, they were. They fit the coffee company we were, and represented us admirably.

But fast-forward to 2019, and finally the product and people and brand had all passed the bags by. I guess you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but most consumers purchase based on the cover. It happens to me all the time with beer and wine brands, because a great label or logo indicates a great brand, and a great brand indicates a great product.

Our coffee is among the very best in the U.S., no doubt about it. Our staff is among the very best — smart and hungry and curious — in the U.S. And our bags needed to tell that story. And now they do.

So here are the Summit bags, which sell the same great coffee we’ve been roasting for 4 years but in a more remarkable way. The bags are designed with intention — from the colors, to the topographical design, to the shape, the placement of the valve and zipper. Just as everything we do is with intention.

Here’s the new Summit. It’s a lot like the old Summit. And that’s a good thing.

Comments (4)

  1. Michael Griggs 6 months ago


    I read about the Summit re-branding efforts with great personal interest. Before relocating to Davidson, in 2006, I was with the staff of a National non-profit organization that had spent years on a process to define and market our new brand identity. It was exciting. It was also the most challenging change management process I had ever been part of. It also worked. I applaud your efforts, along with the support of the Summit Coffee staff team, to take on this mantel. As you indicated, it goes far beyond the packaging of a great product. It defines the values, and the service promise, of Summit Coffee. It differentiates Summit Coffee from all other “coffee shops” out there. It is a continuous process that takes the brand from good, to great. I wish you all much success moving forward.

  2. Warren Foley 5 months ago

    I love the rebranding info you shared. Oh yes, Summit is my coffee of choice

  3. Susan Carroll 5 months ago

    Brian, I’ve watched the growth of Summit over the 10+ years that we have lived within walking distance of Summit here in Davidson. I’m happy that you kept the “summit” logo because to me that has always exemplified the day-to-day operations and visions of the future (striving for the best you can be). I have enjoyed watching (and tasting) the improvement of the coffee quality and flavor, food offerings, atmosphere, and customer service over those 10 years. Although we travel often, I always enjoy coming back to my home coffee shop in Davidson for a morning coffee and the occasional evening glass of beer or wine. We had the opportunity during this past holiday season to give Summit gift cards to our family and to enjoy a dinner for 12 catered by Courtney. What a relief for me to have one fine meal prepared for our group by someone else. So, thanks to you and Summit staff for the past 10 years!

  4. Author
    Summit Coffee 5 months ago

    Thanks Susan! We so enjoy seeing you around the cafe!

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